London, August 16 (ANI): Prince of Wales William and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, both 27, are said to have reached "an understanding" that their eight-year relationship will end in marriage.
If reports are to be believed, by the time the Queen celebrates her historic Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Kate may be on the palace balcony at her side as a fully-fledged princess.
Well-placed sources say that William and Kate's marriage is a "done deal".
They have, however, made it clear that it is not expected until 2011 at the earliest.
Insiders say William and his key advisers, including his father Prince Charles, have a route map to the altar in place with Kate, the girl he has dated since they fell in love as students at St Andrews University, at its heart.
Those in the know say one of William's foremost concerns is protecting Kate.
"He knows that as soon as an announcement is made their lives will never be the same again," the News of the World quoted one senior figure as saying.
The report further says that courtiers and William know that any early announcement will spark a celebrity hurricane, turning Kate into a global superstar before he has been able to establish himself as an independent stand-alone royal on the national and international stages.
The paper says that the palace are desperate to avoid a repeat of Di-mania, and this will dictate official confirmation of the marriage date.
"It is now accepted among senior members of the family that William and Kate will marry. They are totally committed to each other," said one impeccable source.
"But the timing is very important. It would have to be wrong to force the situation before William is established in his own right.
"In the future it is hoped that Kate will pay a supporting role, rather as the Duchess of Cornwall has for the Prince of Wales," the source added. (ANI)