Prince William’s Engagement to Catherine Middleton
The Royal Proposal
Although Prince William popped the question to Kate Middleton October 20th, the rest of the world didn’t hear about it until nearly one month later. Finally, on November 16th, the beaming couple held a press conference to announce what, no doubt, will be the royal wedding of the century!
While William and Kate have dated on and off since 2003, the Prince, like a true pragmatist, waited many years to make sure she was really the one. Her nickname “Waity Katie” refers to the fact that it took the Prince seven years to pop the question. To give the Prince his due, however, this was not a trivial decision. Beyond being a personal matter of the heart, the Prince’s choice of a bride has enormous consequences for the future of the British Monarchy. The Queen’s consent to the marriage is also required by law. So while the Prince took his time, beautiful Kate may, after all, be the Queen of England one day!
Once the Prince committed to his decision, he revealed another side of his personality. Like a true romantic, William carefully planned how he was going to pop the question. On an exotic trip to Kenya, the Prince proposed after carrying the famous engagement ring around in his knapsack for days!
During the leisurely trip the couple stayed in a remote cabin where they fished, ate dinner by candlelight, and lounged by the fire. On the day of the proposal, in order to make the most of the moment, the Prince arranged an overnight stay at a 55,000-acre wildlife preserve called Lewa Downs. According to sources, Kate recorded in the guestbook: “I love the warm fires and candlelights—so romantic.”
The Royal Engagement Ring
The ring Prince William used to formalize his engagement to Kate Middleton is no ordinary ring. It was the same ring that his mother, Diana, received on her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981. The Royals have a particular affinity for sapphires, and Diana’s engagement ring was an extraordinary 18-carat blue gem. The sapphire, which is best described as a royal blue, serves as the glittering centerpiece surrounded by 14 scintillating diamonds.
“Its my mother’s engagement ring, so its very special to me. Kate’s very special to me now as well, and it’s only right the two are put together.”
Although it is common for engagement and wedding rings to pass from one generation to another in western culture, this ring also has great sentimental value for Prince William. Not only does it recall the cerulean blue of his mother’s eyes, but it also signaled that Diana’s memory was very much alive on the joyous occasion of her son’s engagement. The fact that William and Kate chose to remember Diana at this time is a poignant tribute to the enduring legacy of “The People’s Princess.”
And what a tribute! Although the ring cost between $40,000 to $60,000 in the early 1980s, it likely appraises for much more today. By some estimates, it is now worth a whopping $500,000. Sapphires, especially rare, untreated sapphires, have risen in price over the years. They are an excellent gemstone for engagement and wedding rings because they are so durable and appreciate in value. They also come in a wide range of colors from pastels to bold primary colors.
Sapphires as a Souvenir of the Royal Wedding
The scramble is on to create souvenirs for what is being touted as the wedding of the century. Now that the engagement has been formally announced, many companies are working to create tokens to commemorate the event.
Although this is business as usual in Great Britain, there was some embarrassment when Woolworth’s jumped the gun in 2006. The company apparently created a number of celebratory items, including mugs, plates, thimbles, and mouse pads, for Prince William and Kate in the midst of frenzied anticipation of their impending nuptials. Unfortunately, the royal couple broke up shortly thereafter and the merchandise cannot be used now because the photos are too dated.
When Charles married Diana in 1981, the souvenir industry went into high gear. Their official wedding portrait was printed on everything from t-shirts to cookie tins, and sales were in the millions. For the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, consumers could purchase a host of objects including plates, place mats, refrigerator magnets, and clocks. Unfortunately for some manufacturers, Charles and Camilla’s wedding was unexpectedly postponed by one day so that it would not interfere with the funeral of Pope John Paul II, so many items were printed with the wrong date.
Now that Prince William and Kate seem likely to tie the knot, the Lord Chamberlain’s office has issued a set of guidelines for the creation of wedding memorabilia. All goods must be “in good taste” and may not advertise any product. Any photos or images of the royal couple must be officially approved, and under no circumstances will the Prince’s Coat of Arms be allowed. All souvenirs must be something “permanent and significant.” Therefore, dishtowels, aprons and t-shirts will not be allowed, although carpets, pillows, headscarves, wall hangings, mugs, plates, and trays are considered suitable. Manufacture of all wedding souvenirs must cease by October 1, 2011.
Apparently Aynsley China has already begun manufacturing a line of fine bone china to commemorate both the engagement and wedding. Royal Crown Derby has also designed special wedding souvenirs including bells, trays, plates, and a loving cup.
Although royal wedding memorabilia does have its charms, why not opt instead for something especially “permanent and significant,” as well as something guaranteed to appreciate over time? Why not mark the milestone event with the purchase of a beautiful sapphire of your own?
Prince William used his mother’s 18-carat sapphire engagement ring when he proposed to Kate. Although the ring cost in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $60,000 in the early 1980s, it appraises for much more today. By some estimates, it is now worth over $500,000. The ring made front-page news the world over, and sapphires, by all accounts, are once again the engagement gemstone.
The Upcoming Wedding
William and Kate have chosen to have their wedding at Westminster Abbey on Friday, April 29, 2011. The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, was thrilled by the news: “I am delighted on behalf of The Dean & Chapter of Westminster to congratulate HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton on their engagement to be married. We assure them of our prayers and best wishes as they prepare for their wedding. May God bless and protect them with his love.”
“We are very pleased they have chosen Westminster Abbey for their marriage and look forward to the detailed planning for what will be a great and happy occasion for the couple themselves, for their families and friends, for the country and Commonwealth and for well-wishers across the globe.”
Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 and has had an association with British Royalty ever since. Fifteen royal weddings have been held in the Abbey, including the wedding of the Prince’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II. Prince William’s uncle Andrew, the Prince of York, also married Sarah Ferguson in Westminster Abbey in 1986.
Westminster Abbey has also been the site of 38 royal coronations, beginning with the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066. The most recent coronation was that of the Prince’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Many famous people are either buried or commemorated in Westminster Abbey and many others have had their funeral services performed there. The funeral service for Diana, the Princess of Wales, was held in the Abbey although her body was interred at her request at the family home in Althorp. At least 2,000 people attended her ceremony at the Abbey and another 33 million viewers watched the broadcast on TV.
Since royal weddings are steeped in complicated protocol and ritual, most of the planning will be done by Buckingham Palace. However, it has been reported that Kate has already visited the Abbey and is working closely with officials charged with organizing the great event.
The Happy Couple
William and Kate met many years ago during their time as university students. According to some sources, striking Kate caught the Prince’s eye when she was modeling at a charity event. The couple started to date while they were roommates at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They spent time together in London enjoying the nightlife. Earlier this year, they set up house together, perhaps to give their union a serious trial run.
According to those closest to Kate, the 28 year-old is fun and young at heart. However, the notable beauty also has a steady head on her shoulders. She holds a university degree and has traveled the world. She also has a great fashion sense that rivals that of the Prince’s mother, Diana. However, it is for her proven discretion, tact, and elegance that she is universally admired and approved as a match for William. It is said that she is well aware of the responsibility implied in her future role as the Prince’s wife, and that she has on occasion helped to shield the Prince and his family from potential embarrassment. Her friends say she has exceptional grace under pressure.
Finally, one need only look at the photos to see that this is clearly a love match as well. When asked about the many years it took him to propose, the Prince quipped:
“I don’t remember how many years it’s been, forgetful memory. I also didn’t realize it was a race, otherwise, I probably would have been a lot quicker, but also the time is right now, we’re both very, very happy, and I’m very glad that I have done it.”
To which the bride-to-be added:
“Obviously we have been going out a long time and, you know, we had spoken about our future and it just seemed the natural step for both of us. I’m really looking forward to spending my time with William.”
The Wedding Gown and Jewels
Kate has her pick among British designers who are vying for the chance to create her wedding gown. She is fond of the work of Daniella Issa Helayel, and wore a blue Issa gown when her engagement was officially announced on November 16th. Apparently the $600 dress sold out within hours of the press announcement.
Current speculation falls mainly on the designers Phillipa Lepley, Stella McCartney, and Amanda Wakeley. Phillipa Lepley is a couture bridal designer who established her Chelsea boutique in 1990. According to recent rumor, Lepley’s chances of being chosen to design Kate’s wedding dress are very good.
Despite her famous father, Stella McCartney has created her own name in the fashion world. While she regularly produces a variety of fashions, she has also made some famous wedding dresses including Madonna’s gown for her wedding to Guy Ritchie in 2000.
Amanda Wakeley’s current bridal confections are simply stunning. There is no telling what this designer could do if given the opportunity to design the “dress of the century.” Amanda Wakeley also has experience working with the royals as she dressed Princess Diana on occasion.
Other British designers in the running include Julien Macdonald, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Paul Smith. If she is like William’s mother, Diana, however, Kate may opt for a little known designer with enormous talent. At the time of Diana’s wedding in 1981, Elizabeth Emanuel was not well known. Many hope that Kate will once again turn to this designer, who is a favorite for sentimental reasons.
The Upcoming Wedding
Although the happy couple will have a say in the wedding, the occasion is freighted with so much pomp and circumstance that the majority of the planning is relegated to the capable hands of palace regulars.
Sources indicate that a florist has already been selected, although no one knows anything yet about the royal bouquet. The sentimental choice would be white roses, which were known to be Princess Diana’s favorite flowers.
Kate and the royal staff are already selecting the menu for the reception, which is likely to be held at Buckingham Palace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be involved in sampling all the delicacies!?!?
Sources indicate that Kate’s sister “Pippa” is likely to be maid of honor. Prince Harry, no doubt, will be a main supporter, which is the royal equivalent of best man. One surprise is that Harry, who is known for his love of London nightlife, will not be planning William’s bachelor party. That pleasure will go instead to royal friend and nightclub entrepreneur, Guy Pelly.
Westminster Abbey, the site of the upcoming wedding, seats 2,000. Invitations are likely to go out early 2011. The list of the rich and famous will, no doubt, include the Obamas, Sir Paul McCartney, foreign royalty, and other dignitaries. Apparently, Sarah Ferguson will not be invited. Rumor indicates that the wedding might be filmed in 3D for distribution to theaters.
So who is footing the bill for this extravaganza? According to some sources, the tab will be paid by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and Kate’s parents.
New Security Concerns
Due to a recent incident, there are new security concerns about the royal wedding scheduled for April 2011. On December 9th, a small group of protesters attacked the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, while they were on their way to a royal gala in London’s theater district. Although police had cleared the route for the Rolls Royce only minutes before, Charles and Camilla encountered a splinter group of protesters angry over proposed hikes in university tuition fees.
Paint was lobbed at the car and a window was smashed, but fortunately no one was harmed. This is not the first time a member of Britain’s royal family has been attacked. In 1994, Prince Charles was fired upon, and in 1981, the Queen was also attacked.
Planners want to make the upcoming wedding a festive outdoor party for the entire nation. However, the safety of Prince William and his bride are, of course, a primary concern. No doubt, the planning process will now include stepped-up security precautions.
A Brief History of William and Kate’s Relationship
Kate and William’s childhood years were quite different. She is the eldest child of a solid middle to upper class family, and he is, of course, the Prince. However, fate stepped in and their lives dovetailed when they became first-year students at the University of St. Andrews in 2001.
Once the news leaked that William planned to attend the university, applications to the college surged by over forty percent. The Prince skipped Freshman Week, a week of rowdy fun for new students, opting to arrive quietly sometime later. When he did turn up on campus, he was greeted by the university’s Principal, a crowd of 4,000 gawkers, and a clump of noisy protesters. Prince William was uncomfortable with the attention and hoped that the media and his peers would soon tire of making such a spectacle.
Obviously, Kate’s arrival did not receive the same fanfare, but as chance would have it, both students settled into St. Salvator’s co-ed residence hall. A deal brokered between Clarence House and the media allowed the Prince a modicum of privacy on a daily basis in return for a series of interviews marking milestones in his life. This allowed the Prince to live some semblance of a normal life while at St. Andrews, and gave his relationship with Kate an opportunity to develop naturally.
You might say that Kate and William were destined to meet. They both enrolled in art history courses and swapped stories of their travel experiences in Chile. Kate and William also share a love of sports—in particular tennis and skiing—but their relationship was casual and friendly in the early days at St. Andrews.
On the occasion of his 21st birthday, Prince William revealed to the media his exasperation with the gossip that impinged on his private life: “There’s been a lot of speculation about every single girl I’m with and it actually does quite irritate me after a while, more so because it’s a complete pain for the girls. These poor girls, you know, whom I’ve either just met and get photographed with, or they’re friends of mine, suddenly get thrown into the limelight and their parents get rung up and so on. I think it’s a little unfair on them really.”
Kate and William were close enough friends for him to confide a growing dissatisfaction with his choice of major, and with university life in general. About the same time, Kate participated in a charity event where William and others watched agog as she modeled a sheer outfit that highlighted her toned body. William switched his major to geography, and made arrangements to rent an apartment for his second year. He planned to share the flat with one male and two female friends, one of which was Kate.
Although Kate dated another student for some time at St. Andrews, by the end of their second year, Kate and William’s obviously affectionate body language was being featured in the media. For their third year at St. Andrews, Kate, William, and another friend (male) moved into a country cottage. By Christmas 2003, rumors of romance were all over the news. The Palace however, refused to acknowledge that the couple was dating. Nevertheless, beginning in the spring of 2004, Kate and William began to travel together to various venues and events and even spent several weekends at a remote cottage on the Queen’s Balmoral estate.
After Prince Charles announced his engagement to long-time girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, the press questioned whether William was also contemplating marriage. The Prince laughed and responded: “Look, I’m only 22 for God’s sake. I am too young to marry at my age. I don’t want to get married until I’m at least 28 or maybe 30.” Nevertheless, the media continued to promote the rumors of an impending engagement to Kate over the next several years.
After graduating from St. Andrews in 2005, William applied for Army officer training at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Not only is the course known for its rigor, but it also entailed long separations from Kate. Despite the hurdles, Kate and William’s relationship continued to grow and she was invited to her first dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip.
After being cloistered for five weeks of basic training, William began to frequent the Middleton home in his down time, as it was only 45 minutes away. On other breaks from training, the couple spent their time in London nightclubs or traveling to exotic locations. Kate was invited to William’s graduation from Sandhurst, an appearance the press dubbed “significant,” and where at one point a lip-reader spied her saying: “I love the uniform. So, so sexy.”
Although the press has been almost universal in its admiration of Kate, a few eyebrows were raised by the fact that one year after graduating from St. Andrews, she didn’t appear to have a steady job or serious career focus. However, she ultimately began working at a company called Jigsaw as an accessories buyer.
Due to Kate’s increasingly visible profile, rumors of a royal wedding reached a fever pitch in the latter part of 2006. One company, Woolworth’s, went so far as to design and produce souvenirs for what was believed to be an impending announcement. However hopes for a royal wedding were dashed when news of Kate and William’s split made headlines in April of 2007. Although we will probably never know the real truth, some sources indicated that Kate was fed up with Williams excessive carousing and lack of interest in spending time with her.
The split didn’t last long however, Kate and William were spotted together again by June. Kate was to say later: “I wasn’t very happy about it, but it made me a stronger person.” She was invited to Camilla’s 60th birthday celebration at Highgrove, where she was observed sharing a dance and a kiss with William.
In the meantime, William’s career was advancing. He passed a tank commander’s course and in 2008 began a four-month training program with the Royal Air Force. Kate, meanwhile, quit her job at Jigsaw, and began working for her family’s business, Party Pieces. According to some sources, the constant media attention made it too difficult to work at an outside firm in London.
In the summer of 2008, William participated in an eight-week program with the Navy. After this assignment was completed, most anticipated that he would leave military service. To everyone’s surprise, he announced he was going to become a full-time RAF search-and-rescue pilot. With training and the mandatory three-year tour of duty, this meant that William would be in the RAF until 2013.
But the couple’s life was not all work; they managed to take several romantic holidays in exotic locations such as the Caribbean island of Mustique. Friends said that William and Kate were clearly devoted to one another despite the separations caused by William’s military training.
In early 2010, Prince William took his first official foreign tour to New Zealand and Australia. Because Kate was not yet affianced to William, there was no possibility for her to accompany him on the trip. Nevertheless during the tour, his encounters with the press inevitably yielded the same query: “When are you going to marry Kate?”
After his tour of New Zealand and Australia, William began training on the Sea King rescue helicopter. The couple also leased a modest cottage in Anglesey, North Wales, close to RAF Valley where William is based.
Prince William finally popped the question in October 2010 on a romantic trip to Kenya. After the April 2011 wedding, William will continue his RAF training, and Kate will become a proud RAF wife. Kate is likely to join William on some of his fifteen to twenty official royal engagements. As far as we know, they intend to keep their little cottage love nest in Anglesey–at least for a while–although it is said that Prince Charles plans to give his Highgrove estate to the couple as a wedding gift.
It is not clear if William and Kate will receive new titles after the wedding, especially since the title of Prince of Wales will fall to William when his father ascends the throne. Kate has requested that she be called “Catherine” after the wedding, a name most of her friends use now anyway. Kate is merely the affectionate name bestowed by the media. And William apparently calls her “babykins,” but not in public.