William and his long-term girlfriend, Kate Middleton, got engaged on holiday in Kenya last month and will marry next year.
Middleton, showing off the distinctive blue sapphire engagement ring alongside her husband-to-be last night, told reporters that joining the Royal Family was a “daunting prospect”.
But she added: “Hopefully I’ll take it in my stride.”
Prince William said of their engagement: “The timing is right now, we are both very, very happy.”
Explaining why he decided to give Diana’s ring to Middleton, William said: “It was my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement, and the fact that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together.”
Asked about the proposal, Middleton said: “It was very romantic, and it was very personal.”
Asked if he got down on one knee to propose, William replied: “That’s going to stay a secret.”
The couple, both 28, ended months of speculation by announcing their engagement this morning, nine years after they met as art history students at St Andrew’s University.
The Royal wedding will take place in London in the spring or summer of 2011, Clarence House said.
After getting married the couple will live in north Wales, where the Prince is serving as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot.
Senior royals and politicians offered their congratulations, although the Queen and the Prince of Wales both commented on William’s tardiness in proposing.
The Queen told a guest at a Windsor Castle reception for leaders of British overseas territories: “It is brilliant news. It has taken them a very long time.”
Charles said he was thrilled about his son’s engagement, joking: “They have been practising long enough.”
His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, who is William’s stepmother, told a well-wisher the news was “absolutely wonderful”.
Speaking outside their home in Bucklebury, Berkshire, Middleton’s parents, Michael and Carole, said they were “absolutely delighted”.
Prime Minister David Cameron described it as “a great day for our country” and said the Prince was “thrilled” when he rang him to offer his congratulations.
Revealing that he slept on the Mall on the night of the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, Cameron predicted that the Royal wedding would unite Britain.
He said: “It is incredibly exciting news and I’m sure that the whole country will want to pass their very best wishes to the happy couple, and wish them an incredibly long and happy life together.”
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, said: “It’s wonderful news. Very exciting. My family are all thrilled for them both.”
Clarence House formally announced the long-awaited development in a statement issued just after 11am today.
It said: “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. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course.
“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.
Middleton, who comes from a wealthy middle class background, was born a commoner but is now in line to become Queen.
She was dubbed “Waity Katey” for her patience in biding her time before the Prince popped the question.
William was frequently asked by members of the public when he would get married, but his stock response was “wait and see”.
Middleton, who works for her parents’ company, Party Pieces, has kept a low profile for the past year and has only been seen at William’s side at weddings or on holiday.
The announcement of the engagement will lead to speculation about when she will take on formal Royal duties.
Bookmaker Paddy Power has made Saturday, August 13, 2011, the 3/1 favourite for the date of the Royal wedding.
PRINCE William is the royal golden boy who will one day take the crown.
Growing from a boisterous toddler into a shy teenager and then a confident and settled RAF pilot, William is about to embark on the next stage of his life.
To many, he is a 6ft 3in heartthrob who inherited the looks of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
But the Prince has been taken for a number of years, committed to university flatmate Kate Middleton, now his bride-to-be.
A sensible older brother to Prince Harry, William relies on a circle of close, trusted friends and still regards the media with suspicion.
Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales was born at 9.03pm on June 21, 1982, at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington in London, weighing 7lb 1.5oz.
Diana fell pregnant with William just four months after her fairytale wedding to the Prince of Wales.
Charles wrote to a friend after his son was born: “He really does look surprisingly appetising and has sausage fingers just like mine.”
Naughty as a youngster, he sometimes played up in public — notably at the Duke of York’s wedding, where he pulled faces at the bridesmaids.
His parents’ marriage crumbled amid scandal and intense press interest while William was at Eton.
Then on August 31, 1997, came Diana’s devastating death.
Charles let his sons sleep through the night at Balmoral before breaking the sad news to them in the morning.
Fifteen-year-old William and Harry, who was just 12, bravely held their composure as they walked behind their mother’s cortege at her funeral.
In the aftermath the papers agreed to leave William and Harry alone while they finished their education.
At Eton, William went on to gain 10 GCSEs in 1998, with three A* (star) grades, five As and two Bs, and became one of 21 prefects.
In his A-levels he achieved an A in Geography, B in History of Art and a C in Biology.
After leaving school, he went on a gap year which included jungle training in Belize with the Welsh Guards and a stint with Raleigh International in Chile.
William was shown tackling domestic chores — making him possibly the first future king to be pictured in rubber gloves scrubbing a toilet floor.
He began his four years at St Andrews university in Scotland in 2001, but stayed away from Freshers Week to avoid the spotlight and later found it difficult to adjust.
He switched from history of art to geography, got used to the isolated town and began dating flatmate Kate Middleton.
William and Harry’s careers initially followed similar paths, with William following Harry into Sandhurst to train as an officer in the Army in 2006, and then joining his sibling’s regiment, the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royal.
But William later decided to transfer his service to the Royal Air Force and became a full-time co-pilot with the RAF’s Search and Rescue Force.
Protective of Kate, William has been angered by the attention she was receiving from photographers, with aides saying he wanted more than anything for her to be left alone.
KATE Middleton went from being Prince William’s flatmate to the future King’s first true love.
Dubbed “Waity Katie” for her patience as she waited for her Prince to pop the question after a long courtship, Kate is to finally become a bride, a royal wife and one day Queen.
He reportedly calls her “Babykins”, while he is apparently her “Big Willie”.
Kate’s wealthy middle class background differs greatly from the elite aristocratic circle of European princesses often earmarked as potential brides for William.
But despite her lack of blue blood, sensible Kate’s down-to-earth nature and mature outlook have her pegged as an ideal royal consort.
They met at St Andrews University where they were both studying history of art, although William switched to geography in the end.
It was Kate, who is five months older than William, who was credited with persuading the Prince to continue his studies when he considered quitting as he struggled to adjust to university life during his first year.
She caught his eye as an attractive undergraduate shortly after he arrived in the small and windswept Scottish town of Fife.
The Prince forked out £200 for a front seat at a charity student fashion show where Kate strode confidently down the catwalk in a see-through lace dress which revealed her black underwear.
Her disposition towards William dates back several years.
She had a schoolgirl crush on the prince and was dubbed “princess-in-waiting” for having a poster of him in his polo gear on her wall.
The teenage dream became a reality when they got together at university, staying together after they graduated.
The pretty brunette did briefly split from the second in line to the throne in April 2007, but within weeks they were secretly back in each other’s arms.
She was widely tipped to marry William but the relationship unexpectedly broke down, with friends blaming William’s army life for placing a strain on the union.
When the rekindled romance became public, speculation about an engagement grew with observers saying it was a matter of time.
Born on January 9, 1982, Catherine Elizabeth Middleton is the eldest child of businessman Michael and former air hostess Carole Middleton.
The self-made millionaires live in a modern five-bedroom detached house in Bucklebury, a small village near Newbury, Berkshire, and run a mail-order business called Party Pieces which sells toys and party paraphernalia.
Kate has two younger siblings, sister Pippa and brother James.
She was privately educated at the £15,000-a-year Marlborough College where she was a keen netball and hockey player.
One college master described her as an A-grade pupil who was popular throughout the school.
“You might imagine someone like her would attract a degree of jealousy from other students,” the master said.
“Not so. She was universally liked and to top it all she was a joy to teach. Quite sickening, really.”
Kate was not entirely a goody-two-shoes. According to friend Jessica Hay, she used to moon at the boys’ boarding houses from her dorm window.
With the announcement of their engagement, her future is now set, entrenched in history.
She will one day be Queen.