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Prince William: Britain's most popular royal weds Kate Middleton

Prince William's marriage today to Catherine Middleton enshrines his popularity among the British people who admire the young royal's affable demeanor.

By Staff writer / April 29, 2011

Britain's Prince William (l.) says his vows to his bride, Kate Middleton, as they stand at the altar at Westminster Abbey for the Royal Wedding in London on Friday, April, 29.

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He’s tall, lanky, likes water polo, smiles easily, is low-key, and on a recent trip to Australia was so charming that people called him “the king of hearts.”

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Prince William of Wales, heir to the throne of England who today married his girlfriend of eight years, is the most improbable of “regular guys.” Yet today the young prince is the most popular royal in the English pantheon; he is No. 2 in line for the throne but many British subjects hope that he, not his father Prince Charles, somehow becomes the next king, and closes the gap between the monarchy and the people.

In a way, William’s choice of a smart and classy nonroyal bride – a marriage of love not rank – puts him more firmly in the common conception of British family values that royals are supposed to represent.

Despite his gilt-crested upbringing, William, who goes by the nickname Wombat, or Wills, is known as down to earth. He is photographed in chinos, sports shirts, and on the soccer field. He’s a search and rescue helicopter pilot who seems to have inherited his mother’s – Princess Diana – skepticism of snobbery and stuffiness. Diana insisted her two sons learn about normal life and people and took them to McDonald’s, Disney World, hospitals, and elderly homes to ensure they did. At age 7 he said that he wanted to be a police officer so that he could protect his mother; Diana retorted: "You’ve got to be king."

His common touch was on display earlier this week when William emerged from his quarters at Clarence House to mix it up with well wishers preparing to sit out the night on the sidewalk before the wedding. William was sharp and warm and wowed folks with one-liners and handshakes: “All I’ve got to do now is get the lines right!" He has proven he can.

William was born in 1982 in Paddington as William Arthur Philip Louis, the son of Prince Charles and Diana. He lost his mother at age 15; the British nation mourned for her and felt sympathy for the two boys.

He attended the University of St. Andrews, enrolled as William Wales, and earned a degree in geography, and met Catherine Middleton. He later attended Sandhurst Military Academy (outside London, and perhaps to be close to Kate) then went to air force college and joined the Royal Air Force where he is a pilot based in Wales, and has visited operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The prince is also known for his charitable work and patronage, most notably for the Red Cross, for Diana’s homeless and AIDS charities. In 2005, he became a patron of the Tusk Trust that does conservation and wildlife protection in rural Africa. The initiative fosters “education, responsibility, and participation in the local community and lights the way to conservation.”

Last fall William asked Kate to marry him on one knee next to a lake in rural Kenya on a wildlife survey vacation.

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