LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Rumors have abounded for years that Britain's Prince William will get engaged to his long-term girlfriend but one retailer is now so sure an announcement is imminent it has prepared a range of commemorative mugs.
Royal watchers and bookmakers have long predicted that William, the elder son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, will wed Kate Middleton whom he started dating while at university.
But there have been growing rumors of an engagement announcement this month, fueled by a blog written in April by Diana's friend, journalist Tina Brown in which she said the royal family had earmarked June 3 or 4 for the news.
Supermarket chain Asda is so convinced the announcement is coming it has already created a range of specially designed crockery, ready to go on sale as soon as it becomes official.
"Royal crockery is good British tradition and this will be the biggest announcement from the royal family since the engagement of Charles and Di," said David Mills, Asda'a Category Director.
The retailer said it was expecting the same sort of hysteria from the British public that greeted news of Charles's engagement to Diana in 1981.
William began dating Middleton, 28, the daughter of middle-class, self-made entrepreneurs, in 2003 when they shared a house at Scotland's St Andrews University.
They split up in 2007 because, the newspapers said, Middleton, who has been dubbed "waity Katie," was getting fed up of waiting for William to propose, but they got back together soon afterwards.
William has previously said he did not want to get married until he was 28 or 30. He turns 28 on June 21.
But as speculation mounts, Katie Nicholl, royal correspondent for the Mail on Sunday newspaper, said she did not expect an imminent announcement.
William and his younger brother Harry are due to carry out their first joint overseas tour, to Africa from June 14-19, and they would not want anything to overshadow it, she said.
Nicholl also said William would want to complete his training as a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force which he is due to finish in September.
"There is no hurry to get married. They know as soon as an announcement is made, life for them will never be the same again," said Nicholl, who has just penned a book "William and Harry" on the lives of two princes.
"Their friends tell me they are as good as engaged, it's just they don't want to make anything official."
However bookmakers remain convinced that the couple will get engaged soon.
"We think it will be this year," said Rupert Adams, royal-watcher at William Hill which is offering odds of just 1/2 that William will pop the question in 2010.
"Our theory is that if you break up with someone and then get back together with them, obviously they are highly likely to be the one."
(Editing by Steve Addison)