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Shock and surprise among royal watchers

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LONDON, England -- Veteran royal watchers in the UK said news of Prince William's break-up with Kate Middleton had taken them by surprise.

They said the constant media attention was probably not the main factor in the split, suggesting that the relationship had simply run its course.

But PR guru Max Clifford said it had become "increasingly obvious" in recent months that William wanted to go out and enjoy himself.

He also speculated that a third person might be involved, adding: "My instinct tells me that there is somebody else in the background."

Judy Wade, royal correspondent for Hello! magazine, said she was "absolutely shocked" at the separation.

"So recently we've seen them looking so happy together at the rugby and at Cheltenham," she said. "She was absolutely perfect."

She said Kate's parent's would probably be most disappointed by the young couple's decision to go their separate ways.

"I don't particularly blame the harassment of the press," she said. "I think Kate's been living in limbo, neither Royal nor commoner any longer. It's been very difficult for her.

"William could have solved her problems by marrying her or announcing their engagement. She thought, 'either marry me or I'm off.'

"I think that's the main reason -- she was tired of life in limbo, even though she seemed perfect for it and seemed to be coping brilliantly."

Wade said William was "just not ready" for marriage, but added: "Let's not rule out a reconciliation when he realizes what he has lost."

She said: "I think probably Kate has made a wise move. It's a horrendous life -- you do have this intolerable scrutiny and you don't get a chance to retire.

"She will be better off with some rich unknown gentleman living in the country."

Clifford said it would be the "biggest kiss and tell in history" if Kate sold her story to a newspaper. But he added: "She would never do it -- I'm sure she wouldn't even dream of doing it.

"But she's in that position of being the hottest kiss and tell property in history.

"I've already had contacts from various national newspapers saying: 'If she comes to you, tell us.'"

He said the split had not surprised him, adding: "I think it's become increasingly obvious in recent months that he wants to be out and about enjoying himself.

"To me it's become more and more obvious that this was possibly going to happen."

Clifford speculated that William might already have found a new love. He said: "That's just something that goes through my mind, that maybe he's met somebody else.

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said the young couple had probably "got to a stage in their relationship where they couldn't go forwards."

"I was surprised. They have split up before but it was very much kept under wraps," she said.

"Obviously this time somebody wants the world to know -- I can't imagine it was her."

She said it was probably a "very emotional" split, adding that the royal family would be sad about it because Kate was well-liked.

She added: "They were almost a married couple when they were together at university. Since then it's been a lot of aggravation and it's been very hard for them to move on.

"I would think it's probably because William just thought, 'I don't want to get married and this simply isn't fair for you.' I'm sure he's very sad."

Kate and William pictured in March 2007.


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