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In English village, sights set on royal wedding

By Gregory Katz
Associated Press / November 13, 2010

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YATTENDON, England — They’ve met the parents. They’ve even gone shooting with the parents. They’ve had their trial breakups and trial makeups.

Now, people in this very English village say, it is time for Prince William and local girl Kate Middleton to make it official.

After all, the cautious prince has been dating Middleton on and off — mostly on — for more than eight years, ever since they met at the University of St. Andrews.

“We’d be delighted,’’ said Pru Shepheard, doing her daily shopping at the village store where Middleton is a frequent customer, occasionally accompanied by William. “It would be madness for them not to get married.

“Kate’s one of us — she doesn’t put on airs and graces, and she’s such a lovely girl. Everyone who meets her, likes her.’’

Shepheard said visions of a royal wedding were stoked when Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, recently visited Balmoral, Queen Elizabeth II’s 50,000-acre estate in Scotland, for a weekend of shooting hosted by Prince William with the queen’s approval. It marked the first time the Middletons had been invited to such an intimate royal gathering.

The event sent Britain’s tabloids into a tizzy and prompted bookmakers to lower the odds at Britain’s legal betting shops, reflecting the conventional wisdom that Middleton will soon be a princess and in line to become queen. The bookies predict a wedding for the two 28-year-olds this summer.

Britain’s royal watchers said the hunting invitation was a way of welcoming the middle-class Middletons into the highest realm of British society. Middleton is not from the aristocracy: Her parents worked for British Airways before founding Party Pieces, a successful party-supply business.

But her background is acceptable, and perhaps even an advantage, as the British monarchy prepares to modernize and streamline in an age of austerity.

Everyone seems to think it is only a matter of time before an engagement is announced, with reports emerging that plans for the wedding are underway.

But taking a bride is not so simple if you happen to be a future king of England whose wife can be expected to become queen. William is second in line for the throne; he would become king after his father, Prince Charles.

“Kate is not joining the Windsor dynasty to be a princess, she’s joining to be a queen at some point in the future,’’ said Patrick Jephson, former private secretary to Princess Diana, William’s mother. “There’s a lot at stake here, more than just pretty dresses and magazine covers. You have to show that the dynasty can renew and rejuvenate itself. She and William have to make sure this marriage works.’’

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