Britain Prepares For Royal Wedding In 2011

Britain's Prince William and future bride Kate Middleton discussed their plans to marry during a joint television interview Tuesday. They had talked about marriage more than a year before the prince proposed last month during a vacation in Kenya. Katie Nicholl, author of William and Harry, talks to Renee Montagne about the upcoming nuptials.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Last month, Britain announced a painful austerity program in the face of a struggling economy. Now, the royal family is promising the country a bit of diversion: a royal wedding. Prince William, the 28-year-old son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, has proposed to Kate Middleton. And though she's been his girlfriend since they roomed together back in college, she displayed for the press the classic reaction to finally being asked.

Ms. KATE MIDDLETON: I really didn't expect it at all. I thought he might have -sort of maybe thought about it but you know, it was a total shock when it came, and I'm very excited.

MONTAGNE: The totally shocked bride-to-be is now wearing the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that belonged to William's mother. But unlike Diana, Kate Middleton brings no title to her new role - the first time in more than three centuries that an heir to the throne is marrying a commoner. We reached Katie Nicholl, the royal correspondent for the Mail, on Sunday, to ask if that designation really matters anymore. Good morning.

Ms. KATIE NICHOLL (Royal Correspondent, The Daily Mail): Good morning, lovely to be with you.

MONTAGNE: So there's the question: Does it matter? I mean, she's middle class -rich, though. What's the difference?

Ms. NICHOLL: Well, the word commoner sounds so demeaning and rather unpleasant, and I think Americans need to realize she comes from a very well-to-do background. The problem initially - and certainly, I think, with the older guard at the palace - was that she didn't have a title. She wasn't from blue-blooded aristocracy. But as the late Lady Diana Spencer proved, it doesn't always mean a successful marriage into the royal family. And I've been studying William and Kate for many years, and I think this young lady is going to be a real breath of fresh air for the House of Windsor and the monarchy.

MONTAGNE: Is that pretty much true of the public - people are really embracing her, and sort of enjoying the fact that she's on the scene, the two of them?

Ms. NICHOLL: Well, they are now. I tell you, I was at the palace yesterday for the press conference. It's fascinating, really, because we're never heard her speak before. She's kept a deliberately low profile. She handled it very well, and I think our curiosity with Kate is only going to grow and grow from now on.

MONTAGNE: You know, those of us who were around to watch the wedding of William's parents, Charles and Diana, remember a very lavish spectacle - a Cinderella carriage. What about this time around, especially in these hard times?

We, obviously, have been going through a very difficult recession. The Queen's Diamond Julbilee is coming up in 2012, and I'm told by my sources at the palace that she wants to scale down those plans. She doesn't want anything too elaborate. And I think that's also going to be reflected in a royal wedding. There's a lot of buzz about the dress, which designer Kate's going to wear, but also a conservatism about the whole thing. I don't think we're going to see too much excess, or too much spending of money. The royals are very aware that times are tight.

MONTAGNE: And just very briefly, what about the expectations for these two as husband and wife? Because, of course, everyone knows the story of the unhappy ending of Prince William's parents' wedding.

Ms. NICHOLL: Well, I think these two are going to have a very happy future. I think what you have to remember is, they've been together for nearly nine years. They've seen the best of each other, and they've seen the worst of each other. And I tell you what: I think Prince William really does know what love means -and to him, it means Katie Middleton.

MONTAGNE: Katie Nicholl is the author of "William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls," Speaking to us from London, thank you very much.

Ms. NICHOLL: Thank you. Lovely to be with you, and have a lovely day.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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