After eight years of dating and a secret proposal pact, the Prince of Wales prepares to marry his princess next summer
On October 28, Prince William arrived at Balmoral, the British royal family's 50,000 acre estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, for his annual excursion to shoot pheasant. But this year, he invited two guests who had never been to the castle: Michael and Carole Middleton, the parents of his girlfriend, Kate. "William made sure Kate's parents were looked after, arranging for them to have private shooting sessions," Katie Nicholl, author of William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls and royal correspondent for the Mail on Sunday, tells Us. "The Middletons are being taught a favorite royal pursuit. This event is extremely significant."
Indeed, several sources confirm that after eight years of dating, two brief breakups and an initial chilly reception of the relationship from his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, 28, will fulfill a secret promise he made to his university sweetheart in 2007 and ask for her hand in marriage - making the 28 year old commoner Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales. "The engagement will be announced in 2011," a source tells Us. The Clarence House press office tells Us, "We do not comment on the private lives of Prince William or Ms. Middleton." Tellingly, this is the first time Middleton has been included in an official comment by the press office.
Their Private Pact
While many wondered if William would ever propose, Middleton - who earned the nickname "Waity Katie" for her patience through the years - knew her ring was coming. In William and Harry, from which Nicholl shares exclusive details with Us, the author reveals that the couple, while on vacation in the Seychelles in 2007 after reuniting from their second breakup, made a pact to wed. Nervous about their future, "Kate wanted assurances from William. . . . For the first time, they discussed quite seriously the subject of marriage," writes Nicholl, who quotes a source as saying, "William told Kate she was The One, but he was not ready to get married. She . . . agreed to wait for him."
With William on the verge of making good on his promise, the royal wedding machine is in full force. An insider confirms Britain's Royal Mint is already designing a commemorative coin for the occasion, and June and July dates are being considered. While a palace insider denies a report that July 23 is the date set in stone, Nicholl points out that the year is more telling: "2011 would be Diana's 50th birthday and also the 30th anniversary of her wedding to his father. This will be William's way to make sure his mother's memory won't be forgotten on the most important day of his life."
Middleton, of course, is focusing on what she'll wear on her big day. Nicholl tells Us that while she'll definitely consider her favorite label, Brazilian brand Issa, she "might be pressured to select a British designer." And in keeping with tradition, says London hairdresser to the royals Michael Van Clarke, she will likely be loaned a tiara from the queen.
Road to 'I Do'
Though he was by no means a playboy prince (that would be his younger brother, Harry), William's reluctance to settle down has been a recurring theme since he started dating Middleton in 2002. Prince Harry's True Love
Could another royal wedding be far behind? Though Prince Harry, 26, and his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, 25, split for a third time in June, Nicholl tells Us the two have reconnected and he plans to visit her in her native South Africa soon. "He found it hard not having her in his life," Nicholl says of Davy, whom Harry, currently in Army Air Corps pilot training at RAF Middle Wallop, began dating in 2004 after they had been introduced by a mutual friend when she was a student in the U.K. Their relationship has been rocky at times (Davy famously changed her Facebook status to "single" after they had a fight in 2009, which sent the press into a frenzy), but a source says, "He'll always go back to Chelsy. He says his time with her is always his happiest."
More Royal Revelations
Nicholl shares other insider details in William and Harry.
During what would be his final vacation with his mother, Princess Diana, in July 1997, Harry, then 12, got into a fight with Omar, the younger brother of Diana's lover, Dodi Al Fayed, aboard a luxury yacht. The issue? They both wanted the same bedroom. "We were all laughing about it, especially Diana," Omar's sister Camilla told Nicholl.
At Diana's September 6, 1997, funeral, William, then 15, initially did not want to walk behind his mother's gun carriage: He feared he'd cry and "embarrass his grandmother," says Nicholl. When his grandfather Prince Philip agreed to walk with him, William relented.
In 2002, a British paper ran a story on Harry's underage drinking and pot smoking at a pub. Though William often partied there too, the palace got his name removed from the story to protect the second in line to the throne, writes Nicholl. The incident left Harry "reeling."