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Balmoral invite fuels wedding speculation: Kate's parents stay at Charles' lodge

02 NOVEMBER 2010

In another sign that Prince William and Kate Middleton may be edging closer to marriage, her parents have attended a shooting party on the Queen's Balmoral estate.

Michael and Carole Middleton were guests of Prince William at Birkhall – a three-storey residence Prince Charles inherited from the Queen Mother, reports the Daily Mail.

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Though neither Charles nor the sovereign herself were present, the invitation would not have been given without their approval.

"William and Kate do go up to Balmoral quite a bit, but inviting her parents is a big deal," the paper quotes a royal insider as saying. "This is virtually confirmation they're his in-laws-to-be."

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Kate's mother was pictured being given instruction in shooting, one of the second-in-line-to-the-throne's favourite pursuits.

Significantly, though 28-year-old Wills has his own retreat within the grounds - a 120-year-old gamekeepers cottage - his father generously offered more spacious Birkhall for the visit.

Bought by Queen Victoria in 1852 and with some 50,000 acres of pine-dotted land, Balmoral, is the royals' favourite estate.

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They regard it as a secluded country location where they can get away from it all and practice beloved country sports such as hillwalking and salmon fishing.

And it's where they tend to celebrate special occasions. Last year William whisked his sweetheart away to mark her birthday with a romantic candlelit dinner on the banks of the River Dee.

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