LONDON — There’s undoubtedly a buzz is in the air as the world waits for the Duchess of Cambridge to give birth. But if it seems this birth is generating even more attention than past royal births, you’re not mistaken.
Although the palace has said only that Kate is due sometime this month, crowds of media and security have long camped out in front St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the place where Kate is expected, but not confirmed, to give birth.
The first child for Kate and Prince William, both 31, will be only the third time in the history of the royal family that the royal heir has been born outside of Buckingham Palace.
Prince William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, was the first to break that long-held tradition, choosing to give birth to both Prince William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, in the Lindo Wing of the same St. Mary’s Hospital where Kate might deliver.
“It’s a common sense move,” Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the queen, told ABCNews.com. “Hospitals are better equipped than the palace.”
Prince Charles, the father of Prince William and Prince Harry, was the last heir to be born at Buckingham Palace, back in 1948.
“A room was set up in the palace like a hospital ward that was where his mother, the present queen, gave birth,” British historian Robert Lacey told ABC News’ Dan Kloeffler. “Prince Philip was not present at the birth. He was down playing squash in the palace squash courts.”
Prince William, unlike his grandfather, does plan to be present in the delivery room with Kate. He reportedly has a helicopter in a field next to the couple’s home in Anglesey, Wales, on standby, waiting to fly him to London if he’s on duty in his role as a British Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot when Kate goes into labor.
Prince William is also expected to take a paternity leave from his Royal Air Force role after the baby is born and the couple is expected to eschew an entourage of nannies in favor of being hands-on parents themselves.
It is just those kinds of expectations – and questions – of how Kate and William, as the “new generation” royals, will raise their child that has pushed the buzz around the baby’s birth to the next level.
“There is a lot of interest in William and Catherine, and there is a lot of interest particularly in the royal baby,” Arbiter said.
Also weighing heavily on the anticipation of Kate’s delivery is that this baby, whether a boy or a girl, will be the third in line to the throne, after his or her grandfather, Prince Charles, and father.
Following royal tradition, Kate and William have not announced the baby’s sex, and reportedly do not know themselves. With past royal births, the world had to wait until the baby was born to see whether it was a boy, and would thus move ahead in the line to the throne.
Thanks to a change in the rule of primogeniture agreed to by the 16 nations of the Commonwealth, Kate and William’s baby, girl or boy, will automatically be third in line to the throne.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the young His or Her Royal Highness the Prince or Princess of Cambridge, as the child will be formally known, will need a crown right away.
The baby’s great-grandmother Elizabeth II is 87 and in reportedly robust health after 61 years on the throne. His or her grandfather, Prince Charles, is 64 and the baby’s father, Prince William, is just 31, not to mention the longevity genes that run in the family.
The queen’s mother lived to be 101.
“You’re looking at a baby that’s going to be head of state 60 years from now,” Arbiter said. “The excitement now is over [Kate’s] having a baby. Whether it’s going to succeed or not, that’s so far in the distance.”
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