There are scenes of jubilation today outside Buckingham Palace, where it has just been announced that Kate Middleton has given birth to a baby boy.
A gun salute in Hyde Park is expected shortly, and the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral are already pealing in delighted celebration.
The sex of the baby, along with his weight (8 pounds, 6 ounces) and the time of his birth (4:24 p.m.), was confirmed via press release, a last-minute departure from the original (and traditional) plan to post it on a sheet of paper outside the palace.
The birth of a male heir to the throne will be a cause for celebration among many traditionalists, who believed it was wrong to alter the law to allow the firstborn to become monarch regardless of gender. It will also take the pressure off the smaller countries, or realms, that still count the queen as head of state and were being urged to change their constitutions to allow a female heir to inherit.
The birth came after an extraordinary three-week wait by news media from around the world outside the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, where Kate gave birth. The palace only ever said that the baby was due in mid-July, but after Princess Diana’s firstborn came 10 days early, the media were determined not to be caught off guard again and set up camp outside the hospital as early as July 1. Many news organizations had reporters on revolving shifts, guarding their space on the sidewalk. It was their bad luck that the waiting period coincided with the hottest July on record.
When Kate and William did finally arrive at the hospital this morning, they did it their way, with no fanfare, no sirens, and no police outriders, just a dark Range Rover and a shiny new Audi nosing their way calmly through the traffic-free streets of London shortly after dawn.
Prince William has been by his wife’s side all week as the royal couple has played cat and mouse with the press, successfully staying out of view as they moved from Kate's parents’ home in Berkshire to Kensington Palace, just a mile from the hospital, at the weekend.
In the end, it was the young royals who got the last laugh—the photographers, cameramen, and news were all either asleep in their nearby hotel rooms or too bleary in the early hours to be on top of their game. Just one freelance snapper was alert enough to photograph the royal cars as they rolled up to a back entrance of the hospital.
But no one got a picture of Kate, which is exactly how she would have wanted it.
It was not until an hour and a half later that Kate’s office at Kensington Palace issued the short two-line statement this morning which read, in total:
"Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has been admitted this morning to St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London in the early stages of labour. The Duchess travelled by car from Kensington Palace to the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital with The Duke of Cambridge."
The palace had previously indicated that it would be making no further statements on the progress of the birth. However, it did say this morning that her labor was “progressing normally” and that Kate was feeling “very well.”
It is now hoped that the name of the royal baby might be announced as soon as tomorrow. The bookmakers’ favorite is George. (The surname is a bit more complicated.)
The queen is not expected to visit the hospital, nor is Prince Charles, who is on a two-day tour of York, in northern England, with Camilla.