At eight pounds six ounces, the new born future King of Britain, Canada and 14 other realms has already brought a renewed sense of confidence in the royal family and the United Kingdom.
The news of his birth Monday evening prompted sudden cheering, singing, dancing and shouts of “Happy Birthday” on the streets out front of St. Mary’s Hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge had spent most of the day in labour. The celebration swept across the country and around the world, as tributes poured in from dignitaries and celebrities, and monuments all over the planet, from the waters of Niagara Falls to the terminal of Christchurch airport, turned blue.
After an impromptu party at Buckingham Palace, more celebrations are expected Tuesday, including gun salutes by royal artillery companies to honour the birth. Riders in uniform will trot past the palace to Green Park, where six field guns will fire 41 blank rounds.
British media joined in the celebration.
“It’s a Boy!” was splashed across many U.K. front pages Tuesday morning, while the Sun newspaper temporarily changed its name to “The Son” in honour of the tiny monarch-in-waiting.
The official announcement was posted on an easel outside of Buckingham Palace, following a tradition that dates back more than a century. It simply said: “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24 p.m. today. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”
“We could not be happier,” said a statement from the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, who was with his wife all day and into the night.
The Duchess, Prince William and their son spent the night at the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. Officials have not said when the family will leave.
The public announcement came four hours after the birth, giving Prince William time to alert royal family members and to spend time with his new son. According to protocol, the Queen, Prime Minister and Archbishop of Canterbury would have been among those first informed. A press release went out, and then a notice was posted out front of Buckingham Palace.
The boy will instantly become third in line to the throne, behind his father and grandfather, Prince Charles. And it means Britain and Canada will eventually have three kings in succession, something that hasn’t happened in more than 100 years.
It is understood that once the Duchess leaves the hospital, the family will spend some time at her family’s home in Bucklebury, west of London. They will then relocate to Kensington Palace in London, which is being renovated at a cost of $1.6-million.
Support for the royal family is at near record levels in Britain, thanks in large part to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose global popularity will only be enhanced by a new baby. And the royal household, once known for lurching from crisis to crisis, has demonstrated a new efficiency. Consider that on Monday not one word, one Tweet, one rumour or one e-mail leaked out about the baby until the official announcement at 8:30 p.m. London time. And for a family once hounded by paparazzi, the Duke and Duchess managed to arrive at the private Lindo Wing of the St. Mary’s hospital, without a single photographer knowing they were there, even though hundreds were standing just around the corner.
In Canada, Governor-General David Johnston congratulated the new parents. “We know that this happy event brings great joy not only to Their Royal Highnesses, but to the entire nation as well.” The new baby will be receiving a gift of Canadian-themed children’s books from Mr. Johnston and his wife, who are also inviting people to sign a web-based book of congratulations for the family.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended “best wishes of health and happiness” to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from him and his wife, Laureen. “This new beginning reminds us of the remarkable and enduring relationship our country has enjoyed with generations of the Royal Family,” Mr. Harper said in a statement from the PMO.
Cian Horrobin, a spokesman for the Monarchist League, said the birth marked the beginning of a lifelong relationship for Canadians with “this boy who will one day be our king.”
Even those opposed to the monarchy welcomed the prince’s arrival.
Tom Freda, director of the organization Citizens for a Canadian Republic, said any news involving the Royal Family renews the debate over the relevance of a monarchist system, “and debate is good.”
The baby isn’t even a day old — and may not even been named for days or even weeks — but he already has a building dedicated to him.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said an enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo would be named after the prince as part of a gift from the country. The government would donate 10,000 Australian dollars on the young prince’s behalf toward a research project at the zoo to save the endangered bilby, a rabbit-like marsupial whose numbers are dwindling in the wild. The prince’s name — when known — would be added to the bilby enclosure.
“I don’t know if the Royal Family would need this, but we’ll probably give them a free pass to Taronga Park Zoo as well,” Mr. Rudd said.
In a month that has already seen the economy show signs of life and British success in so many arenas – from Wimbledon to the Tour de France and the Ashes cricket series – the birth of a future monarch only adds to the country’s feeling of renewal. That was evident on the streets outside the Lindo Wing where groups of people cheered, hugged, chanted and sang as news of the baby’s birth spread through the crowd.
“It’s good news,” said Rob Palmer, who spent three hours driving to the hospital from his home in Norwich just to witness the announcement. What will he do now? “I’ll drive home and then have a drink.”
Hundreds gathered outside the hospital all day as the sun beat down and temperatures soared above 30 C during a prolonged heat wave, even though there was nothing to see and nothing to do. The mood all day was festive, almost carnival like. The Duke and Duchess “really speak for me and my generation,” said Teba Diatta, a 31-year old recent university graduate who lives in York, about 320 kilometres north of London. She baked a sponge cake for the royal couple and painted tiny Union Jacks on her face.
There were some dissenters. Painter Kaya Mar brought a satirical portrait of the Duchess clutching her baby who is wearing a crown. The monarchy “is a corrupt institution,” said Mr. Mar, who arrived in Britain from Turkey 40 years ago. “Britons love to live in the past as a comfort.”
No one was in the mood for that. “I am so excited,” said Jacqueline le Patourel, who stopped by the hospital on her way home to Cornwall. Like Ms. Diatta, Ms. Le Patourel said the Duke and Duchess, both 31, had earned the respect and admiration of Britons. They were more down to earth, she said, more ordinary, more normal than most other royals. And the fact that the British government is changing the law of succession added significance to the birth, she said. Under the change, which is backed by the other realms, succession to the throne is no longer based on gender, meaning that the eldest girl can succeed to the throne even if she has a younger brother.
And the couple’s reach goes far beyond Britain. Many of those out front of the hospital were tourists from all parts of the world, eager to gawk and share in the excitement. “I just love the royal family,” said Barbara Wood, who lives in Terre Haute, Ind., and whose husband, Mervyn, had been admitted to St. Mary’s after falling down in a subway station. The couple were on their first trip to Britain and despite the accident, which left Mr. Wood with a wounded arm and badly cut cheek, they were thrilled to be at the hospital. “I guess we like kings and queens,” Mr. Wood said.
There were also signs that the birth had finally helped lay to rest the memory of Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother who delivered her two sons in the same hospital. Many of those outside the hospital spoke longingly of Diana and held up signs in her honour. But most were prepared to move on, to see the Duke and Duchess now as parents, starting their own family and their own legacy.
A group of six girls from Italy probably summed up the mood the best. As the day wore on, they gave an impromptu chant: “Good luck to William and Kate and all the best for the royal baby.”
With files from The Associated Press