Prince William, Kate Middleton

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Why is there so much hype over William and Kate Middleton's engagement? Why should anyone outside of England care? Me, for example?
—Fabiana, New York, via the inbox

I strongly suspect you were not alive—or perhaps a prenatal cellular mass—in the year 1981. That's the year that Will's mum, milady Princess Diana, trekked down the aisle in her half-dome taffeta prison to wed future king Prince Charles.

It was something to see, really—there was a Barbie carriage with horses and lanterns on the side and everything.

Now that Chuck and Di's older son is finally planning his own wedding—well, it's a chance to witness that rare pomp all over again. Plus one other major development, of course:

And that is a royal spawn. But I get ahead of myself.

Look, the reason why Americans care about a royal wedding is because it's a future king getting married. That happens—what? Once in a generation? (I'm not talking about Danish royals or the people in Monaco. The only royals that exist, in the eyes of Americans, anyway, are the British kind.)

"It's the glamour," says Dr. Charles Carlton, a North Carolina State University history professor who has written four books on the monarchy.

"Plus, weddings are fun. Funerals and divorces aren't much fun, but weddings are a time when people are sort of hopeful about the future."

Put it all together, and you get a recipe for a media obsession that will probably last through the summer of 2011.

If that logic doesn't work for you put it this way: William and Kate are going to re-enact your favorite childhood fairy tale, Cinderella, probably live, probably on TV, and probably for free.

There's another element, of course, and that's the legacy of the late Diana, who split from Charles and died in a car accident in 1997. The world loved her, and, by proxy, the two sons she left behind. Fans want William and Harry to be happy, because that's what their idol, Diana, so badly wanted.

"That William is Princess Diana's son is more important than the fact that he is Prince William himself," says royalty blogger Ella Kay. "If his mother had not been so popular, it might not be quite so much of a draw.

"But," she adds, "the other big part of it is the pomp and circumstance—watching a future king get married."

Lastly, the announcement of a royal wedding instantly gives the world license to start gossiping about future kids. And, for a celebrity natalist, the only thing more fascinating than a baby is a baby prince or princess.

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