So Excited

Street Parties, Helicopters and Gun Salutes: How the Royal Birth Will Unfold

Leon Neal, AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. is on high alert for the royal baby. Indeed, the first false alarm sounded over the weekend, when helicopter-rescue colleagues of Prince William who were flying back to their base after a mission did a fly-past at a society wedding he was attending.

Guests were convinced that the chopper was coming to collect William as Kate was going into labor. Even William looked a bit nervous as he cast his eyes heavenward.

In fact, the pilots of the distinctive yellow rescue helicopter were simply having a bit of fun, buzzing their royal pals at the wedding of Melissa Percy and Thomas van Straubenzee.

William could well, however, be flown to London for the birth if labor starts suddenly, as he has made the decision to continue working at RAF Anglesey until the last possible minute so that after the baby is born he can take the maximum two weeks off work, according to courtiers speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity.

The problem is, William’s workplace is a four-and-a-half-hour journey by car from St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, where Kate is due to give birth sometime in the next three weeks. Royal aides have confirmed that William will be able to use a “work” helicopter if one is available. (It's good to be a future king.) There is also a backup plan in place to allow Kate to be admitted to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading if she goes into labor at her parents’ house.

Wherever she gives birth, Kate has asked her mother and her sister, Pippa, to be there in addition to William.

Of course both William and Kate will be hoping that the birth goes ahead as planned at the London hospital, especially as this was where Diana gave birth to William.

The next steps immediately after the birth will depend on at what time the baby is born. Courtiers are letting it be known that the queen has asked not to be woken in the middle of the night with a shout of “IT’S A BOY!” or “IT’S A GIRL!” and the news cannot be released until the queen has been advised.

After the queen has been informed, insiders familiar with the plans say William may appear on the hospital steps and make a brief statement to the media. But this will probably not happen until after the birth has been announced in the traditional fashion with a note, signed by senior medical staff and giving the weight and gender of the baby, which will be taken by a state car from the hospital and displayed on an easel outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Shortly thereafter—“within minutes,” according to one source—the news will be transmitted on social media. The palace is trying to strike a balance between maintaining the formality of the announcement, but also not having too many Twitter photos of the notice circulating before it announces it digitally.

Later in the day, at least one gun salute will be fired in central London.

Diana spent just one night in the hospital, and Kate is hoping to do the same—like most new mothers in the U.K. these days. Sources say that she will, as expected, pose for photographs on the hospital steps for the waiting media.

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Street parties are expected to be thrown to celebrate the birth, since the new baby will one day be monarch, no matter the gender, a historic first (assuming he/she outlives William).