LONDON – It’s a boy!
Prince William’s wife, Kate, has given birth to a prince who is now third in line to the throne.
The child was born Monday afternoon, after many Britons woke up to the news that Kate, also known as the Duchess of Cambridge, had gone into labour with the couple’s first child.
The royal birth announcement said the boy was born at 4:24 p.m. weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces. William was present for the birth, the statement said. The announcement did not include a name for the future monarch, though one is expected to be revealed in the coming days.
“Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight,” it said. William also issued a brief statement, saying “we could not be happier.”
Cries of joy erupted from the waiting crowd amassed near Buckingham Palace as the news came through, and hundreds of onlookers – some of whom had camped outside for hours – crushed against the palace’s fences to catch a glimpse of the bulletin formally announcing the birth placed outside the palace’s forecourt.
“It’s a crazy atmosphere, everyone is getting very excited,” said Andrew Aitchison, 47, outside the palace. “It’s great to be part of history, to say we were here and saw it all happen.”
William’s father, Charles, and his wife, Camilla, spoke of their joy and pride in becoming grandparents for the first time.
“It is an incredibly special moment for William and Catherine and we are so thrilled for them on the birth of their baby boy,” Prince Charles said in a statement. “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 time and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing the baby in the near future.”
It could be some time before the baby’s name is made public. When William was born, a week passed before his name was announced. Charles’s name remained a mystery for an entire month.
The royal birth at central London’s St. Mary’s Hospital recalled that of the baby’s father, William, in 1982, at the same hospital. Many remember the moment when he was carried out in his mother Princess Diana’s arms with proud father Prince Charles at their side.
William and Kate’s son is expected to follow Charles and William to the throne.
The baby’s gender had been of particular interest because the prospect of Kate’s pregnancy had prompted a change to laws of succession to ensure that a daughter would not be passed over for the crown by a younger brother.
No one can tell what political and personal changes the intervening years will bring, but the baby can be expected to become the head of state of 16 countries, including Britain, Australia and Canada. The child will also eventually become Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
In Canada, the news of the birth was greeted with a flurry of congratulations.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed the arrival of “a future sovereign of Canada,” and said he’s looking forward to seeing the son born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Cian Horrobin, a spokesman for the Monarchist League, said the birth marked the 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 little prince represents a living link to Britain’s imperial history – the infant is the great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, who ruled at the peak of British power.
The couple waited, however, until William was nearly finished with his military work as a search and rescue helicopter pilot based at an air base in a remote island off the coast of Wales.
That allowed Kate to ease into royal life, and to become more comfortable in the spotlight, before becoming a parent. It also allowed her to play a supporting role during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations last summer.
The first months of her pregnancy were not easy, and she was hospitalized in early December with acute morning sickness that left her weak and dehydrated. She seemed to recover her stamina fairly quickly and made a series of public appearances until the final weeks before giving birth, drawing praise for her poise and good cheer.
The royal couple and their newborn are expected to spend much of their time in the coming years in renovated quarters at Kensington Palace, where William and Harry also spent much of their childhood.
Royal officials say Kate and William will try to give their child as normal an upbringing as possible. That may be challenging in an age when the British royals are treated as major world celebrities.
Associated Press writer James Brooks in London contributed to this report.
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