LONDON, Apr 29 (Reuters) Tabloid newspapers are speculating that Britain's Prince William, 23, is about to propose to his girlfriend Kate Middleton on holiday in the Caribbean.
The elder son of heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana is flying to the island of Mustique yesterday to join the 24-year-old Middleton, the Evening Standard reported yesterday.
The London newspaper, which broke the news of Camilla Parker Bowles' engagement to Prince Charles, said William sought advice on the best place to hide away from prying paparazzi lenses.
Mustique was the favourite holiday destination of William's great aunt, Princess Margaret. Her son Viscount Linley sold her villa on Mustique to cover death duties.
Feverish speculation about a royal engagement began in The Mail on Sunday with the banner headline ''Kate takes William on holiday -- but will he pop the question?'' William has in the past said he did not want to get married until he is at least 28 or 30 but the paper breathlessly reported they could be just ''weeks away'' from being engaged.
But Judy Wade, royal correspondent for the celebrity gossip magazine Hello, felt the rumour mill was over-reaching itself.
''I think this romance is serious but today young couples live together for a while. And William wants to be sure, and not have a disaster like his parents,'' she told Reuters.
''I don't think he will get married until next year at the earliest.'' Asked to confirm the Evening Standard report of the romantic Caribbean tryst, a spokesman for William, second in line to the throne, said: ''We never comment on private holidays.'' The pair met while studying at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and shared a house together.
The royalty-obsessed press agreed to leave William alone at university but the uneasy truce was broken when paparazzi pursued the couple around the elegant Swiss resort of Klosters when they went skiing together.
Middleton, dubbed ''Her Royal Shyness'' by one newspaper, is the daughter of two middle-class entrepreneurs who run a company which provides accessories for children's parties.
Jessica Hay, a friend who went to the same boarding school, told the Independent on Sunday: ''Kate has class, stamina and the mental strength to survive the limelight.'' The self-effacing brunette will need all that stamina to survive ''trial by media'' -- the remorseless spotlight faced by William's late mother Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi.
William and Kate have been apart for the last three months while he began army training at Sandhurst military academy.
His 21-year-old younger brother Harry, once dubbed the royal ''wild child'' for his underage drink and drug antics, graduated from the academy earlier this month.
He has been romantically linked to Cape Town student Chelsy Davy, who in, contrast to Middleton, is regularly portrayed as an avid party-goer.
REUTERS PG PC2009