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In Diana’s day, the risque photos of a likely future queen might have torpedoed any wedding plans. Now they raise a few eyebrows, but nothing more.

A spokesman for Prince William, who refused to be identified because of royal policy, said palace officials would not comment on whether attitudes have changed, preferring to leave that role to others.

Middleton’s age also offers a partial explanation for the different attitudes toward the two royal brides. She is 29; Diana was just 19 when her engagement to Charles was announced after a brief courtship. There was a general expectation that the young nursery school teacher would not have had any lovers before Charles.

“There is no rule that the royal bride has to be a virgin, and there never has been,” said Noel Cox, a law professor and royal scholar at Aberystwyth University in Wales. “Obviously it would present difficulties if the heir chose someone who was notoriously promiscuous _ that would be unpopular _ but they could do that if they wanted to.”

Diana’s virginity wasn’t a defined issue, experts say, but the absence of prior boyfriends with embarrassing tales to tell was a big plus from the royals’ point of view.

At the time of her engagement, Charles was already in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Camilla Shand, who decades later would become his second wife. Charles may well have wanted to marry Camilla, but she was not seen as an appropriate choice because she was known to have had several boyfriends by that time.

Some historians and commentators believe this was a major factor in Charles‘ fateful decision to marry Diana rather than Camilla, setting in motion a tragic chain of events that culminated with Diana’s 1997 death in a car crash.

Royal commentators believe William is in a better position than his father to make his marriage work.

“He’s his own man,” said royal expert Dickie Arbiter. “He’s made his own space and he decides what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. The fact that William and (Kate) have had a relationship for eight years speaks for itself.”


Associated Press Writer Aaron Edwards contributed to this report.