Britain's Prince William has given his bride-to-be the engagement ring of the late Princess Diana, saying it is his way of making sure his mother does not miss out on the special day.
Royal officials announced Tuesday the engagement of the prince and his long-time girlfriend, Kate Middleton. Officials say the two became engaged last month during what Middleton called a "romantic" vacation in Kenya.
In a storm of camera flashes, the couple made a media appearance late Tuesday at St. James Palace in London.
Prince William said the engagement feels like a "natural step" in his eight-year relationship with Middleton.
His bride-to-be, wearing Princess Diana's blue sapphire and diamond ring, said joining the royal family is a "daunting prospect" that she "will take in stride."
Royal officials say they will wed in the middle of next year in London.
Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, are said to be "absolutely delighted" by the news.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he congratulated the couple and hailed it is a "great day for our country."
The 28-year-olds met more than nine years ago while attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Middleton is credited with persuading the prince to continue his studies when he considered dropping out his first year.
The classmates moved into a house with two other friends in 2002 and were a couple by the end of 2003. They briefly split in April 2007 but were reported to be dating again later that year.
Their engagement comes after years of media speculation about the nuptials of the prince, who topped Forbes' list of "The 20 Hottest Young Royals" in 2008.
However, Prince William once said he did not want to marry until he was at least 28, an age he reached in June.
Middleton comes from a wealthy middle class family, but was born a commoner. Her parents, Michael and Carole, are self-made millionaires who own a mail-order business that sells party goods.
The Middletons said Tuesday they think the prince and their daughter make a "lovely" couple, and they expressed their fondness for Prince William.
After the wedding, officials say the couple will live in north Wales, where Prince William will continue to serve in the Royal Air Force.
William is the second in line to the throne of England after his father, Prince Charles.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.