William Waited to Propose to Let Kate `Back Out' of Joining Royal Family

Prince William said he waited until last month before proposing to his fiancee, Kate Middleton, to give her a chance “to back out” before agreeing to join Britain’s royal family.

William’s father, Prince Charles, announced the couple’s engagement yesterday, ending years of speculation about whether the second in line to the throne would propose to the girlfriend he had been dating since 2003. Kate said yesterday that becoming a member of the royal family was a “daunting” prospect.

“I wanted to give her a chance to see in and to back out if she needed to before it all got too much,” William said in a pooled television interview that aired last night. “I’m trying to learn from lessons done in the past and I just wanted to give her the best chance to settle in and to see what happens on the other side.”

William proposed to Kate with his mother, Princess Diana’s, engagement ring while on holiday in Kenya three weeks ago. That puts Kate in line to become the first commoner to be queen in modern times. The couple, both 28, met while studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland and will marry in the spring or summer of next year.

“It was very romantic,” Kate said. “There’s a true romantic in there.”

William said he’d been carrying the ring, a sapphire surrounded by diamonds, around in his rucksack for about three weeks before the proposal.

‘Fun and Excitement’

“It’s my mother’s engagement ring so I thought it was quite nice because obviously she’s not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all,” William said. “This was my way of keeping her close to it all.”

The prince said that after he had been accepted by Kate, he asked her father for her hand.

“I was torn between asking Kate’s dad first and then the realization that he might actually say ‘no’ dawned upon me,” he said. “So I thought if I ask Kate first then he can’t really say no. So I did it that way round.”

William -- blond, blue-eyed and 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 meters) tall -- is a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. He was one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, with a fortune of 28 million pounds ($45 million), according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Party Pieces

Middleton -- baptized Catherine Elizabeth -- is the eldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton, who own Party Pieces, a website supplying party accessories. Carole once worked as an airline cabin-crew member. After leaving university, Kate worked as a junior buyer for the women’s fashion chain Jigsaw and later took photographs for her parents’ website.

Kate has been nicknamed “waity Katie” in British tabloid newspapers for her seeming lack of focus on a career.

“I know I’ve been working very hard for the family business; sometimes those days are long days,” she said when asked whether she had been hurt by criticism that she didn’t have a proper job. “I think everyone who I work with can see I am there pulling my weight and that’s really what matters to me.”

Speculation about a royal wedding has grown since the pair rekindled their relationship after a brief split in April 2007.

“We were both very young,” William said of the breakup. “It was very much trying to find our own way and we were growing up,” he said.

‘Stronger Person’

“I at the time wasn’t very happy about it,” Kate said. “But actually it made me a stronger person, you find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized. I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you are younger.”

By contrast with Kate, William’s mother, Diana, was a member of the aristocratic Spencer family. The first Lord Spencer was ennobled by King James I at the start of the 17th century. Other British-born royal consorts in recent centuries, such as Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, who married the future George VI, had parents who were members of the nobility.

“It’s great to have a piece of unadulterated good news that everyone can celebrate,” Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters outside his official residence at 10 Downing Street.

Charles married Diana in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in July 1981. William was born in June 1982 and his brother Harry in September 1984. In December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced that the couple would be separating and the marriage was dissolved in 1996.

‘Bit Crowded’

Diana said that Charles had kept up a relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles during the marriage, telling BBC television’s “Panorama” program in 1995 that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” when she was asked if the relationship had been a factor in the split. Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 and Prince Charles married Parker Bowles in 2005.

Of the queen’s four children, only Prince Edward, who married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, has not divorced.

Prince Andrew’s 1986 marriage to Sarah Ferguson ended in 1996 and Princess Anne’s to Mark Phillips in 1973 was dissolved in 1992. Princess Anne married Tim Laurence the same year. Andrew, Edward and Anne are behind William and Harry in the line of succession.

Prince Harry said he was “delighted” his brother had “popped the question,” the Press Association newswire reported. “It means I get a sister, which I have always wanted.”

“We had been talking about marriage for a while so it wasn’t a massively big surprise,” William said last night. “I’d been planning it for a while, but as any guy out there will know it takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at sodonnell@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net.

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