Finally -- Britain will have a new princess. It was the news that royal watchers had long been waiting for, and came as no surprise to anyone but the most misinformed or deluded that Kate Middleton was always going to be "The One." When Clarence House (Princes Charles, Wililam and Harry's London residence) announced the news yesterday, everyone from the man on the street in Britain to Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet reacted with good cheer. Not to mention sending the media around the world in a frenzy.
Of course, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton had been a steady fixture at Prince William's side since they first met at St. Andrew's University in 2001. However, very little is known about her, and the majority of the general public has never heard her speak before the engagement announcement. She is said to be discreet, loyal, level-headed, and as many royal watchers have observed, "never put a foot wrong." All the traits that are highly admired by the royal family, and most of all by the notoriously private Prince William, who is known to be generally wary of the press after seeing the media circus around his late mother.
It should be noted that prospective royal girlfriends and brides are not vetted with the same criteria as the average girlfriend. Those who blab to the media and engage in unseemly "kiss-and-tell" exposes are quickly cast aside. A mistake that Diana's own sister once made while dating Prince Charles.
It is telling that even during their brief split in 2007, Kate never revealed any details of their romance or breakup to the press, even though she was offered large sums by several news organizations. Rather than hiding out at home feeling sorry for herself as the world's most famous dumpée, she bravely went out to events as usual, held her head up high, and smiled brightly for the relentless cameras as if nothing were wrong -- all the while looking absolutely gorgeous. That took a certain amount of poise and gumption, and more importantly, it showed her ability to handle the media pressure. A crucial skill to have if you're going to be a part of the most photographed and scrutinized royal family in the world. If William had any residual doubts that this girl has what it takes to be his princess, she came through this trying period with flying colors. Within months, William couldn't wait to get her back.
This will be a far better suited match than the ill-fated marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. To start, rather than the 13-year age gap of his parents, William and Kate are both 28 (she's five and a half months older than him), and share many of the same interests such as sports and a mutual love of the countryside. The royal pastimes of shooting and fishing by the freezing river Dee in Scotland had bored Diana to tears. Then of course, William and Kate have been together long enough to really get to know each other, and they have gone through the ups and downs of a relationship like most couples. As William explained after being ribbed for taking so long to propose, "I wanted to give her a chance to see in, and to back out if she needed to before it got too much." After all, she's not marrying into just any family.
Watching them, it's obvious that William and Kate are completely at ease with each other, and their love and happiness is palpable. Contrast this with the awkward body language during Charles and Diana's own engagement interview, with Diana nervously dipping her head, and Prince Charles famously declaring, "Whatever love means" -- a remark that devastated her, as Diana later revealed.
There will inevitably be comparisons between Kate and the late Princess Diana -- comparisons that have started even before the engagement news, and will likely escalate as time goes on. However, Kate is clearly her own person, and self-assured enough to joke, "He wishes!" when asked if she had a picture of William on her wall while at school. But then this is also the same girl who confidently declared that he was the one who was lucky to be going out with her, not the other way around.
Kate knows that the media attention will be on her, but as William has pointed out, "No one is going to try to fill my mother's shoes. It's about making your own future and your own destiny, and Kate will do a very good job at that." We will all be watching.