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Prince Charles ends his royal hunt for a princess

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"Oh, I just can't get this right," twittered the salesgirl as she tried to measure a length of cloth in Bentall's Department Store in Kingston, Surrey. "I've just heard Prince Charles is getting married and I'm all of a flutter. Yes, I'll go [into London to see the wedding], I wouldn't miss it for anything."

The news of a royal wedding in July for the heir to the throne swept around the store and the street and the country outside. It was a joyful touch of color to lighten the drabness of prolonged economic slump and crisis in a winter-weary Britain -- cheers in the House of Commons, and a large sapphire and diamond engagement ring briefly displacing the grim faces of the unemployed on television screens.

It was also the end of one of Britain's favorite sports: "Charlie watching" to see who would almost certainly become the next Queen of England by marrying one of the world's richest and most eligible bachelors.

"Lady Diana, is it?" asked another Kingston sales assistant.

Indeed, it was: Lady Diana Frances Spencer, aged 19, youngest child of the 8 th Earl of Spencer.

Her father, once equerry to Charles' grandfather (King George VI) and to Charles' mother (Queen Elizabeth II) was so excited about it all that he rushed out into the street to photograph the crowds that gathered at Buckingham Palace hoping for a glimpse of the couple.

Lady Diana pleased many here by being a member of the British, rather than the European, aristocracy. She can trace her ancestry back to Charles II. And she was literally the "girl next door," as she grew up on an estate next to the royal residence at Sandringham.

"The royal family really does its job at hard times like these," said another Kingston woman, beaming at the report.

"Yes, but she's only 19," said a friend disapprovingly, echoing a widespread concern here. "A young girl, like that -- she doesn't know what she's getting into."

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