LONDON – Prince William and his wife Kate thanked the hospital staff who delivered their first child Monday, though they’ve yet to announce a name for the boy who becomes the third in line to the British throne.
Kate, known formally as the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to the boy at 4:24 p.m. Monday on the private Lindo Wing at the state-run St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, central London. The child weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces.
“We would like to thank the staff at the Lindo Wing and the whole hospital for the tremendous care the three of us have received,” the parents said in a statement issued by their office in Kensington Palace today. “We know it has been a very busy period for the hospital and we would like to thank everyone -- staff, patients and visitors -- for their understanding during this time.”
Hundreds of photographers and reporters from around the world are outside the hospital, waiting for a first glimpse of the couple and the baby or for possible visitors. The BBC and Sky News television are carrying almost uninterrupted coverage of the event, which dominated this morning’s British newspapers.
“Mother, son and father are all doing well this morning,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
William, known as the Duke of Cambridge, was present for the birth. “We could not be happier,” he said in a statement released through the Press Association newswire later in the evening. The duke and duchess stayed overnight in the hospital.
Three people stand between the baby and the throne: Queen Elizabeth II, who is 87; her eldest son Charles, the Prince of Wales, 64; and William, 31. William married Kate, who’s also 31, in April 2011.
“It’s a Boy,” was the headline in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, while the tabloid Sun renamed itself “The Son” and devoted its first nine pages to pictures and reports.
Royal gun salutes will take place at 2 p.m. today from the Tower of London and from Green Park, close to Buckingham Palace, to mark the birth. Such salutes are given for the birth of every British prince or princess. The Honourable Artillery Company will fire 62 rounds at 10-second intervals at the Tower, while the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will stage a 41-round salute in Green Park, using World War I-era guns.
The duchess was taken to St. Mary’s early Monday in the early stages of labor. She and her husband entered through a private door, avoiding the main entrance.
“The queen and Prince Philip are delighted” by the birth, the monarchy announced on its Twitter feed.
Born into a life of instant fame and privilege -- Queen Elizabeth owns two palaces, two castles and assorted houses and has an annual budget of 36 million pounds ($55 million) -- the newest arrival will be raised as ordinarily as the royal family can manage and is likely to attend school, albeit a private one, according to royal commentator Hugo Vickers.
“This child will live an extraordinary life meeting some of the most famous and fascinating people, yet the royal family has learned to give its children as normal an upbringing as possible,” Vickers, who has been writing and broadcasting on the royal family for more than 35 years, said in an interview. “This boy is born to be king but he may have a whole lifetime ahead of him first. He may reach 60 and not become monarch.”
Prince Charles, visiting the village of Bugthorpe in Yorkshire today, told broadcasters he’s “thrilled and very excited.”
William and Kate observed tradition by announcing the news of their baby by having a courtier affix a proclamation to an easel in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, the queen’s central London residence. In keeping with the times, the news was also posted on Twitter.
History means that royal protocols have to be observed.
In 1688, at the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart to Mary of Modena, the wife of King James II, rumors circulated that the baby was an impostor, smuggled in to the palace in a warming pan.
Monday night, an official announcement was signed by medical staff at the hospital identifying the baby as indisputably royal and the notice was driven to Buckingham Palace. Several hundred people had gathered outside the palace gates to await the news.
“I’m sure that right across the Commonwealth people will be celebrating and wishing the royal couple well,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in televised comments. “It is an important moment in the life of our nation but, I suppose above all, it’s a wonderful moment for a warm and loving couple who’ve got a brand new baby boy.”
The baby is third in line to the throne of 15 other Commonwealth countries, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those who issued congratulatory messages.
“The arrival of the newest member of the royal family, a future sovereign of Canada, is a highly anticipated moment for Canadians given the special and warm relationship that we share with our royal family,” Harper said in a statement.
“Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings.”
On the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s, which is part of the state-run National Health Service, prices for maternity care start at 4,965 pounds a night for a “normal delivery package,” according to its website.
When she wed Prince William in 2011, Kate Middleton became the first woman from outside royalty or the aristocracy to marry so close to the throne for 350 years in a ceremony watched on television by 2 billion people worldwide.
After the birth, William will return to work as a military helicopter pilot once he’s taken the two weeks’ paternity leave to which British fathers are entitled.
An apartment for the duke, the duchess and their new son is being readied at Kensington Palace in central London.
Retailers are already seeking to cash in on the royal baby, who is the most famous infant in the country, if not the world.
Baby-equipment supplier Mothercare Plc is selling “Prince in Training” and “Princess in Training” babygrows for six pounds, while the Kensington Palace shop is marketing a “My Little Princess” gift set for 50 pounds. Among designer Lydia Leith’s collection are paper bags for morning-sickness sufferers and, at 28 pounds, a pull-along corgi, the breed of dog favored by the queen.
As a child Prince William was allowed to study away from the attention of cameras, with an understanding reached by the royal family and the press to give him time to mature and make mistakes in private. Still, the infant will grow up to be one of the most photographed children in the world.
To survive the inevitable attention, the new baby “will need to have a steadfast character and be aware of his place in history but not let it overwhelm him,” Vickers said. “Prince Charles always said there was never one moment when he realized he would be king, but that it was a gradual dawning on him that he had to behave better than everyone else.”