World's media smitten by royal 'fairytale'

Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton, spent much of yesterday at St James's Palace discussing their nuptials with courtiers, as the royal press machine emphasised that no further announcements were imminent. But the absence of tangible marital detail did nothing to slow Britain's new royal wedding bandwagon.

With promises that the marriage of the heir to the throne and Ms Middleton, both 28, would be worth £620m to producers of memorabilia and the wider economy, the rumour mill that sprang up within seconds of the announcement at 11.08am on Tuesday was only gaining in momentum.

The world's newspaper front pages were filled with pictures of the happy couple and contrasting interpretations of their eight-year romance, as well as close-ups of the engagement ring once worn by William's late mother Diana, Princess of Wales. Italy's La Stampa dubbed the putative Princess Catherine – daughter of a former pilot and air stewardess – "the Cinderella of Bucklebury" in reference to her home village in Berkshire. Canada's National Post, meanwhile, overlooked Miss Middleton's distinctly upper middle-class status, suggesting that she and her forebears were at one with "the very masses who both populate and watch top English serials EastEnders and Coronation Street".

Bild, the top-selling newspaper in Germany, foresaw "the dream wedding" and conjured up its own royal fairytale, saying: "There was once a simple but beautiful girl. Her grandfather worked as a miner and her mother was an air stewardess. She was just 20 when a kiss changed her life."

The media frenzy was described by one former royal insider as a "tidal wave of sentimental slush". In betting circles, 8 July 2011 emerged as the most-backed wedding date. William Hill said it was no longer taking bets on a ceremony that month after "palace sources" dropped hints that it was the most likely time of year for the marriage to take place.

St James's Palace, where Prince William's household is based, said only that an announcement on the venue and date would be made in "due course" after consultation with other members of the Royal Family, the Government and Ms Middleton's parents, who were reported to be paying for the newlyweds' honeymoon in the Seychelles.

The first commemorative mugs mentioning the date of the engagement hit the internet yesterday, and all but 10 of the initial batch of 165 had sold on eBay for £4.99 each by last night.

There was also evidence of ne'er-do-wells seeking to cash in on the thirst for royal wedding updates. The internet security company Sophos said a number of news websites had sprung up seeking to obtain users' credit card details by devious means.

Those seeking an antidote to the blanket royal wedding coverage might seek out the Caledonian Journal, Scotland's first internet-only newspaper. Its report on the engagement said: "Two people who went to university together are to get married, it has emerged. William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago... Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed, hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet."

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