Prince William to marry Kate Middleton next year

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Britain's Prince William will marry long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton next year, royal officials announced Tuesday, ending feverish speculation about when the second-in-line to the throne would wed.

William, 28, the eldest son of heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, and Middleton, also 28, became engaged in October while on holiday in Kenya, said Clarence House, Charles' official residence.

"The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton. The wedding will take place in the spring or summer of 2011 in London," said the statement.

"Further details about the wedding will be announced in due course.

"Prince William and Miss Middleton became engaged in October during a private holiday in Kenya. Prince William has informed the queen and other close members of his family.

"Prince William has also sought the permission of Miss Middleton's father.

"Following the marriage the couple will live in North Wales where Prince William will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force."

Prince William is currently serving as an RAF search and rescue pilot based on Anglesey in northwest Wales, after graduating in September following 18 months of training.

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

British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said the premier was "delighted" and sent the couple his best wishes. Opposition leader Ed Miliband said the "whole country will be wishing them every happiness."

The couple's wedding will come a year before the queen marks her diamond jubilee -- or 60 years on the throne -- and London hosts the 2012 Olympics.

Middleton -- the daughter of self-made millionaires -- and William met in 2001 at St Andrews University in Scotland where they were both studying art history, and they lived together in a shared house.

They broke up briefly in 2007 but got back together again.

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

The wedding will come 30 years after Charles and Diana married in what was billed at the time as a fairytale wedding and which drew crowds of hundreds of thousands onto the streets of London. The couple divorced in 1996.

Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi photographers, sending Britain into an intense period of national mourning and unleashing anger at the queen for what was seen as her understated response.

Middleton's parents are a former airline pilot and air stewardess -- a fact reportedly mocked by some of William's aristocratic friends -- who went on to make their fortune in the children's party business.

The princess-to-be, who is six months older than William, has in recent years been employed by the family business, Party Pieces, after an initial foray into the working world in London caused her to be hounded by press photographers.

The intense spotlight on the young woman drew comparisons to Diana.

While pursuing his military career, Prince William still takes time out for royal engagements.

He flew into Afghanistan on Sunday for a surprise visit to honour Britain's war dead, attending a ceremony at Camp Bastion in Helmand province, the home of the estimated 9,500 British troops deployed in the country.

The prince had already paid a secret visit to the country in 2008, visiting frontline troops in Kandahar, and his younger brother Harry served in Afghanistan for 10 weeks that same year.

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