Thirty years after his mother walked down the aisle for her fairy-tale wedding to Prince Charles at St. Paul's Cathedral, Prince William will marry his fiancée, Kate Middleton, in a wildly anticipated ceremony next year.
Ending a marathon courtship and fevered speculation in announcing their engagement Tuesday, the Prince and his future bride spoke about their love and commitment to each other under the glare of television cameras.
Prince William, who is heir to the heir to the British throne, said he and Ms. Middleton had discussed the prospect of marriage for a full year before he finally popped the question on a private holiday in Kenya last month, presenting her with the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that once belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales.
"As every guy out there will know, it takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going," said the Prince, somewhat abashedly, seated next to Ms. Middleton, who wore the ring during their joint television interview.
To the Prince, the lengthy lead-up meant the proposal itself wasn't "a massively big surprise." Not so to Ms. Middleton, who described the moment as "a total shock."
The minor note of dissonance underscores a certain tension in their relationship, which began nearly 10 years ago when they met as art history students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. They shared a house with two other students during their second year as "friends" but soon became serious.
According to news reports, the Prince became romantically interested in Ms. Middleton after watching her take part in a charity fashion show where she modelled black underwear and a see-through dress on the catwalk. She apparently helped dissuade him from dropping out of St. Andrews by providing him moral support after a tough first year.
Their courtship has been punctuated by occasional breakups, but those proved to be temporary.
After they reconciled after an especially public split in 2007, the British tabloids dubbed Ms. Middleton "Waity Katie," ridiculing her for holding out for a marriage proposal.
On Tuesday, the Prince and Ms. Middleton, who are both 28, appeared happy and composed as they discussed their feelings for each other and their expectations for the future.
"I … didn't realize it was a race, otherwise I'd have been a lot quicker," joked Prince William.
"It just seemed a natural step for both of us," Ms. Middleton added.
The couple plan to live in North Wales, where Prince William currently works as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot for the Royal Air Force.
Joining the Royal Family was a "daunting prospect," Ms. Middleton said as the couple posed for pictures, she dressed in a blue satin by the Issa fashion label, and he in a dark suit.
"It's quite a daunting prospect, but hopefully I'll take it in my stride," she said, adding that "William's a great teacher so hopefully he'll be able to help me along the way."
Ms. Middleton, who works for her family's party-planning business, will be the first "commoner" to marry an heir to the throne in modern times.
In Britain, her parents are considered solidly middle class, even though they made millions from a mail-order party-supplies business, which has been ridiculed by some in Britain's class-conscious society.
Ms. Middleton, however, has proved to be savvy in navigating the media scrutiny and social pressure that has accompanied her relationship to Prince William. Inevitable comparisons between her and Diana generally conclude that Ms. Middleton will prove better-equipped to handle her future role as princess.
Her wedding to Prince William, slated for spring or summer of 2011 is now the subject of intense speculation. Observers are already making predictions about the dress, the guest list and the menu.
However, the pomp of this royal wedding will take place against a gloomy backdrop of "Austerity Britain." Some analysts say for the British public, the timing could not be more perfect.
"That narrative of Austerity Britain, which has so gripped the nation, I think, is very much the context for this news, which for many will seem like a welcome break," said Sandra den Otter, an associate professor of history at Queen's University in Kingston.
The story of the Prince and Ms. Middleton isn't exactly a fairy tale, Dr. den Otter said: "I think the British public feels a little less naive this time around. There was something so captivating about the romantic narrative of Charles and Diana and that is not being depicted here. I think that for Kate Middleton and William, that's quite a savvy move."
On camera, the couple eschewed stiff formalities, joking with each other and the interviewer.
Asked about their 2007 breakup, Ms. Middleton said, "I wasn't very happy about it," but added their split gave her time for reflection.
"Phew," Prince William replied.
He later said there was "something very special about her."
As for him, he said, "I'm obviously extremely funny and she loves that."