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Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement at Clarence House, London, on November 16, 2010. They are both 28.

Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton have made more decisions on their upcoming wedding,” Clarence House said in a statement, which was first released in a series of messages on Twitter.

The royal wedding will take place on Friday, April 29, 2011, at Westminster Abbey.

Kate Middleton will travel by car to the 11 a.m. service passing through some of Britain’s most historic sites – Pall Mall, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, and Parliament Square. The ceremony will be conducted by the Rev. John Hall and the couple will be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Once the pair are husband and wife, they will travel along the same route that Middleton arrived in, but this time, in a horse-drawn carriage. Prince William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, will host a gathering at Buckingham Palace for guests. Afterward, William’s father, Prince Charles, will organize a private dinner for friends and family.

Source: Google News

Readers, for more on this blog about the royal wedding and the British Royal Family, click here.

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Prince William of Great Britain and Catherine Middleton announce their engagement on November 16, 2010, in a side room at Clarence House, London.

This is the site of Prince William's October 20 proposal to Kate Middleton: at one of Kenya's stark Rutundu Log Cabins near Lake Rutundu on Africa's second highest peak. With no electricity, the couple, both 28, celebrated their engagement by a roaring fire and a bottle of bubbly. In an interview, the prince revealed that he had been carrying around the heirloom engagement ring in his knapsack for three weeks, all the time worried he might lose the irreplaceable relic that belonged to his late mother, Princess Diana.

The interior of the rustic Kenyan cabin where William proposed to Kate on Oct. 20, 2010.

Kate Middleton attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she received an Art History Degree and met her future husband, Prince William, heir to the British throne. The university claims to be "Britain's top match-making university," asserting that 10 percent of its students met the person with whom they would eventually settle down.

“Kate’s Obstacle Course” by Tina Brown:

“The future princess not only fulfilled Prince William’s requirements, she persuaded the Queen her future granddaughter-in-law is nothing like Diana. Now all the royals have to do is make the wedding of the year look thrifty.

“No one has put in harder training to become a royal bride than the glossy-haired Kate Middleton. The eight-year wait has been fraught with tests she had to pass.

“First, discretion. Prince William’s smiling hostility toward the press is his non-negotiable core value. I am told he is so protective of his privacy he has been known to plant false tips with friends he distrusts and watch the media to see if they play out. William went ballistic at Christmas last year, when he suspected Kate might have been aware the tabloid snapper Niraj Tanna was lurking near a tennis court where she was playing on the Duchy of Cornwall estate, and that she graced the interloper with a camera-ready smile. Even her family has kept mum with no unruly relatives going rogue. The only telltale sign of possible impending nuptials has been Carole Middleton’s sudden suspicious determination to shed poundage on a prawn and cottage cheese diet.

“Second, virtue. The delicate issue of premarital experience has been managed by Kate with quiet dexterity. Her one known boyfriend before William at university, 22-year-old gifted cricketer Rupert Finch, never talked. Thirty years ago, Prince Charles had to go as young as 19 to find, in Lady Diana Spencer, something almost extinct in post-feminist times, a girl with a history and no past. But Diana’s shy virginity concealed a time bomb: her wounded, insatiable need for love.

A month after announcing their engagment, Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles attend a 1981 dinner at Goldsmith Hall. Diana was 19.

“There is nothing wounded about Kate. She’s from wholesome middle-class stock. She’s great ballast for William who, beneath his royal aplomb, is wounded too. She’s mastered the art of being what seems a contradiction in terms—appropriately edgy; the odd flash of midriff or nocturnal thigh in a too-short skirt for a nightclub excursion sexy but solid; middlebrow, not elitist. The only controversial thing she has ever done is wear sequined hot-pants and take a spill with her legs in the air at a Day-Glo Midnight Roller Disco charity event in South London, for which she did about two years’ penance.

September 2008: Kate Middleton arrives at the Day-Glo Midnight Roller Disco Charity event in South London in disco sequins, tiny shorts, and ready to roller skate.

Kate Middleton falls on the floor in a most unladylike sprawl. It was rumored that the Queen thought Kate was a show-off.

Kate Middleton has been embroiled in more than one sexy fashion faux pas. A case in point: the 2002 charity fashion event for St. Andrew's College at which she modeled this see-through "frock." Both Kate and Prince William were students at St. Andrew's at the time, and "Wills" was in the audience that night. Although he had met Kate before the $325-a-plate event, when he saw her on the catwalk, he was smitten.

“In the couple’s wedding interview, you could see the outline of their successful dynamic. William said he tried to impress Kate with his cooking, but the food would start burning, and ‘Kate would come to the rescue and take charge.’

“Third, patience. It’s taken close to a decade to reel William in. Kate has had to endure the ridicule of being Waity Katie even among the royals themselves. ‘They have been practicing long enough,’ Prince Charles said heartily at Poundbury, his model village in Devon, where he was when the news broke.

‘It’s brilliant news. It has taken them a very long time,’ commented Queen Elizabeth, who, in her business-like way had tried to get this over and done with last June before the impending calendar crush of Philip‘s 90th, her Diamond Jubilee, and the 2012 Olympics.

“In order not to fuel rumors as the perpetual princess in waiting, Kate rarely emerged with William in public of late unless it was one of those innumerable country weddings of all their mutual friends. What could she possibly have been doing all those years of trying to look busy? As she put it in the engagement interview, ‘working really hard’ at the family business that sells children’s toys and paraphernalia based in Ashampstead, near their home in Berkshire. Now that she’s engaged to be married to the second in line to the throne, her life is about to get more boring still. The palace machine will take over. The portcullis will come down.

Prince William is a RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

“William is a RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot at RAF Valley on the island of Anglesey, and the happy couple will live in a remote farmhouse in North Wales, where there is 33 inches of rain a year. There she can tend to the urgent priority of royal wife, the speedy manufacture of the heir and the spare.

“But that’s “appropriate” too. In the dire mood of the upcoming austerity cuts, England needs the joy of a royal wedding as badly as it did 30 years ago, when we watched enthralled as Charles and Di tied the knot. But she needs it on a budget. The fact that Kate’s a “commoner” is suddenly a PR boon for the royals. With an Old Etonian prime minister and a savage round of economic cutbacks, a pedigreed royal bride would be a hard message to sell to a grumpy press and parliament. Now all the royals have to do is make the wedding of the year look thrifty—perhaps the Guards’ Chapel, where William and Harry held a service to mark the 10th anniversary of their mother’s death, instead of Westminster Abbey?—and preferably green.

“Now that she’s engaged to be married to the second in line to the throne, her life is about to get more boring still.

“Most important still, Kate’s perseverance and resilience has persuaded the queen that her future granddaughter-in-law is nothing at all like Her, like Diana, the golden-haired Rebecca of the Royal House of Windsor. When William chose to bestow on Kate his mother’s 18-carat oval blue sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring, it was not only a token of love but a thrilling gesture of confident daring.

Kate Middleton's engagement ring belonged to Princess Diana

“After Diana’s death in 1997, the 15-year-old prince told his father he wanted the ring for his future engagement. He said Tuesday the ring represented a time his parents were happy. Now, after all the years the royal establishment have spent trying to erase that magical disruption known as Diana, England’s future king showed the world in the strongest, most personal way he knew how that he was determined to bring his mother back.”

Source: The Daily Beast

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Sarah Ferguson watches polo at Windsor with Princess Diana, in 1985, the year before she married into the British Royal Family and became the Duchess of York

Sarah Ferguson –  “Fergie” –  and Princess Diana (1961-1997) knew each other for six years before Fergie married Prince Andrew in 1986 and became a member of the Royal Family. The two women had first met on the polo circuit, as Diana’s husband Prince Charles was an avid player and Fergie’s father, Sir Ronald Ferguson, was the Prince’s polo manager.

Soon after meeting, Diana and Fergie (b. 1959) became fast friends. The timid and reserved Diana was intoxicated by Fergie’s loud and breezy energy:

“The two girls would burn up the telephone wires trading gossip and irreverent royal tidbits they could share with no one else.” (1)

Since Diana’s 1981 wedding to Charles, she had been starved of fun. Diana thought about how lovely it would be to have Fergie as a mate in the Royal Family. In June of 1985, Diana decided to play royal matchmaker and make it happen. She wangled an invitation for Fergie to not only attend the Queen’s Ascot Week house party at Windsor Castle , but managed also to get the boisterous redhead seated next to the Queen’s second son, the 25-year-old Prince Andrew, a very eligible bachelor and second in line for the throne.

Sarah, the Duchess of York ("Fergie") and Diana, Princess of Wales, 1987

Within an hour of meeting Fergie, Andrew was “chatting her up” and “flirtatiously coaxing a merry-eyed Ms. Ferguson to eat every one of the chocolate profiteroles [cream puffs] on her plate.” (1) A year later, Fergie and Andrew were married at Westminster Abbey as the Duke and Duchess of York. Di had gotten her ally in the family.

This commemorative stamp was issued in Great Britain in 1986 to commemorate the Royal Wedding of Prince Andrew to Miss Sarah Ferguson. They became the Duke and Duchess of York.

 
Encouraged by Fergie’s wildness, Diana began to loosen up publicly. She became a bit of a royal daredevil. Memorably, in June 1987, she and Fergie were photographed at Royal Ascot poking Fergie’s old school friend Lulu in the behind with their umbrellas, called “brollies” in England.  (2) 

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York (l), and Princess Diana (r) attend the Royal Ascot, June 1987.

The Ascot Umbrella Caper – dubbed “the Brolly Folly” – drew public scorn. Woodrow Wyatt recorded in his memoirs that his wife saw Diana at Ascot

fooling about in the most childish manner, pulling people’s hair and tweaking them.”

The Sun reported the incident, referring to Fergie and Diana caustically as “silly, simpering girls.” It was the first of many desperate attempts Diana and Fergie made to “unstiffen” royal protocol. 

Over time, the fallout from the bad press would affect Diana and Fergie differently. Diana would weather the public criticism better than Fergie. With Diana’s tragic death, charity work, and sad marriage, the public has been more forgiving of her wild days. The late Princess Diana is lovingly remembered today as the People’s Princess.

Fergie, however, at age 50, continues to court disaster with her impetuous ways and money woes. Matter of fact, with the latest bribery scandal and “Oprah” TV appearance, the Duchess of York is being referred to in the press as the Duchess of Disaster. 

 
 
 

An image made from video shows the Duchess of York apparently selling access to ex-husband Prince Andrew for 500,000 British pounds to an undercover reporter from the UK tabloid, "News of the World." (foxnews.com_May 24, 2010)

(1) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

(2) “Births, Deaths, & Marriages.” Thirty Years of Majesty. Vol. 31, No. 5.

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Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All together, these countries have a combined population, including dependencies, of over 129 million.

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is the queen regnant of sixteen independent states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All together, these countries have a combined population, including dependencies, of over 129 million.

It was June 24, 1953. Queen Elizabeth II was traveling to Scotland for the first time as Queen. In her coronation at Westminster Abbey 22 days earlier, Elizabeth had worshiped as an Anglican in the Church of England in her coronation robes. As Queen she was now the head of two churches, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, which was Presbyterian. Having already been crowned in England, she now traveled to St. Giles Cathedral, the Mother Church of Presbyterianism, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to receive the ancient crown of Scotland.

When she arrived at the cathedral, the Queen was surrounded by the Scottish peerage in their velvet coats and coronets. Her husband, Prince Philip, was respendently dressed in a gold-braided uniform topped off by a plumed helmet. But when the crowd gathered at the ceremony got a look at Elizabeth, their new queen, they were shocked at how ordinary she looked. They had expected her to appear in her coronation robes. Instead she wore a simple gray blue coat, black leather shoes, and a gray blue felt hat. She looked just like a commoner! The most jarring part of her outfit was the big black purse she carried in the crook of her arm.

At the altar she stepped forward while the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon knelt before her in his coronation robes to proffer the crown of Scotland on a velvet cushion with gold tassels. As she (the Queen) reached toward him, her leather handbag, which was as large as a breadbox, almost hit him in the face. He quickly moved his head to avoid getting smacked by the royal purse. (1)

Since then, the Queen is rarely photographed without her purse tucked in the crook of her arm. She carries it with her throughout the day as she moves from room to room in Buckingham Palace. All tables and her desk at the palace are equipped with special hooks on which the Queen may hang her purse so that it may never be set on the floor. She never uses a clutch or a shoulderbag. Those bags would make it awkward in official duties of shaking hands and accepting flowers.

Queen Elizabeth (with black leather purse) and Prince Philip arrive at the Casino Royale World Premiere - Red Carpet - Nov. 14, 2006, London

Queen Elizabeth (with black leather purse) and Prince Philip arrive at the Casino Royale World Premiere - Red Carpet - Nov. 14, 2006, London

Enquiring minds want to know: just what does Queen Elizabeth carry in that purse? As it turns out, there is more to the royal purse than its meager contents. It doubles as a signal device. When the Queen is carrying out her royal duties at some function, she uses her purse to communicate with her servants. When she shifts the bag from one arm to another, for instance, it means she’s ready to leave. When at a banquet, if the Queen sets her purse on the floor, it’s another bad sign. She finds the conversation boring and wants to escape. However, if the royal bag dangles happily from the crook of her left arm, she is happy and relaxed. (2)

One thing that can always be found inside the Queen’s purse is an S-shaped metal meat hook that she can place on the edge of a piece of furniture and hang her purse on it. She always carries a metal make-up case given to her by Prince Philip as a wedding gift. She carries a collection of good luck charms, most of them gifts from her children, including dogs, horses, saddles, and horsewhips, reports the Daily Express, and photos of her children. She is never without her mints, chocolate drops for her corgi dogs, and a crossword or two snipped from the papers by her attendants.

Majesty magazine reports that the Queen carries a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact and a tube of lipstick in her handbag. On Sundays, she carries paper money to place in the collection plate at church.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) receives flowers from children as she departs St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, March 20, 2008. The Queen handed out Maundy Thursday alms purses to 82 men and 82 women, the presentations are in recognition of their services to both church and community.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) receives flowers from children as she departs St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, March 20, 2008. The Queen handed out Maundy Thursday alms purses to 82 men and 82 women, the presentations are in recognition of their services to both church and community.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. (New York: Warner Books, 1997)
(2) Dampier, Phil and Walton, Ashley. What’s In The Queen’s Handbag: And Other Royal Secrets. (Brighton, England: Book Guild, 2007)

For more on Queen Elizabeth, look in the left column under “Categories-People-Queen Elizabeth II.” I’ve written many posts on the Queen; I hope you enjoy them!

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