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William and Kate are engaged!

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Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged to be married.

Last week, the newspapers and television told us about an engagement. An “engagement” is when two people decide to get married. We say that the couple are “engaged to be married”, or simply that they are “engaged”. The engagement which was announced last week was between a helicopter pilot and a buyer for a well-known chain of clothing shops. So why was it on the front pages of the newspapers? You probably know the answer already. The helicopter pilot is Prince William, the grandson of our Queen; and the buyer from the clothes shop is Kate Middleton, who has been his girlfriend for several years.

Prince William is second in line to the throne. What does that mean? Well, when our present Queen dies, Prince Charles – William’s father – will become king. And when Charles dies, William will become king. He probably has a long time to wait, however, and in the meantime he is making himself useful by flying helicopters for the Royal Air Force.

A hundred years ago, a Prince who was likely to become king was expected to find a wife from one of the other European royal families. Thankfully, however, things have changed. Kate Middleton is not a Princess, nor even the daughter of an old aristocratic family. Her parents used to work for British Airways – her mother was an air hostess. Later, they built a successful business which sells things for children’s parties. The press have described Kate as “middle class” and “an ordinary girl”, but this isn’t really true. She grew up in an expensive house in a nice area, and her parents paid for her to attend an exclusive private school.

Kate and the Prince met when they were at University, in St Andrews in Scotland. They were obviously following the great British tradition of going to a University as far from their parents as possible. At the end of their first year at St Andrews, Will wanted to leave University, but Kate persuaded him to stay. And Kate has been the Prince’s girlfriend ever since, except for a period a few years ago when they decided that they were “just good friends”. It sounds just like a million other boy/girl relationships all over the world.

How do British people feel about the forthcoming royal wedding? Some people say that they don’t care. They say that they have more important things to worry about. Others say that they don’t like our royal family, and that Britain should become a republic. Yet other people are a bit sceptical. They say that the members of the royal family lead very artificial lives. They are constantly in the public eye, and journalists and photographers give them little peace or privacy. Too many royal marriages nowadays end in divorce. How will Kate cope? Will she find it too stressful?

However, I think that most people regard our royal family as a sort of national soap opera. Like any good soap opera, the royal family has weddings, and babies, and divorces, and sometimes even funerals. We want our royal family to entertain us, just as television soap operas do. For years, we have read gossip in the newspapers about Will and Kate. We have never actually met either of them, of course, but we feel that we know them. And we are thrilled that they are now getting married. It is the happiest news we have had for a long time.

The wedding will take place on 29 April next year. For the next 5 months, we will read everything that newspaper reporters can discover or invent about Will and Kate. We will discuss what style of wedding dress Kate will wear, who the bridesmaids will be, and where the happy couple will go for their honeymoon. We will buy “Kate and Will” souvenir mugs. Some of us will hang flags out of our bedroom windows. The wedding day will be a public holiday, so we can all sit at home and watch the wedding on television, or get in our cars and sit in traffic jams on the motorways. The people who are not interested in the royal family will secretly turn on their televisions to watch for a few minutes. For a short time we will forget the economic crisis, and our own personal problems. We will be a nation united in front of our television screens. It will be good entertainment, which is what our royal family does best.


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