LONDON -- Friday, a long-running fairy tale finally culminates at Westminster Abbey: a handsome young prince will marry a beautiful young commoner amid massive jubilation, and then, presumably, they will live happily ever after.
But where, exactly?
As the world pauses for a few hours to feast on this morsel of rare, unadulterated good news before returning to reality, a question persists: Where will Prince William and Kate Middleton make their home after they are married?
Would it be a chic private flat in Belgravia, a district in central London? No, scratch that: too many security hassles.
The Castle of Mey, the late Queen Mother's windswept vacation home in northern Scotland? Too far from London, where all the young couple's friends are.
A big "pile" -- upper-class slang for a large family estate -- with boxwood hedges, formal rose gardens, and a helicopter pad? Possibly, because Prince William is a helicopter pilot, but that might seem profligate in this day of a newly cost-conscious monarchy.
What about ample space for horses? Not necessarily: Ms. Middleton is said to be allergic to them, and Prince William, while a fan of hunting, is by no means the polo fanatic his father is.
In the short run, the answer is well-known: the couple will live at a secluded, whitewashed farmhouse on the island of Anglesey in Wales, where the prince works as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot. They're said to be determined to give their marriage a good start by living as normal and private an existence as possible -- the tranquil kind of life Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip knew when they were newlyweds on the island of Malta, where he was stationed with the Royal Navy, a time the Queen once described as the happiest of her life.
The young couple has actually already taken up residence in Anglesey, and when Ms. Middleton is not at the farmhouse (rent: $1,200 a month), she'll make frequent visits to her own family in Bucklebury, in Berkshire.
But once Prince William's three-year service is up -- and he is rumored to be angling for a longer stint in the military -- the couple would move to London, where they'll have access to an apartment in Clarence House, a pale pink 19th-century mansion that shares a garden with St. James' Palace and serves as residence and office for the Prince of Wales and his two sons.
On the other hand, "I think they could opt for Kensington Palace, where the Queen Mother lived," said Charlie Ellingworth, marketing director of London's Property Vision, which advises buyers and renters of prime residential properties.
But in keeping with the upscale lifestyle of the other young marrieds they mingle with, Prince William and his wife will want to escape the demands of London to a quiet place in the country.
And the votes are in: An informal survey of top Realtors all seem to point to Gloucestershire, already home to many of the couple's friends and other royal family members -- Prince Charles lives with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, at Highgrove House; Princess Anne lives nearby at Gatcombe Park, and her daughter Zara Phillips in Cheltenham.
"Of course, 'Royal Gloucestershire,' as it's known, could be the choice, but how close you want to be to Dad is not entirely clear," said James Mackenzie of Savills, an international real estate firm.
They might opt to live even closer to London -- near Windsor Castle in Berkshire, where the Queen lives, said Mr. Mackenzie, noting that both princes Andrew and Edward were given houses near Windsor, which is very close to Heathrow Airport and which, "given that Prince William will have to eventually take over more royal duties, would be convenient."
The size of a property for the young royal is debatable. James Harington of Harington's, another upscale real estate company, believes they'd need a house with a lot of acreage, with a tennis court, swimming pool, and gardens, guest cottages for friends, and outbuildings for security staff.
Security is a prime consideration, which means a large property might be necessary, at least for long country walks without fear of paparazzi lenses, said Mr. Harington, who noted that he once worked for a member of the royal family "and I knew the protection people, and I'm surprised that Highgrove is so close to the road."
The conservation-minded Prince of Wales has spent much time renovating Highgrove and its organic gardens, and he's also been building a six-bedroom "green" house at Harewood Park in Herefordshire. Some media reports predict Prince William will move in there; others doubt it.
"Charles takes a great interest in homes that are environmentally forward-thinking, the design and building of them, and I think that house is much more an expression of his interest in the environment than a place for William and Kate to live in," Mr. Mackenzie said.
Moreover, this young couple hasn't expressed much of an interest yet in gardening, although they both love the outdoors.
"I don't think they have any intention of taking on an estate at this point in their lives and designing wonderful gardens," Mr. Mackenzie said.
"That will come later, after they start a family. For now, they'll want a beautiful house with minimal grounds."
One final hurdle, however: This is a couple that has vowed to go without servants.
No problem -- Mr. Mackenzie has the perfect place in mind for them. A $3 million estate in Guiting Power, a village in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, called Castlett House. Built only five years ago on 2.5 acres in the Georgian Cotswolds country house style, he thinks the place is "very much them. It requires very minimal upkeep, and every modern convenience."
A lot of these older places are very drafty and require extensive remodeling, but not Castlett House.
There are outbuildings for security and staff, a gym, "and an amazing baronial banquet hall."
For this independent couple, who will want to make their own nest, "it's perfect."
Maybe, but let them at least get married first.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mackenzie Carpenter is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Mackenzie Carpenter at: firstname.lastname@example.org -0.127144