Yesterday was a busy day for me with countless interview requests from the media, but today I shall finally get to write something more about the engagement of Prince William of Britain and Kate Middleton.
We now know that the actual proposal took place three weeks ago in Kenya, where Prince William had been carrying his late mother’s beautiful sapphire and diamonds engagement ring around in his rucksack, dreading the thought of losing it. Apparently the announcement was delayed because of the death of Kate’s paternal grandfather, Peter Middleton, whose funeral in West Berkshire Crematorium she and Prince William attended on Friday.
Kate Middleton herself made a good impression at the TV interview which was broadcast yesterday evening, with the unavoidable question about “Diana’s footsteps” being the only one she found it hard to answer.
An interview or a press conference is always a good idea at the time of a royal engagement, I believe, as it affords the general public the chance to see the royal newcomer speak for himself/herself and thus get to know him or her a little bit. The same should in my opinion have been done when Prince Charles became engaged to Camilla Parker Bowles five years ago.
Rather unusually several members of the royal family chose to speak to the media about the engagement yesterday, with the Countess of Wessex opening the ball. Prince Charles looked a bit bothered when asked about it, but professed himself thrilled, while the Duchess of Cornwall came across as charming and confident when she spoke to the press as she left a public engagement. Prince Harry professed himself delighted that his brother had proposed as it “means I get a sister, which I have always wanted”.
Neither the date nor the venue for the wedding has so far been announced, probably because it has not been decided – booking Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral in advance would of course have given the story away. There is speculation that the date might be announced already tomorrow.
It has been officially stated that the venue will be London, so St George’s Chapel in Windsor is ruled out. The Chapel Royal or the Queen’s Chapel at St James’s Palace are both probably too small, which leaves the two major churches of London. Westminster Abbey has been the most frequently used setting for royal weddings since 1919, while Prince William’s parents married in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981 – it is bigger and makes the processional route twice as long, which will benefit the crowds.
However, with Britain in the grip of recession and tough public spending cuts expected to start hitting the country in early 2011, some may argue that a lavish wedding in such an economic climate might backfire. However, it might also be seen as a happy break from austerity and it should be remembered that the weddings of Prince Charles in 1981 and the current Queen in 1947 both took place during recessions.
As for the date it has been said that it will be in spring or summer. I feel certain that it will not be before the referendum in early May so as not to disturb campaigning. June has often been the month of royal events, but that month will also see the 90th birthday of Prince Philip on 10 June and Trooping the Colour the next day. The first weekend of July will crash with the wedding of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock and I guess they will try to avoid the 30th anniversary of Prince William’s parents’ wedding on 29 July.
As for the future princess herself she seems a good choice. Unlike her late mother-in-law she has a university degree (in art history) and is old enough to have gained both some experience of life and enough confidence to know what she is doing, all of which promise well.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on 9 January 1982 and christened in the local St Andrew’s Church on 20 June, the day before her future husband was born. She is the eldest of the three children of Michael Middleton (born 1949) and Carole Goldsmith (born 1955), who married on 21 June 1980 in the Parish Church of St James the Less in Dorney, Buckinghamshire.
They later became the parents of Philippa “Pippa” on 6 September 1983 and James on 15 April 1987. At the time of her birth both her parents worked in British Airways, but in 1987 they set up the mail order company Party Pieces, in which Kate has been working. They eventually moved to Bucklebury, where Kate grew up.
Kate first attended the local St Peter’s Preschool, but was later sent to the private prep school St Andrew’s School in Pangbourne and then spent two terms at the boarding school Downe House. At the age of fourteen she enrolled with the public school Marlborough College in Marlborough.
From September 2000 she spent twelve weeks taking a course in Italian at the British Institute in Florence and thereafter allegedly went travelling before starting at St Andrew’s University in Fife in 2001, where she met Prince William. She graduated with a degree in art history in 2005 and subsequently worked briefly as an assistant accessories purchaser with the fashion firm Jigsaw before joining her parents’ company.
So there is little in her background which would have suggested that she was one day to become Queen of Britain. But her parents’ choice of name for their firstborn proved excellent. She will eventually, if everything goes according to plan, be the sixth Queen Catherine, following Catherine of Valois, Catherine of Aragon, Katherine Howard, Katherine Parr and Catherine of Braganza. Hopefully she will have better luck than most of these predecessors!
The photo is by Nick Warner and made available through Wikipedia.