Prince William's Girlfriend Turns 25

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 9:16 AM

LONDON -- She makes headlines for getting a parking ticket, newspapers comment on her fashion choices, and her 25th birthday Tuesday is generating a media storm.

Prince William's girlfriend, Kate Middleton, may one day become queen of England. Before then, she is undergoing the ordeal seemingly demanded of royal wannabes since Lady Diana Spencer began dating Prince Charles more than a quarter-century ago.

A frenzy is building around Middleton _ fueled, perhaps, by a large dose of wishful thinking from the press and public.

Pictures of the brunette fashion buyer, who has dated William since both were university students, fetch thousands of dollars from the tabloid press. Paparazzi follow her to work, on shopping trips and on nights out with the prince. One recent, widely published snapshot showed Middleton receiving a ticket from a parking warden outside her London home.

The retail chain Woolworths has commissioned Wills-and-Kate engagement memorabilia, despite the absence of any evidence that a betrothal announcement is imminent.

"It would be more of a surprise now if they split than if they marry," said Robert Jobson, author of the recently published book, "William's Princess."

"I think it's only a matter of time before this role of princess in waiting is changed to being a real princess and maybe one day queen consort."

British bookmaking firm William Hill says it is so certain William will pop the question, it has stopped taking bets on whether the pair will get engaged _ only on the date.

"We're certain they will _ it's a question of when, not if," said spokesman Rupert Adams.

William Hill said it is a 4-5 probability the pair will announce their engagement in 2007, and is offering 3-1 odds they will marry this year.

The prince and Middleton have dated since they were both students at St. Andrews University in Scotland, and were first photographed together on a skiing holiday shortly before their graduation in 2005.

There have been persistent reports in recent weeks that the two may soon announce their engagement.

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