Prince William seals engagement with Diana's ring

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prince William's fiancee Kate Middleton said Tuesday she was daunted but happy to be marrying into Britain's royal family next year after he proposed using his late mother Diana's engagement ring.

The couple faced the world's media after the long-awaited announcement that they would tie the knot in 2011 following an eight-year courtship, with William saying he had felt it was the "right time" to propose.

The couple will marry in London next year in what will be Britain's biggest royal wedding since Charles and the then Lady Diana Spencer married at St Paul's Cathedral in July 1981.

Blinking in the glare of flashbulbs, Middleton told a press conference at St James's Palace that the second-in-line to the throne had popped the question during a holiday in Kenya in October, adding that he was a "true romantic".

"It's quite a daunting prospect but hopefully I'll take it in my stride. But William's a great teacher so hopefully he'll be able to help me along the way," the 28-year-old said.

William said the sapphire-and-diamond that his father Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, gave Diana in 1981 -- the pair showed it off themselves at a press conference nearly three decades ago -- was "very special to me".

Charles and Diana's union soured and Diana divorced him in 1996 amid accusations of mutual infidelity and claims that she had been frozen out by the royal family. She died the following year in a car crash in Paris.

William said giving Kate the ring "was my way of making sure that my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement and the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together."

The official announcement, with details of the wedding to be announced at a later date, ended feverish speculation about when William would get engaged to Middleton, the daughter of a wealthy businessman.

Middleton and William met in 2001 at St Andrews University in Scotland where they were both studying art history. They broke up briefly in 2007 but soon got back together.

Prince Charles said he was "thrilled" at the engagement, joking: "They have been practising long enough."

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip were "absolutely delighted", Buckingham Palace said.

William described the moment he proposed in a television interview later Tuesday.

"We had a little private time away together with some friends and I just decided that it was the right time, really. We had been talking about marriage for a while so it wasn't a massively big surprise," the prince said.

He said he had carried the ring around in his rucksack "for about three weeks" before proposing.

Asked about whether they planned to have children, William said they would take it "one step at a time".

The interview also shone light on the couple's life together -- including William's attempts to cook and the time when the couple briefly split up.

Clarence House, Charles' official residence, said that after marrying, the couple will live not in a palace but in North Wales where William is a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot.

Kate's parents Michael and Carole gave their reaction outside their home in the foggy Berkshire countryside in southeast England, saying the family thought William was "wonderful" and "we are extremely fond of him."

Prime Minister David Cameron said the wedding would a "great moment for national celebration". He said his cabinet gave a "great cheer" and banged the table when he told them the news.

The wedding is set to spread some cheer in a Britain hit by economic gloom and austerity measures. It will happen a year before the queen celebrates her diamond jubilee marking 60 years on the throne and London hosts the Olympics.

Speculation about the royal nuptials reached fever pitch following the news this month that Middleton's parents had joined a shooting party at Charles' residence in Scotland.

Middleton's father was an airline steward and later became a flight dispatcher in charge of the British Airways fleet on the ground, while her mother was an air stewardess -- a fact reportedly mocked by some of William's aristocratic friends.

The couple made their fortune in the children's party business.

The princess-to-be, who is six months older than William, has worked for the family business after she was repeatedly hounded by press photographers during an initial foray into the working world in London.

© 2010 AFP

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