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There is no firm date for the wedding, and the venue has not been specified. Speculation focused on St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

It is not yet clear whom the elegant Middleton will choose as a dress designer, and the royal titles the couple will assume when they become man and wife have not yet been revealed.

The marriage will link Middleton _ whose parents, self-made millionaires, founded a successful mail-order party supply business after working in the airline industry _ with William, scion of one of the richest families in the world.

Midddleton attended Marlborough College, an elite private school, where she played tennis and field hockey, before studying art history at St. Andrews. After graduating in 2005, Middleton worked as a buyer for the fashion chain Jigsaw. She is now employed by her family’s party-planning business.

William has tried to lead a normal life, training to become a military helicopter rescue pilot, but has also become accustomed to extravagant vacations at the world’s most exclusive hideaways.

As a boy, he was traumatized by his parents’ very public divorce and the tragic loss of his mother. Diana died with her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, in a car crash as frenzied paparazzi chased the couple through the streets of Paris, causing their inebriated driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Both William and Harry enjoy tremendous public goodwill in Britain, in part because they remind many of their mother.

While Charles and Diana often seemed tense at times during their brief courtship, William and Middleton seem relaxed and comfortable together. They are both the same age _ unlike Charles and the much younger Diana _ and they have lived together in shared student housing, giving them plenty of time to really know each other.

Many in Britain welcomed the royal engagement as a rare piece of good news in a time of economic uncertainty and cutbacks _ a time much like 1981, when millions watched Charles and Diana’s wedding.

Prime Minister David Cameron wished William and Kate “great joy in their life together,” and said that when he announced the news during a Cabinet meeting, it was greeted by cheers and “a great banging of the table.”

For pomp, the ceremony is likely to fall between the extraordinary spectacle of Charles and Diana’s wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Charles‘ subdued second marriage to Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, at Windsor Guildhall in 2005.

The formal engagement is likely to turn the poised, brunette Middleton _ already depicted approvingly in the fashion pages _ into a global fashion icon. With her confident good looks and long brown hair, Middleton has already become one of the most photographed women in Britain.

William and Harry have spent a lifetime in the spotlight, with their drunken nights out and female friends the subject of constant tabloid gossip. William, who turned 28 in June, once told an interviewer he wouldn’t marry “until I’m at least 28 or maybe 30.”

Prince Harry issued a statement saying he is “delighted that my brother has popped the question!” The soldier prince said the news means he gets a sister, “which I have always wanted.”

Palace officials said only that the wedding would be held in London. It was too early to estimate its cost.

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