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PALACE DENIES REPORT THAT PRINCE IS FINALLY MARRYING HIS GIRLFRIEND

Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, has finally decided to marry his girlfriend Sophie Rhys-Jones, a British newspaper said Sunday.

The mass-selling News of the World, quoting friends of the couple, said the two were celebrating on the royal yacht Britannia before a cruise of Scotland's Western Isles."I'm expecting to hear something official sooner rather than later," it quoted one friend as saying.

Edward's decision, it said, followed weeks of pressure on him from the queen and from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, to end speculation about Sophie's role in his life.

But Buckingham Palace dismissed the report as pure speculation. "If - and the stress is on the if - there is any such development it would be announced in the normal way and not through the News of the World," a palace spokeswoman said.