In this Oct. 23, 2010 file photo, Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton leave the wedding of their friends Harry Mead and Rosie Bradford in the village of Northleach, England.
LONDON -- The wait is over - Britain's Prince William and his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton have announced their engagement.
Royal officials announced Tuesday that William and Middleton got engaged last month during a holiday in Kenya, and will marry next spring or summer in London.
The news ends years of rumored splits, reconciliations and will-they, wont-they speculation. But now that Britain is officially gaining a new princess, many are wondering who the girl on William's arm in all those photos really is.
Middleton, 28, met William at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. They shared a student house in the seaside university town, where William initially studied art history before switching to geography.
In 2002, William paid 200 pounds to sit in the front row at a charity fashion show where Middleton was modeling in a daring outfit - they are thought to have started dating the following year.
A wealthy commoner rather than an aristocrat, Middleton is the daughter of self-made millionaires. Her father worked for an airline and her mother was a flight attendant before they started a mail-order business specializing in children's parties, run from their house in southern England.
She attended Marlborough College, an elite private school, where she played tennis and field hockey, before studying art history at St. Andrews. After graduating in 2005, Middleton worked for a time as a buyer for the fashion chain Jigsaw. She is now employed by her family's party-planning business.
The couple's relationship became public with a joint photo on a Swiss skiing holiday in 2004. Middleton then became a media darling - especially after both graduated, ending a media agreement to leave William alone while he was at university. With her confident good looks and long brown hair, Middleton became one of the most photographed women in Britain.
The brunette fashion buyer was photographed attending public events, going to work, even getting a parking ticket - a level of attention that evoked the romance of William's parents, Charles and Diana.
Middleton was there when William was commissioned as a British Army officer after graduating from Sandhurst military college in 2006. They reportedly broke up briefly in 2007, but later got back together.
William was determined that Middleton would not suffer the same media hounding endured by his mother, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997. He appealed through his office for the media to leave her alone.
The pair have recently seen each other mostly on weekends, with William a frequent visitor to the Middleton family house in the affluent village of Bucklebury, 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of London.
Earlier this month, Middleton's parents were invited to join members of the royal family for a shooting holiday at Balmoral - the queen's estate in Scotland - another milestone on their daughter's road to acceptance by the royal family's inner circle. It was also reported that she will be spending the holidays this year with the royals.
Clarence House said after the wedding, the couple will live in north Wales, where William is based with the RAF. The couple is expected give their first joint interview later Tuesday. Middleton has rarely, if ever, spoken about William in public.
"I love the uniform. It's so, so sexy," - her assessment at William's graduation from Sandhurst - was a rare slip.