There’s a commemorative mug in the works, a growing throng of media outside the hospital and bookies taking bets on everything from names and gender to hair colour, weight and whether Victoria Beckham will be a godparent.
Such is the frenzy that has engulfed Britain one day after St. James’s Palace confirmed that the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, was expecting a baby.
The child, or children as some have speculated, isn’t due until some time next summer, but that hasn’t lessened the hype. Or the challenge for the British government.
Prime Minister David Cameron took great pride in announcing more than a year ago that each Commonwealth country had agreed to overturn centuries of tradition and law, and change succession rules to give equal right to sons or daughters of royal heirs.
That meant that if Prince William and Kate had a girl, she would become third in line to the throne regardless of whether the couple had a son later. Under the old rules, the son would have become the heir to the throne.
But that was only an agreement. The government hasn’t amended any law to reflect the proposal, leaving questions about the status of the Duke and Duchess’s child. On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that Parliament would rush through the changes before the Duchess gave birth, expected next summer. He added that each of the 15 other Commonwealth countries will follow suit. And he said the government will end the ban on anyone in the line of succession marrying a Roman Catholic.
Making changes won’t be easy in Britain. Members of Parliament will have to amendment three statutes: the U.K. Bill of Rights and Coronation Oath Act of 1688, the 1701 Act of Settlement and the 1706 Act of Union with Scotland. And they will all have to do all that before the baby is born, otherwise there could be much confusion. For example, what if Kate has twins, a boy and a girl? Presumably the first child born would become the Royal heir, although that won’t be a certainty without the new law in place.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will “act quickly to enact these changes” as soon as Britain tables its law.
The succession issue was only part of the mayhem surrounding the news of Kate’s pregnancy and her admission to the King Edward VII hospital for acute pregnancy sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum.
Reporters began lining outside the hospital hours after she was admitted and by Tuesday morning nearly a dozen satellite trucks lined the narrow street in front. Dozens of photographers trained their cameras on the front door, snapping away at just about anyone who entered. Television outlets from Australia, the United States, China, Japan, Brazil and across Europe jostled for position and gave regular updates to their viewers.
Prince William arrived mid-morning and spent about six hours with his wife. He said nothing but smiled as he left. “The Duchess of Cambridge is continuing to feel better,” a spokesman for the Palace said Tuesday evening. “She and the Duke are immensely grateful for the good wishes they have received. She will remain in hospital at present and will continue to be treated for hyperemesis gravidarum.”
The illness itself, which affects roughly one out of every 200 women, sparked a flurry of speculation that Kate was having twins, since it is more common among women who have multiple births. By late Tuesday some bookies had slashed the odds on twins from 33-1 to 10-1. And that’s just one bet.
There are also bets on names and a multitude of other attributes.For now the best bet for names are Mary, Victoria, John, Diana, Frances, Phillip, Anne and Charles. (Fergie is running 250-1.) Bettors can also put down wagers on the baby’s weight, sex, hair colour and godparents (there is even odds on Kate’s sister Pippa Middelton being godmother and 100-1 that it will be Ms. Beckham).
Betting firms aren’t alone in trying to cash in on the baby announcement. British pottery company Emma Bridgewater wasted no time launching a commemorative mug Tuesday, the first of what will likely be a rash of kitsch souvenirs. The mug is decorated with hearts and the words “A Royal Baby in 2013” on one side and “Hooray for Will & Kate” on the other.
The company plans to produce another mug after the birth with the baby’s name. Royalty is big business for the company, which sold nearly $2-million worth of commemorative ceramics for the Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and roughly $5-million worth of products for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year.
In Kate’s home town of Bucklebury, a village of 2,000 people in Southern England, residents jammed into the pub to celebrate and place bets on possible names.
“All I can say really is people are just delighted for the young couple,” said Graham Pask, who represents the village on the regional council.
Mr. Pask, who was just leaving for the pub before fielding yet another call from a reporter, said Ms. Middleton’s parents have lived in the village for a number of years and she is considered very much a local. “It’s fantastic news, we’re all very, very happy,” he added.