The course of true love never did run smooth, but during their two years in the public eye, the romance between Sarah Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, and her on-off boyfriend, Levi Johnston, has endured as many twists, turns, and unfortunate misunderstandings as the plot of a Shakespearean comedy.
A few months back, Mr Johnston, 20, was pouting from the cover of Playgirl, volunteering gory details about life inside Camp Palin. He claimed, among many other things, that the former Governor of Alaska's marriage was on the rocks, that she called her son Trig, who has Down's syndrome, "retarded" and that she's a poor shot and incompetent fisherwoman who exaggerates her interest in field sports to win votes.
Yesterday, Levi was preparing to eat a large portion of humble pie. Not only is he back together with Bristol – with whom he'd split a fortnight after the birth of their son Tripp – but he's also preparing to go cap in hand to her parents, and formally ask for their daughter's hand in marriage.
The news was announced – according to family tradition – via a cover story in the supermarket magazine US Weekly. Its headline proclaimed "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!" promising readers that "the reunited couple reveal their sudden secret engagement... and why they hid it from Sarah".
Bristol, who is 19, said that she and Levi had "reconnected" earlier this summer while going for a walk during a break in the negotiations over custody of their 18-month-old son.
"When he left that night, we didn't hug or kiss, but I was thinking how different it was," she said. "He texted me: 'I miss you. I love you. I want to be with you again'... I was in shock."
The pair had initially decided to keep the rekindled relationship secret, but things changed a fortnight ago, when Levi returned from a lengthy work trip to an oilfield in the north of Alaska, and dropped onto bended knee – for the second time. "It felt right," Bristol said, "even though we don't have the approval of our parents."
Regarding Sarah's reaction to the news, the teenager added: "It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be."
That may be putting things mildly. Amid the lawsuits, recriminations and public mud-slinging that has characterised the young relationship for much of the past 18 months, Sarah has variously said Levi would "say and do anything for even more attention," dubbed him "Ricky Hollywood" and called his "aspiring porn" career "heartbreaking". She and her husband Todd released a carefully worded statement about the impending nuptials.
"Bristol at 19 is now a young adult," it read. "We obviously want what's best for our children. Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives."
Attention will now inevitably shift to the bidding war between magazines hoping to secure the rights to the photos of the nuptials.
Bristol and Levi remain an object of public fascination, and rumours of their reconciliation were enough to prompt the National Enquirer to publish pictures last month showing Levi's truck parked overnight outside her Anchorage apartment. The wedding ceremony will also involve much careful positioning of family members.
Levi's folks are from earthier stock than his future in-laws, and his mother Sherry is serving a three-year prison sentence for dealing drugs from her home in Wasilla.
Levi Johnston vs The Palins
"I have things that can get her [Sarah Palin] in trouble and would hurt her but I'm not going to go that far. Things she has done while she was governor."
"She told me that once Bristol had the baby, she and Todd would adopt him. I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good, and she didn't want people to know that her 17-year-old daughter was going to have a kid."
"It's a great message [Bristol's] trying to send out to the world and all the young kids. It's not easy raising a baby. But I do think there's more things to it than just not having sex."
"He is a stranger to me." (Bristol)
"We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship...Bristol realises now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions." (The Palin family)
"I hear he goes by the name Ricky Hollywood now. This aspiring – aspiring porn, some of the things that he's doing, it's kind of heartbreaking." (Sarah)Reuse content