The wait for the royal baby and the future monarch ended on Monday after a day of sweltering speculation when it was announced that the Duchess of Cambridge had given birth to a boy.
The baby, the third in line to the throne and the first Prince of Cambridge in 190 years, was born at 4.24pm weighing 8lbs 6oz at the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London. His father, who was present, said: "We could not be happier".
The announcement of the birth by Kensington Palace shortly after 8pm ended a day of increasingly febrile media reporting after it emerged that the Duchess had gone into hospital at 6am - avoiding the massed ranks of cameras via a side entrance - while in the early stages of labour.
News of the birth was posted in accordance with tradition by a royal footman on an ornate “Roccoco revival-style” easel inside the railings of Buckingham Palace as a crowd gathered outside celebrated. It was also confirmed that Catherine, 31, and her son were “doing well” and will remain in hospital overnight.
In an unusually forthright statement, Prince Charles announced that he was relishing the prospect of grandfatherhood, announcing that he and Camilla were “overjoyed”.
The heir to the throne said: “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 and we are eagerly looking foward to seeing the baby in the near future.”
In its statement, Kensington Palace said: “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm. The baby weighs 8lbs 6oz. The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth.” It added that the senior members of the royal family were “delighted”.
Prime Minister David Cameron, taking to Twitter along with Labour leader Ed Milliband, said the Duke and Duchess will make “wonderful parents”, adding: “The whole country will celebrate.” Mr Milliband said: “I wish them and their son all happiness and good health.”
While the arrival of a boy postpones for another generation the dilemma of resolving outstanding sexist constitutional wrinkles that a daughter to the William and Catherine might have created, the public is likely to have to wait longer to know their future ruler’s name.
In a move which will doubtless delight bookies, some of whom immediately elevated “James” as favourite for the royal moniker, it could be at least a day before the name chosen by the couple is revealed. In the case of the royal baby’s paternal grandfather, it was not announced until almost a month after his birth that he had been called Charles.
The birth after a labour of less than 12 hours brought relief not only to the nation but also the serried rows of television news anchors gathered on the pavement outside the Lindo Wing who suddenly found themselves have to provide rolling news coverage on what one BBC correspondent admitted was “no news”.
The 6am arrival of Catherine and William at a side entrance to the hospital brought with it a terse 45-word statement the 31-year-old duchess was in the early stages of labour and “things are progressing as normal”.
But the arrival of the couple in a convoy of Range Rovers and BMWs was sufficient to bring the buzz of speculation about the royal birth over the airwaves and the internet for the past week to a fresh crescendo as hundreds of broadcasters, photographers and assorted royal hangers-on jostled for position outside the £6,000-a-night unit.
Catherine, who is in the same unit where Princess Diana gave birth to her husband and Prince Harry, is being tended by a top medical team led by the the Queen’s gynaecologist Marcus Setchell and assisted by Alan Farthing, the gynaecologist to the royal household who was previously engaged to Jill Dando.
The paucity of information did nothing to slow the tide of speculation.
Under the blistering heat of the hottest July day since 2006, representatives of 150 television stations (along with some 300 photographers) repeated in mantra-like fashion the most likely names for the royal baby and the expert view that most labours last 12 hours.
The combination of sweltering conditions and crowded pavements tested the patience of those attending the hospital for more routine matters. Rita Davies, 46, en route to an out-patients appointment for her bandaged leg, said: “It’s just not on. There are real sick people using this hospital. Not just rich ladies giving birth.”
The proceedings were briefly enlivened with the appearance of a republican protester carrying a loudhailer.
Danny Shine, a professional singer, proceeded to broadcast his views before being warned by police that he might be creating a public nuisance by disturbing the sleep of dozing patients.
He told The Independent: “I just want people to question whether this person being born is any more special than the rest of us. Why are we making all this fuss and spending all this money when disabled people are having their benefits taken away.”