Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton, the woman of the hour, will marry Great Britain's Prince William tomorrow in a spectacular wedding that has that portion of the world that cares about these things in a perfect tizzy.

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton

Kate was born at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Berkshire, England, on Jan. 9, 1982. Her father, Michael, was a pilot and her mother, Carole, was a flight attendant when they met.

The Middletons went on to make a fortune with their own mail-order party-goods company, and that allowed them to send Kate and her two siblings to the kind of schools that have made it possible to imagine Catherine, as she is now officially called, handling the role of the future Queen of England.

Kate and William met at one of those schools, University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The romance between Prince William and Kate, a commoner, is a charming story of two college students whose friendship grew over a decade into love.

But their marriage may say more about lessons learned inside Buckingham Palace than about any real freedom members of the royal family have gained in choosing whom to marry.

In 1772, King George III, disgusted with what he deemed the inappropriate marriages two of his brothers had made to commoners, insisted that Parliament pass the Royal Marriages Act, a complicated tangle of regulations that boil down to the fact that the reigning monarch must approve royals' prospective mates.

It was the ultimate meddling in children's lives, and it was the law.

It still is. Queen Elizabeth gave her consent to William and Catherine's marriage on Feb. 9.

The Royal Marriages Act has caused no end of heartache and drama over the centuries, in recent history with the abdication of King Edward VIII to marry the divorced American Wallis Warfield Simpson, Princess Margaret's reluctant breakup with her dashing Capt. Peter Townsend, and Prince Charles's marriage to Princess Diana rather than to his longtime love and present wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

But tomorrow is about two people who really seem to love each other pledging to remain together forever — with a whole lot of fancy trimmings.

Enjoy the show!

The British royals’ take on birth, Part I

The way the British royal family handles special occasions is interesting, to me anyway, because everything they do has to be examined in advance through history, tradition and protocol. Then the next day, many, many other people run out and do as close to the same thing as they possibly can.

Prince Charles with then-Princess Elizabeth
Prince Charles with then-Princess Elizabeth

Birth is no different.

The last few generations of the royal family have provided boatloads of drama that have kept the tabloids chattering and the rest of us agog — romance, opulence, star-crossed lovers, betrayal, tragedy, untimely death.

This week, in the runup to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Birth Story is going to look at a few royal births.

We begin with Prince Charles, William's father, born at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 14, 1948, to then-Crown Princess Elizabeth, 22, and her husband, Prince Philip.

Philip famously played squash with a friend in another part of the palace during his son's birth. To be fair, in 1948 most fathers were at best pacing in hospital waiting rooms during their children's births. And, Philip did bring Elizabeth carnations and Champagne afterwards.

Just two weeks after Charles's birth, in a letter recently sold at auction, Elizabeth wrote a cousin, a bridesmaid at her 1947 wedding,"The baby is very sweet, and Philip and I are enormously proud of him. I still find it hard to believe that I really have a baby of my own!"

Photo by Cecil Beaton