Britain's royal baby: Live Report
- Published: 22/07/2013 at 02:49 PM
- Online news:
WE ARE NOW CLOSING this Live Report on the birth of the royal baby in Britain.
A town crier reads an announcement about the birth of a baby boy at 4.24pm to Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London, on July 22, 2013.
The boy, who will be king after Prince Charles and Prince William, was born safely to William and his wife Kate at 4.24pm (1524 GMT) and weighed 8lbs 6oz (3.8 kilos).
He has not officially been named yet but George is the overwhelming favourite with bookmakers, followed by James, Alexander and Louis.
Kate had a lengthy labour after being admittecd to hospital in London at around 6:00am (0500 GMT).
Mother and baby are expected to leave hospital on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Prince William has put out a brief statement saying: "We could not be happier."
2125 GMT: US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have sent their congratulations on the "joyous occasion".
"We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings," the first couple said in a statement.
"The child enters the world at a time of promise and opportunity for our two nations."
2117 GMT: There is a party atmosphere outside Buckingham Palace as crowds gathered to mark the birth.
Michael Eckett, from London, said he arrived at the palace with his family shortly after hearing the news.
"We've just come for the atmosphere," he said. "It's jubilant. It's a lovely summer's day, we've won the second Ashes Test -- everything is good."
"It's A Boy" was the message being flashed around the top of the BT Tower, one of London's landmark skyscrapers.
2057 GMT: PRINCE WILLIAM ISSUES BRIEF STATEMENT SAYING: "WE COULD NOT BE HAPPIER"
2049 GMT: US showbiz stars have been flooding Twitter with congratulatory messages, AFP's Angus MacKinnon in New York tells us.
"It's a boy! So happy for my cousin Kate and the future King of England!" tweeted Ellen DeGeneres, who was recently informed by the New England Genealogical Society that she is indeed a distant relative of the future queen.
Fellow funny lady Joan Rivers quipped: "Congratulations to Kate and William on the birth of their baby boy! So relieved that his name won't include the words Ivy or Apple."
2047 GMT: Queen Elizabeth II's gynaecologist Marcus Setchell, who delivered the baby, reportedly described the new arrival as a "wonderful baby, beautiful baby" as he emerged from the hospital.
2043 GMT: Interesting to note that William and Kate waited for several hours after the birth of their son before announcing it to the world.
William has always been wary of the media -- after all, his mother Diana died in a car crash as she was being pursued by paparazzi photographers.
Now they will face a struggle to shield their child from the public glare when there is such interest in him from around the world.
2031 GMT: As night falls in London, crowds at Buckingham Palace scramble to get a glimpse of the official birth announcement through the gates.
Some people were riding on the shoulders of others in a bid to get a glimpse as police mingled with the crowd.
One woman left after spending half an hour trying to get close enough to see the official confirmation.
She said: "I'm pleased we tried to see it, but it was just too difficult. It was impossible to get any closer."
2027 GMT: The BBC’s royal correspondent Peter Hunt (@BBCPeterHunt) says on Twitter: “Prince William is not expected to speak tonight to the media about the birth of his son. He’s expected to spend the night at the hospital.”
2017 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron says on Twitter (@David_Cameron): "I'm delighted for the Duke and Duchess now their son has been born. The whole country will celebrate. They'll make wonderful parents."
2006 GMT: A traditional English town crier ringing a bell and wearing a feathered hat and ornamental red and gold robes appeared outside the Lindo Wing to herald the arrival of the royal baby.
Robert MacPherson in Washington tells us this provoked a bemused response on US television.
One CNN anchorwoman asked its London correspondent: "Do you have any idea what we're looking at?"
2001 GMT: Prince William will not, of course, be able to share the joy of his newborn child with his own mother, Diana, princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
1959 GMT: Prince Charles has issued his first public reaction to the news.
"Both my wife and I are overjoyed at the arrival of my first grandchild," he says.
"Grandparenthood is a unique moment in anyone's life, as countless kind people have told me in recent months, so I am enormously proud and happy to be a grandfather for the first time".
1953 GMT: More on the reaction in the US from AFP's Robert MacPherson in Washington DC.
He tells us: "Smartphones lit up across the United States with news alerts of the royal newborn.
"'Duchess of Cambridge Has Given Birth to a Baby Boy, Palace Says,' says the one from a respectful New York Times.
"Office workers raced in unison to log onto Twitter, that great global echo chamber, to say pretty much the same thing.
"Fox News wondered aloud whether Prince William would make a public appearance. CNN talked about William taking "his full paternity leave" -- something almost unheard in the United States."
1951 GMT: The official announcement of the birth is now being hastily tied to the golden easel outside Buckingham Palace to cheers from the waiting crowd.
The declaration announces the birth of the boy and is signed by Queen Elizabeth II’s gynaecologist Marcus Setchell as well as other officials.
1947 GMT: AFP's Brigitte Dusseau in New York reports that the major US TV networks interrupted their programmes to break news of the royal baby.
An early sign of the huge worldwide interest which is likely to follow this baby boy from day one.
1945 GMT: Still no name for the royal newborn, though the bookmakers' favourites for a boy include George, James and Louis.
Kate is set to stay in hospital tonight so it is likely to be Tuesday at the earliest before the rest of the world sees the baby.
1941 GMT: Large crowds have gathered outside Buckingham Palace, TV pictures show, giving a loud cheer after news of the birth was released.
Soon they should be able to catch sight of the official confimation of the birth on that golden easel located outside the palace.
1938 GMT: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are "delighted at the news", Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
1934 GMT: Prince William was at Kate's side as she gave birth, royal officials say.
"The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news," the official statement says.
"Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight."
1932 GMT: BOY WAS BORN SAFELY AT 4.24PM (1524 GMT) AND WEIGHS 8LBS 6OZ
1931 GMT: KATE GIVES BIRTH TO A SON, KENSINGTON PALACE SAYS
1930 GMT: Several well-placed journalists and the BBC and Sky News are now reporting on Twitter that an announcement is coming very soon.
Stand by, could this be it?
1916 GMT: An interesting break with tradition there from the royal family which has now been confirmed by Kensington Palace.
The easel is the same one which conveyed the announcement of Prince William's birth. It will still have the news posted on to it but the press release will be the first way it is communicated.
The easel had drawn a lot of attention and even a fake Twitter account -- @royaleasel.
1907 GMT: Several usually well-informed British journalists are now saying on Twitter that first news of the birth will come by an emailed press release.
We had been expecting it to be carried on a piece of paper out of the hospital and posted on a gold easel outside Buckingham Palace.
But now it seems that technology has caught up with the royal family.
1847 GMT: Grandfather-to-be Prince Charles has just been asked if there was any news as he left an evening function near Leeds in northern England.
“No -- you’ll hear before I do, I suspect,” he told journalists.
In typical royal style, Charles has continued with a regular day of engagements as his daughter-in-law gives birth, visiting locations including a rail museum and an abattoir.
1830 GMT: News of the birth is being eagerly followed in the White House.
US President Barack Obama and his family are apparently waiting "with anticipation" for the birth of the royal baby.
"Like so many Americans, the president and first lady and the entire first family, you know, are -- wait with anticipation for the birth of the duke and duchess' child," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The Obamas "wish the family and all of Great Britain well on this pending momentous occasion," Carney added.
1822 GMT: There was a brief flurry of excitement earlier when the BBC's royal correspondent said that a helicopter had landed at Buckingham Palace.
However, he has now clarified that statement saying it did not land and was probably just passing by en route to a nearby military barracks.
Shows how keen the journalists down there are for some concrete news after days of waiting.
1816 GMT: As the wait continues for news of the royal baby, British celebrities from Kelly Osbourne to Joan Collins have been taking to Twitter to discuss the impending arrival.
Singer Lily Allen, tweeting as @lilyrosecooper, wrote: "I think they will call her Mary Elizabeth if girl and George if its boy" before later adding mischievously: "Actually I think it will be called Orlando, or Otis or Ava or Jane."
1752 GMT: A freelance London photographer has told of how he was the first person to break news of Kate going into the hospital – although he did not take a picture of her.
Jesal Parshotam was outside the Lindo Wing just before 6am (0500 GMT) when he saw two cars arriving at the back entrance and tweeted about it.
"We took a guess," he told the London Evening Standard, explaining how he came to be there.
"It was a full moon so we thought why not come down? We stayed there from 8pm in the evening until about 5.30am.
"We were just standing outside chilling and talking and then it all happened."
He insisted he "decided in advance" not to take a photograph of Kate herself.
"I made that decision -- she’s a woman in labour. I just wanted to photograph the commotion and convoy of cars," he told the paper.
1730 GMT: Kate will have been in labour for over 12 hours now.
Not unusual for a first-time mother but a pretty gruelling experience for anyone.
1713 GMT: In case you've been worrying about the royal baby's astrological status, we're now well past the hour when the sun (apparently) moves from Cancer into Leo.
So unless the child was born a few hours ago, it will now be a Leo. Make of that what you will.
1706 GMT: A helicopter has landed in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the BBC reports, but it's not known who was on board.
1704 GMT: More from Robert: he says racy gossip website TMZ.com reported that "the Royal great-grandbaby is due any minute" -- and that was four hours ago.
"Hundreds of Brits have already taken to the streets to await their new master," it added.
Vanity Fair's website hosted a live video feed from St Mary's hospital -- preceded by a 90-second trailer for a horror movie -- on which reporters can be heard bantering among themselves when not pursuing passers-by for interviews.
1659 GMT: From Washington, AFP's Robert Macpherson reports:
"The Great Kate Wait is taking its turn among the day's top stories on US all-new TV channels at this hour.
"Just a few minutes ago, CNN helpfully informed its viewers how 'many royals don't use a last name, but they make up for it by having several first names.'"
Fox News periodically cuts away to London for live reports when it's not talking about Obamacare or flash floods, Robert says.
1654 GMT: US actress and campaigner Mia Farrow has another name idea for the royal baby, which she tweeted earlier:
"HIGHLY unlikely they'd name the royal baby 'Mandela' BUT its a beautiful name - for a girl or a boy. (Call it Mandy around the castle)."
The name would be a tribute to South Africa's anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, 95, who has been in hospital for six weeks with a lung condition.
But given the power of tradition in royal baby naming, we're with Mia in thinking it's unlikely...
1646 GMT: Dozens of royal baby parody accounts have sprung up on Twitter, including one, @RoyalBaby_NOT, which tweets: "My mum has said if I'm a boy, I'll have a popular British boys name. I'm looking forward to be known as baby Mohammed."
1627 GMT: London's newest, tallest and most controversial landmark, the Shard, is offering free admission for 24 hours to anyone who shares the royal baby's birthday.
They will be let off the pound sterling24.95 ($38, 29 euros) entry fee for the viewing gallery near the top of the 301-metre (1,017-foot) building for 24 hours from the official announcement.
1615 GMT: A spokeswoman for Ladbrokes, a bookmaker, tells AFP that the firm has received pound sterling300,000 ($460,000, 350,000 euros) in bets related to the royal birth, and estimates that the industry as a whole has taken pound sterling1.5 million.
"This is why it is the biggest and most exciting novelty betting event we have ever seen here," says spokeswoman Jessica Bridge.
1600 GMT: Catherine will be undergoing her labour in relative privacy, but spare a thought for Queen Victoria, who reigned for more than 60 years, mostly in the 19th century.
The Times of London's archive editor tweets the paper's report of the birth of Victoria's first child in 1840. Her husband and mother were in the room along with four medical attendants.
But "in the adjoining room, the door being open", was an extraordinary list of dignitaries including the archbishop of Canterbury, the foreign minister and "the earl of Albermarle, Master of the Horse".
As if that weren't enough, an ante-room contained seven more attendants.
1556 GMT: Evie Engram, 18, from Texas, tells our reporter outside Buckingham Palace: "We don't have a royal family, so we love this one.
"All my friends are very big Kate fans. Everyone wants to be her -- she's just a regular girl who ended up marrying a prince."
1543 GMT: More from Prince Charles, as he tours an abattoir in Yorkshire in the north of England:
"I'm very grateful indeed for the kind wishes for my rather slowly-approaching grandfatherhood."
Is that a touch of impatience Charles?
1541 GMT: There are now at least 300 journalists outside the hospital, our photographer estimates -- made up of TV camera crews, photographers and print reporters.
They are accompanied by hundreds of members of the public hoping to be there for the big moment.
1535 GMT: Later tonight, Londoners will see the city's answer to the Vatican tradition of releasing white smoke when a new pope is selected.
From this evening until the announcement of the baby's gender is made, selected landmarks will be lit in thousands of lights which will alternate every minute between blue and pink.
"This may actually become a tradition of our own -- a bit like the white smoke from the Vatican when a pope is announced," said Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council.
The light show will feature certain bridges over the River Thames and the fountains at Marble Arch.
1509 GMT: Outside the hospital, our photographer Leon Neal tweets: "Man just walks out of front door carrying envelope. Photographers have collective heart attack, leaping into action. #royalbaby false alarm."
1502 GMT: Like all parents, Wills and Kate are likely to lose out on sleep as their newborn adjusts to life, but unlike most, they will be able to play it a specially composed lullaby.
The song by Paul Mealor, who also wrote music for their wedding, is simply entitled "Lullaby".
Media reports have said that a recording by New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra would be sent to the royal couple before the birth.
1500 GMT: The Duchess of Cambridge has now been in labour for about ten hours.
Hundreds of journalists are assembled outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's hospital in Paddington, complete with ladders, cameras and high-factor sunscreen against the unusual (for Britain) sun.
At Buckingham Palace, crowds are assembling in anticipation of the announcement of the birth, to be made in the traditional manner -- in writing on a golden easel, to be accompanied by cannon fire.
But there is still no news from the royals' spokespeople, while mothers around the country are tweeting and blogging their sympathy for Kate's ordeal.
1452 GMT: Among the more unusual tributes to the royal birth is a painting of Catherine as a Virgin Mary, with a royal babe in her arms, by satirical artist Kaya Mar. Our reporter Katy Lee spoke to him outside the hospital a few days ago.
"People worship this young girl," explained the artist, who said he was "partly Spanish, partly Turkish -- but really, satirists don't have a nationality".
"It's amazing," he added. "People haven't changed since the Stone Age. No matter how much we evolve, people always want to worship someone."
The 57-year-old said he had painted Kate with a hole in her sock to represent the age of austerity into which her first child will be born.
"I think people are looking at the royal baby as a kind of saviour in these times," he said.
1441 GMT: Crowds are packed five deep at Buckingham Palace in anticipation of an announcement.
Scores of people surged towards the queen's car as it arrived, with some screaming: "The Queen!"
1434 GMT: Queen Elizabeth has just been driven into Buckingham Palace from one of her other residences, Windsor Castle.
Our photographers caught a snap or two of her as she passed, but she remained impassive -- no clues from her as to the state of play with the arrival of her new great-grandchild.
1425 GMT: New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall tweets: "Imagine the birth of Jesus in social-media age: 1000's of reporters massed outside the stable, noting that 'there was no room at the inn'."
1420 GMT: It's one of the hottest days of the year so far today in Britain, due to reach 33 degrees Celsius (this may seem less impressive if you are reading from the Gulf or sub-Saharan Africa).
The weather is also stormy, and a loud thunderclap was heard this morning, just before news broke that the duchess of Cambridge had gone into hospital.
National forecasters the Met Office have produced a helpful infographic of weather that has accompanied major royal events -- apparently Prince William was born on "a cloudy day with light drizzle" while Catherine, who was not yet a royal of course, was born on "an overcast day with some snow".
1416 GMT: Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman declines to comment on whether he has a present for the new baby.
He'd better not have got the little prince or princess a knitted kangaroo, because former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard is giving it one of those, and she knitted it herself.
1414 GMT: Not surprisingly, Catherine is receiving state-of-the-art medical care during her labour.
She is in the private Lindo Wing of St Mary's, where a standard room and normal delivery -- which she is hoping for -- costs pound sterling4,965 ($7,600, 5,800 euros) for the first 24 hours, plus consultants' fees which can reach around pound sterling6,000.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said: "During her stay at the hospital, the duchess is being cared for by an expert team of consultants and midwives."
The duchess is being tended by a top medical team led by the queen's gynaecologist Marcus Setchell.
1348 GMT: There's still time to place your bets on the royal baby, and it's not just about names, either.
One bookmaker, Paddy Power, tells us: "We are running bets now on the colour of the dress Pippa (Middleton, Catherine's sister) will be wearing on her first visit to the hospital and how many times Pippa will run the media gauntlet, how many times she will enter in the hospital and who will be holding the baby on the steps.
"The current favourite is William."
1339 GMT: In her famous 1995 interview with the BBC's Martin Bashir, William's mother, princess Diana, spoke about his birth in 1982. She said she felt "enormous relief" on hearing that her first child would be a boy.
"Enormous relief. I felt the whole country was in labour with me. Enormous relief," she said.
Things have certainly changed since then -- the laws of succession are being adjusted so that male heirs do not come ahead of female ones in the queue for the throne.
Diana went on: "And then William and Harry arrived -- fortunately two boys, it would have been a little tricky if it had been two girls -- but that in itself brings the responsibilities of bringing them up, William's future being as it is, and Harry like a form of a backup in that aspect."
Continuing the royal dynasty remains a big part of Catherine's job, as it was Diana's -- but at least the pressure to produce boys rather than girls has faded.
1334 GMT: Our photographer Leon Neal is stationed outside the Lindo Wing, where he's armed himself with some factor 50 sun cream and an umbrella against the sun.
"After the frantic morning rush, everything has settled back into the waiting game. Brollies (umbrellas) are up, ice creams are being slurped," he reports on Twitter.
1322 GMT: Luxury food store Fortnum and Mason's has spotted a royal business opportunity -- one of its staff members has been standing in the sweltering heat, handing out samples of Royal Blend tea leaves near Buckingham Palace.
"It was created for King Edward VII in the summer of 1902 and its smooth, honey-like flavour has found favour with kings and commoners ever since," says the label.
1310 GMT: Actress Helen Mirren, who famously played Queen Elizabeth in "The Queen", says it will be "great" if the baby is a girl because "we all need more queens in our life".
She reckons a baby princess's "second name will be Elizabeth without a doubt" while she also likes Caroline (after Kate's mother Carole) or Charlotte or Victoria.
Football superstar David Beckham had another useful thought in an interview this week: "I think they should go for David...If it's a boy."
1300 GMT: If you can't make it to Buckingham Palace to see the golden easel, don't worry -- the monarchy will also put out a statement on its Twitter and Facebook feeds to announce the birth.
Cannons will meanwhile be fired in celebration -- 62 shots from the Tower of London and 41 from Green Park -- and the Union Jack flag will be flown from government buildings across Britain.
1255 GMT: Second in line to the throne Prince William will be with his wife as she gives birth, as he's on two weeks' paternity leave from his job as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.
In sticking by his wife's side he follows a surprisingly long royal tradition.
Not only was William's father Prince Charles with his mother Diana as she had her sons, but king Edward VII and even 19th-century queen Victoria's husband Albert witnessed their wives giving birth.
1246 GMT: Excitement -- and journalists -- descend on the village of Bucklebury in Berkshire where Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, grew up.
Some locals are claiming the royal baby for their own: Kate's former piano teacher Daniel Nicholls says, "Once the baby is born, Bucklebury will take it in its stride that the future king or queen of England will come from here."
Such is the excitement that the local pub, normally closed on a Monday, is set to open, reports the Press Association.
1236 GMT: Kate's pregnancy started in difficult circumstances which turned tragic.
The news that she was expecting was released on December 3, after she was taken to hospital suffering from acute morning sickness.
During her stay, a hoax phone call made by two Australian radio presenters pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles led to details of Kate's condition being divulged.
Jacintha Saldanha, the Indian nurse who answered and put through the call, was found hanged on December 7, having taken her own life.
1217 GMT: One pub near Queen Elizabeth II's Windsor Castle residence is serving a special beer to mark the birth.
The aptly-named Duchess of Cambridge pub in Windsor, west of London, is already pulling pints of "Heir Raiser" for thirsty locals.
Pub manager Daniell Park said: "The day after the baby is born, we are going to be throwing a party with tea and cakes.
"We have got some banners ready to go up when we find out whether it's a boy or a girl."
1155 GMT: Kate's going into labour at the time of a full moon has led to revivals of an old belief that the full moon and high tide can trigger the process.
Mervi Jokinen, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "It's always sort of been an old wives' tale, saying that the full moon brings women into labour. Midwives usually do say 'I'm on call. It's a full moon. I'll be busy tonight'.
"There was a study about 20 years ago at a hospital near the River Thames, which is a tidal river, and it showed that on the full moon they did have more births.
"The idea is that because the baby is surrounded by water, the time of the full moon and the high tide causes the waters to break. But there's not enough scientific evidence to show it's proven."
1145 GMT: The palace is indicating it won't be releasing the baby's name at the time when a birth announcement is made (via a golden easel at Buckingham Palace).
But world landmarks including Niagara Falls, Toronto's CN Tower and the fountains at London's Trafalgar Square will turn pink or blue to celebrate the birth, depending on whether it is a girl or boy.
1137 GMT: The Times goes further back and tweets a page from May 23, 1853, about Queen Victoria's groundbreaking (if hazardous) use of chloroform during labour.
The Times reproduced a piece from the Medical Times and Gazette which says: "Dr Snow administered chloroform to the Queen... in the last hour of parturition. A handkerchief, on which a small quantity of chloroform had been dropped, was held to the face.
"Her Majesty was never completely insensible, but she expressed herself satisfied with the anodyne effects produced."
The piece adds: "Who would desire Her Majesty to suffer one avoidable pang?"
1131 GMT: Newspapers are digging through their archives as they await news. The Daily Telegraph tweets its front page from the day of Prince William's birth in 1982, with the headline "PRINCESS GIVES BIRTH TO SON".
This is accompanied by the sub-heads "Queen 'absolutely delighted' by lusty blue-eyed baby" and "He's fair and beautiful, says the happy Prince".
They didn't get carried away though. Their front page has 10 other stories on it as well, including "Underground Halted Today" and John McEnroe seeking to become a member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
1129 GMT: Outside the hospital, Tommy Hailwick from Toronto -- who says he's "in the clothing business" -- tells AFP: "This is a big day for Canada too.
"I love the way they (Kate and William) dress. Let me say one thing: those guys know fashion.
"Canadians love the royal family. I hope the baby is healthy and strong so that they can come over to Canada very soon.
"It is a much bigger story overseas than here. Why? Well, everybody loves the royal family."
1117 GMT: The baby's grandfather Charles, Prince of Wales, is questioned about developments as he visits the National Railway Museum in Yorkshire, northern England -- but he knows no more than we do.
"Absolutely nothing at the moment. We're waiting," he says.
1111 GMT: Kate's uncle, Gary Goldsmith, tweets: "Woke up to Thunder this morning but not a drop of rain? Now it's blistering & supposedly the hottest day if the year oh & very very exciting."
Goldsmith, the brother of Kate's mother Carole who is also a self-made millionaire, is nicknamed "The King of Fun" and has provided ample material for Britain's tabloids, not least thanks to his Ibiza villa "Maison de Bang Bang".
1101 GMT: There are huge crowds outside Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard, reports AFP's Katy Lee.
She says the tourists are doing a very good impression of the paparazzi at the hospital, elbowing each other mercilessly in pursuit of a perfect shot of the soldiers passing in their red jackets and bearskin hats. It's swelteringly hot and the soldiers do not appear to be having a good time.
"If I was British and it was my ten cents being spent on the monarchy, I'd be annoyed that it's not being spent on helping less wealthy people," said Maria Fox, a housewife in her forties who is visiting from Florida with her young daughter.
"But the tradition aspect is really nice, and the tourists love it -- just look at all these people."
1053 GMT: Among already high expectations of the royal baby, there have been some predictions it will give Britain's sluggish economy the boost it needs.
Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, says "the impact on the UK economy is likely to be limited -- albeit overwhelmingly positive...
"The royal birth may provide the economy with a temporary, small positive boost at a time when it seems to be increasingly moving in the right direction."
Souvenirs and bets will be the top areas to benefit, says Archer, but "there is also likely to be a small lift to alcohol sales".
1036 GMT: The royals traditionally employ full-time nannies to take care of their children, but there has been some debate over whether Kate and William will ditch this in favour of more hands-on, "normal" parenting.
"Although Kate has professed that she doesn't want nannies, and wants to do it on her own, that's before she's facing six months of sleepless nights," Claire Irvin, Editor-in-chief of Mother & Baby magazine, told AFP.
"But she is quite modern and doesn't seem to want huge entourages of help."
Phil Dampier, a royal reporter for 28 years and author of "What's in the Queen's Handbag", said: "William will want to do his share of changing the nappies (but) I think they will have to have a full-time nanny even if they don't want one."
1024 GMT: Jane Ku, who has come over from Singapore with a group of girlfriends, says: "We've been waiting for the baby for days!
"We're going to buy all the baby souvenirs, baby dolls and things like that. I'm hoping it will be a boy. I think people would like to have a king this time."
Her friend Ariel Zhang adds: "I can't wait to see the pictures of her holding the baby. We heard about the baby from overseas and came over. We were really hoping it would be born while we were here."
1017 GMT: Outside Buckingham Palace, Josh Killoren from Melbourne tells our reporter Katy Lee: "I'm hoping it's a boy. I'm sick of seeing a girl on the side of our coins."
That earns him a smack from his girlfriend Connie Sourlatzis, 30, who is a lot more enthusiastic.
"These two have really brought some life back into the royal family I'm a lot more interested in them now than I used to be," she says.
"They're really popular in Australia, especially Kate. She's a fashionista. Everyone loves her. I've been telling everyone back home that she was waiting for me to get here because she didn't want me to miss it, so I'm really pleased she's gone into labour."
1014 GMT: The Washington Post has provided a helpful Royal Baby Name Generator which just offered our reporter this suggestion: "Rupert Max Sebastian Windsor." You heard it here first.
1010 GMT: Not everyone has caught royal fever.
Mehdi Hasan, political director for Huffington Post UK, tweets: "Today's the day we're all reminded once again that we are a bowing/scraping/medieval nation not a truly equal, modern 21st century democracy."
1007 GMT: Over at the circus outside St Mary's hospital, some contention as a woman from bookmakers Coral carries around a board showing the latest bets.
For girls' names, Alexandra is still in front with odds of 7/4, then Charlotte with 7/1. But the royal supporters gathering outside want "Diana to be somehow in it".
1003 GMT: For those anxious about the Cancer/Leo controversy, princess Diana's former astrologer, Penny Thornton, tells us that the baby will be a Cancer if it is born before 4.57pm BST (1557 GMT) today and a Leo if it is born after.
1001 GMT: Gordon Rayner, chief reporter at the Telegraph newspaper, tweets that his sources say the Duchess of Cambridge arrived at the hospital closer to 5.30am (0430 GMT), which would mean she had now been in labour for five and a half hours.
0954 GMT: Experts say that a first-time labour typically lasts about 12 hours, though of course it can in some cases be much longer.
Consultant obstetrician Patrick O'Brien, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says: "With a first baby, you usually dilate about a centimetre an hour and you've got to get from closed to 10 centimetres -- which is fully dilated -- so that's about 10 hours.
"When you reach fully dilated usually you wait for an hour or so to allow the baby's head to come as low as possible, and then you push -- and the pushing is about an hour to an hour and a half.
"So about 12 hours is the average, sometimes quicker, sometimes slower, but that's what you have to budget for."
0946 GMT: Many are expecting the royal baby to be a girl, though in fact there's no way of knowing, since William and Kate opted not to find out the baby's sex in advance.
But the expectation of a girl may result from moves to bring in new succession laws so a female heir would keep her place in the queue for the throne, instead of being overtaken by any younger brothers.
Bookmakers William Hill tell AFP that "there is a clear view that the baby will be a girl so there are lots of activity around girls' names. Alexandra and Charlotte are the most popular."
0935 GMT: There's another media circus over at Buckingham Palace, where the birth will be announced via a notice on an easel.
"Over the road from the palace, some two dozen marquees have been set up to keep broadcasters and their cameras cool; several large satellite dishes are jutting out over the top," reports AFP's Katy Lee.
0933 GMT: Prime Minister David Cameron tells reporters: "Obviously best wishes to them. A very exciting occasion and the whole country is excited with them. So everyone's hoping for the best."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweets: "My thoughts and prayers are with Kate and the whole family on this enormously special day."
0926 GMT: Bookmakers Paddy Power say they have taken about pound sterling30,000 ($46,000; 35,000 euros) in the past three hours, most of that in bets on the royal baby's name.
"The money really is pouring in. It's unbelievable," a spokesperson tells AFP.
"We would expect that for the FA Cup (football) final. But for a baby, it's pretty impressive."
They were taking pound sterling10,000 a day over the weekend, the spokesperson adds. Alexandra is still leading the field for girls' names, with Elizabeth and Diana also attracting a lot of cash. George has been the consistent front-runner for a boy.
0916 GMT: Amid the royal madness, ordinary patients are still attending their appointments at the hospital amid heavy security, with four police officers manning the door.
Women at various stages of their pregnancy are accompanied by staff at all stages of their visits to avoid the paparazzi, a witness who has been in the hospital tells AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They are ushered to the back door when their visits are over to avoid the media circus.
Rooms for women in labour are on the third floor, the witness says.
0904 GMT: Mothers around the country are feeling for Kate as she undergoes her first labour in hot weather, with people around the world waiting for news.
"Good luck to her. What a hot and sticky day to be in labour. Fingers crossed it's short and simple for her," said one user on the popular parenting website Mumsnet, using the name sparklekitty.
"Imagine going through that with the world watching you," said another, with the name KingRollo.
0904 GMT: Members of Britain's Labour party have spotted an unmissable joke opportunity.
Former deputy prime minister and Labour stalwart John Prescott tweets: "Great to hear the Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour. Is she an affiliated member?"
0858 GMT: #London, #KateMiddleton and #RoyalBaby are the top worldwide trends on Twitter -- beating even Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.
0852 GMT: Another, almost equally avid royal fan, John Loughry, 58, has been sleeping outside the hospital for seven days.
He tells our reporter he's in full spin "like a washing machine".
"I've never been so high! It was such a long wait. If Kate's in labour for two days I'll stay. I'll be the last to leave.
"Afterwards I'll go to Buckingham Palace to see the notice on the board -- and than back to normal life. Out of the washing machine."
0847 GMT: Possibly Britain's biggest royal fan, Terry Hutt has been camped outside the Lindo Wing for 12 days -- and he's 78 years old.
Hutt, a former soldier dressed in a Union flag suit and tie, says: "I have the best royal bed in town. I have lost my voice with all the excitement.
"At night we're watching the hospital in two-hour stints, like the Army. The health of the baby, and Kate, is the only important element."
Apparently Joy, his wife of 51 years, thinks he is a bit mad. We couldn't possibly comment.
0843 GMT: Our man at the Lindo Wing, Jacques Klopp, estimates that there are at least 150 journalists on the site. No pressure, Kate...
0834 GMT: For those less excited about the upcoming arrival, left-leaning British newspaper the Guardian is offering some relief.
It's activated the "republican" button on its website -- previously used during William and Catherine's wedding -- which causes all of its royal coverage to disappear at one stroke.
Anti-monarchists, take heart.
0831 GMT: Donna Harold, from Michigan, says outside Buckingham Palace: "The royal baby is front-page news every day back in the States at the moment. There is a lot of excitement.
"Our holiday was booked months ago, so we did not expect to be over here while the baby was happening, so we have been told to bring back as many newspapers and souvenirs with the baby on as possible."
0825 GMT: Tourists outside Buckingham Palace are agog for news of the royal birth, with one German visitor saying she thought her friends back home were more excited than the Brits themselves.
Veronika Schwarz, 26, said: "We don't have anything like the Royal Family in Germany, so we are all getting quite carried away with this.
"My friends in London seem like they just want the baby to come out now, I think they are tired of waiting."
0822 GMT: Some astrological confusion over the birth, as the child looks set to be born on the cusp of Cancer and Leo, a transitional period that apparently lasts from July 19 to 25.
More updates on what this may mean for the royal baby as we get them...
0818 GMT: The hospital where Catherine is in labour, St Mary's in Paddington, says:
"The hospital is delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen to have their baby at the Lindo Wing at St Mary's.
"Everyone at the trust is exceptionally proud that this historic moment is happening here."
0809 GMT: Whatever the baby is called, its name may not be revealed for some time.
William's name was not announced for a week, while the world had to wait a month after his father Charles was born.
The new baby will be a prince or a princess of Cambridge, after William's title, and will enjoy the title of his or her royal highness (HRH).
0803 GMT: Two officers are now at the Lindo Wing guarding the entrance amid a strong police presence.
A few curious members of the public have joined the media scrum to try and get a look at what is going on.
Carly Gargett, 31, an event manager from Sydney, Australia, who lives in London has been sending live Facebook updates to her friends back in Australia.
"I came down to the site on my way to work," she said. "I am a real royalist."
"I don't think I'll be doing a lot of work today, I have the royal baby cam live feed to my phone, I am so excited.
"And Kate is handling it all in such style as always - it can't be easy with the eyes of the world on her."
0800 GMT: There is huge interest in what the baby will be called.
Current favourites with British bookmakers include Alexandra, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Diana and Victoria if it is a girl.
If it is a boy, George, James and Louis are seen as top tips.
Bookies say the market for baby names is bigger than the one for William and Kate's wedding in 2011.
0753 GMT: Royal watchers on Twitter have been speculating furiously in recent days about everything from arrival dates to names -- now they finally have some real news to discuss.
"Duchess of Cambridge" and "#RoyalBaby" are currently in the top worldwide trending topics.
0747 GMT: Giving birth there doesn't come cheap, though.
A standard room and normal delivery -- which Kate will be hoping for -- costs pound sterling4,965 ($7,775, 5,800 euros) for the first 24 hours, or an extra pound sterling1,050 for the deluxe package.
The cost rises to pound sterling5,500 for an instrumental delivery -- where the mother requires assistance such as forceps to deliver -- and pound sterling6,420 for a caesarean.
0743 GMT: The Lindo Wing is almost home turf for the royal family.
William's mother, the late Diana, princess of Wales, gave birth to him there on June 21, 1982, 16 hours after being admitted.
William's younger brother Prince Harry was also born at the same hospital.
0736 GMT: It seems Kate had a very early morning wake-up call.
She and William arrived at the private Lindo Wing at around 6:00am (0500 GMT) this morning.
She is being tended to by a top medical team led by Queen Elizabeth II's gynaecologist Marcus Setchell, assisted by the gyanecologist to the royal household, Alan Farthing.
Kensington Palace says the next statement will only come when the baby is born.
0727 GMT: The news finally brings to an end the long wait for action from the world's media and royal watchers.
Journalists from around the globe were camped outside the Lindo Wing from even before July 13, which rumours had suggested was Kate's due date.
That led some to nickname the hospital unit "the Limbo Wing" due to the seemingly endless wait.
0715 GMT: The Duchess travelled by car from Kensington Palace to the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital, with The Duke of Cambridge, Clarence House announces on Twitter.
0700 GMT: The Kensington Palace spokeswoman says that Kate "is in the early stages of labour after being admitted to the Lindo wing" which will come as a relief to the dozens of media who have been camped outside the hospital for weeks waiting for news.
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the birth of Britain's newest royal baby to Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Kate, pregnant with her first child, went into labour "at about 6 am (0500 GMT) this morning," a spokeswoman for Kensington Palace said.
The newest royal will eventually be Britain's king or queen.
He or she will be third in line to the throne after Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son Prince Charles, and then William, his eldest son, and will push back William's younger brother Prince Harry, 28, to fourth in line to the throne.
Although the birth will be surrounded by pomp and ceremony in the days and months ahead, royal-watchers say that behind the scenes Prince William and Kate will be trying to balance tradition with modern parenting.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency