Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, smiles as she attends the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 in London, Sunday Dec. 16, 2012.
LONDON (USA TODAY) - Get ready for a 62-gun salute, let the fireworks and street parties commence: The royal baby has arrived, and it's a boy.
William and Duchess Kate's first baby, a future monarch, was born today
at 4:24 pm local time in London's private St. Mary's Hospital, the
palace announced. The announcement said the baby weighed 8.6 pounds, and
William was present for the birth.
The name was not immediately announced and may not be known for up to a week.
news was supposed to be first announced in the traditional manner, on
fancy paper with a Buckingham Palace letterhead on an easel at the
palace front gates. But it was dark by the time the birth came, so the
palace sent out an electronic press release first. The and the news
went up on the royal Twitter feed and websites, proclaimed from every TV
and computer screen in the country.
But great-grandmother Queen
Elizabeth II was the first to get the news from her grandson, by
encrypted phone to the palace, and just in time, too. She's scheduled to
leave on her annual vacation at her Balmoral estate in Scotland at the
end of this week.
See Also: 10 things to know about the Royal Baby
In other words, the birth of the royal baby was a model of the
careful blend of traditional and modern exemplified by this royal couple
in the dozen years they've been a couple.
The baby arrives just
short of 27 months since William and Kate were married in a spectacular
ceremony at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. The nine months of her
pregnancy have been chronicled by the British and world media with
excruciating detail and growing excitement about the first royal heir to
be born in 31 years, since William himself was born to Prince Charles
and Princess Diana.
ROYAL FAMILY TREE: Where the baby fits in
(In fact, the last time the easel-and-note was used to announce a royal birth was for William.)
baby moves immediately to third in line to the throne, behind father
William and grandfather Charles. The queen is 87 and celebrating her
61st year on the throne.
The baby comes into the world with
unprecedented expectations: The rules of succession have been changed so
that a first-born girl can one day inherit the throne, even if she
later has younger brothers.
Thus, the stable, popular British
monarchy gains even more stability with three direct descendants of the
queen ready to one day reign.
The past few weeks saw rising
royal-baby fever in Britain, with hopes high that the birth would
provide an estimated $360 million boost in the flat British economy.
Meanwhile, royal-baby doodads, such as Will and Kate masks, poured into
shops for use at the street parties soon to break out all over the
The baby arrived , based on a mid-July due date. Unlike
the majority of births in Britain, no one, not even the parents, knew
the sex of the baby until the birth.
The baby was the second
royal heir to be born in a London hospital, the same one where William
was born in 1982 (as well as other recent royal babies not close in line
to the throne). The Lindo Wing of St. Mary's is a favorite birthing
destination of London's rich and famous, with estimates of the cost of a
natural birth in a private suite as high as $15,000.
William was in the delivery room, as was his father when he was born. He is taking two weeks off for paternity leave.
details about the birth were unclear, and some of the speculation was a
bit unseemly. Kate had planned a natural birth, being "not too posh to
push," as the Daily Mail put it. Did she employ a "hypno-birth" or some other birthing strategy to dull pain? Will she breast-feed the baby?
seems likely the couple will take the baby and stay for a few weeks at
Kate's parents' estate in the country, where there is a nursery. The
couple live in a small apartment at Kensington Palace when they're in
London and are not expected to move into more palatial digs until the
If they stay at the Middletons' mansion in Bucklebury,
Berkshire, that would mark the first time a royal heir spent the first
few weeks of life outside a royal palace or estate. These details matter
to the British.
More: Prince William and Duchess Kate Timeline
Britain learned that the duchess had gone into
labor just minutes after she checked in and settled at the hospital. In
the age of Twitter, it was considered impossible to keep the news under
wraps for long, so the palace announced it. (The palace was forced to
announce Kate was pregnant ahead of schedule when she experienced acute
morning sickness early in her pregnancy and had to be hospitalized.)
press officials had arranged for a theatrical ritual if the baby was
born during daylight hours: After the birth, the formal notice, signed
by her doctors, would be brought out the front door of the hospital,
handed to a driver and then driven with a police escort through London
to the front of Buckingham Palace, where it would be placed on the
easel. The birth of a royal heir is rare enough to warrant the trouble,
palace officials said weeks ago.
But if the baby were born in the
middle of the night? No midnight runs to the palace, no police escort.
The news would go out in an electronic news release and the notice on
the easel set up in the morning.
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