Memories made of ... a Kate and William mug
THE SOUVENIR mugs and T-shirts are already on eBay. The bookies favour a date in July, and one punter has put over €1,000 on a Kenyan honeymoon. Britain has another royal wedding to look forward to and, amid a wave of officially sanctioned euphoria, the nation has already developed a severe case of 'Wills and Kate' mania.
The widely anticipated announcement of the betrothal of Prince William and Kate Middleton yesterday fired the starting pistol on a race to provide everything necessary for suitably flag-waving nuptials -- from millions of commemorative tea towels to an appropriately British dress for the bride.
While republicans called for the House of Windsor to foot the bill in a time of austerity, and former Palace insiders predicted a new generation of lasting royal marriages, the first signs of an estimated €700m wedding windfall came within hours of the official bulletin being released -- naturally -- on to Twitter and Facebook.
Memorabilia was instantly available on eBay (€8.80 for a 'Kate and William 2011' mug), while one souvenir producer said it had started manufacturing pre-prepared designs straight after the announcement, in anticipation of a 40pc increase in trade.
Bookmaker William Hill is taking dozens of bets from gamblers willing to take odds ranging from 1-12 on Prince Harry being the best man, to 10,000-1 on the potential future Queen Catherine arriving for her big day sporting Elizabeth Duke jewellery and heading with the second in line to the throne to a honeymoon in Magaluf.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who revealed that as a 14-year-old he had slept out on the Mall the day before the wedding in 1981 of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, 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."
Throughout proceedings yesterday, there was also a sense of history.
In the couple's first appearance before the cameras, William revealed he had given his fiancee the sapphire and diamond engagement ring his mother received as a painfully camera-shy 21-year-old.
Ms Middleton, whose patient wait for a proposal and decision to work for her family firm rather than pursue an independent career had earned her the sobriquet 'Waity Katy', will be the first non-aristocrat to marry an heir-presumptive since Anne Hyde secretly wed the future James II in 1659.
But while the daughter of Michael and Carole Middleton, a former British Airways dispatcher and stewardess respectively, cannot claim aristocratic lineage, she is safely from the higher echelons of British society. The success of her parents' Berkshire-based business selling toys and party supplies has made them millionaires, and their eldest daughter attended the €20,000-a-year Marlborough College before going to St Andrews University, where she met William in 2001.
Despite weeks of rumour fuelled by the sighting this month of Ms Middleton's parents at a private shooting party at Balmoral, the precise timing of the announcement was successfully kept secret until the Press Association ran a single-line newsflash at 11.08am. The news then spread across cyberspace via the newly minted Twitter and Facebook pages of the British monarchy.
In a statement, Clarence House said Prince William had sought the permission of his fiancee's father. (© Independent News Service)