Palace orders showgirl Britney to stop her pursuit of the Prince

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The Independent Culture

The path to true love never runs smooth - especially if you are an American pop princess whose pursuit of a prince charming has been splashed across the globe in search of bigger profits.

The path to true love never runs smooth - especially if you are an American pop princess whose pursuit of a prince charming has been splashed across the globe in search of bigger profits.

For months the British public has been reading stories that the singer Britney Spears sees a union with Prince William as a match made in Heaven. Hardly a week has gone by without a "close pal" of the 18-year-old star telling a tabloid just how cute she finds that young man who happens to be second in line to the throne.

But the PR men and women intent on playing Cupid havecome up against another formidable media-management machine - Buckingham Palace.

Until yesterday, the powers that be at the Palace had tolerated the Britney-William rumour machine with a dignified silence in the hope that it would eventually die a natural death.

But a new spate of William adoration led royal spin-doctors to take action - the star's publicists confirmed they have been asked to stop Britney's royalty chasing. One of her managers said: "We have been notified that it would be in the best interest of Britney and William if she were to, let's say, cut back a bit on her letters at this time."

A hail of e-mails, handwritten notes and even the singer's CV have allegedly been sent to William by his "smitten" millionaire admirer since last year. The subsequent acres of newsprint and screaming headlines - "I want to wed Wills and be Queen!" - did no harm to the star and her record label. She has sold 27 million albums and done two world tours.

The Palace refused to go into details about the approach to Britney's management, saying only that there had been no official correspondence. Officials have agreed that William, who leaves Eton this summer, will have no public role until he finishes his university education and are at pains to keep his personal life private.

Every move in the Britney saga has none the less been chronicled in intimate detail - 167 separate stories in the tabloids and broadsheets over the past year - since she sent a picture to William last year.

Matters came to a head last month when Britney told one paper: "Marry Prince William? I would love that - who would not want to be a princess?"

However, William's only utterance on the subject, made as part of a written question-and-answer session to mark his 18th birthday in June, suggested that romance was not in the air. He wrote: "I don't like being exploited in this way, but as I get older it's increasingly hard to prevent."

Britney's British publicists were trotting out their familiar tune yesterday that their client has never given credence to an infatuation with William. A spokeswoman for her Jive record label said: "There was some contact months ago but it was just friendly chat between two people of the same age. Britney knows full well the idea of her being Queen is rubbish."

The press officer meanwhile denied fervently that the latest twist in the Britney-William saga was anything to do with an attempt to boost sales. "That's a cheap shot. We've consistently played this rumour down."

The release of Ms Spears' latest single next Monday is, of course, purely coincidental.

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