LONDON, Greater London: Prince William’s wife Catherine was admitted to hospital on Monday in the early stages of labor, Kensington Palace said, as the world awaited the birth of a baby third in line to inherit the British throne.
The couple, both 31, were driven the short distance from the palace to the private Lindo wing of Saint Mary’s Hospital in Padding-ton, central London, arriving at around 6 a.m.
The baby will inherit the throne after Queen Elizabeth 2nd’s eldest son Prince Charles and his eldest son William.
“Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has been admitted this morning to St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London in the early stages of labor,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
“Things are progressing as normal,” a spokesman added.
The sex of the baby will remain a mystery until it is born.
If it is a girl, then new succession laws being brought in across the 16 Commonwealth realms would mean that it could no longer be overtaken by any future younger brothers.
The new arrival will be the monarch’s third great-grandchild, and a first grandchild for Charles.
Kate is hoping to give birth by natural delivery.
The duchess is being tended by a top medical team led by the queen’s former gynecologist Marcus Setchell, assisted by his successor Alan Farthing.
The world’s press have been camped outside St. Mary’s for the past three weeks in anticipation of the birth.
There was a strong police presence around the hospital and two police officers guarded the entrance to the private wing.
According to the palace, the next statement will be issued when the baby is born.
The duchess made her final public appearance before giving birth on June 15, attending the queen’s official birthday celebrations.
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth said the royal family were unlikely to visit once the new addition arrives.
“I was here 31 years ago when William was born so we have come full circle,” he said.
“The family will be waiting like any other family for news of the baby.
“The queen will be the first to be informed because William will telephone her as soon as something happens.
“William will be at Kate’s side comforting her. He will be as concerned as she is. She is going through the agony and he is sharing it.
“It is a new experience for every father and parent; he can be told about what details are like but she’s experiencing it.
“The Middletons might come down but the royals won’t because it demands another level of security and the last thing they’ll want is to disrupt the hospital,” Arbiter said.
William and Kate live in a cottage at Kensington Palace when in London.
Otherwise they are based on the rural island of Anglesey in northwest Wales, where William works as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.
The only other member of their household so far is Kate’s dog Lupo, bought last year to keep her company when William was posted to the Falkland Islands.
There has been a betting frenzy on the name of the royal baby, with Alexandra topping several bookmakers’ lists.
Other names among those with the shortest odds are Charlotte, Diana, Elizabeth and Victoria, with George and James picked by those who think the new baby will be a boy.
The birth of Prince William and his wife Catherine’s first baby will be the culmination of their relationship, which began as friendship, blossomed into love and saw them marry in a fairytale wedding.
The royal couple never hid their desire to start a family of their own, a new phase that will require them to juggle their high-profile public lives with nappy changing, sleepless nights and the other demands of parenthood.
They will also have to handle the global interest in their newborn baby, which will be third in line to inherit the throne after its grandfather Prince Charles and then William.
Despite their glittering wedding on April 29, 2011 at London’s Westminster Abbey, the couple have always been determined to keep their private life low-key.
They mainly live in a small cottage in remote northwest Wales, close to the Royal Air Force (RAF) base where William works as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.
It is in keeping with how their relationship began, out of the public glare in a small Scottish seaside town.
Catherine has admitted that at her first meeting with the second-in-line to the throne in September 2001, when they both arrived to study at the University of St. Andrews, she “went bright red” and quickly excused herself.
William, however, said in their only joint interview—in November 2010 to mark their engagement—that he always knew “there was something very special about her.”
“We went through a few stumbling blocks as every relationship does, but we picked ourselves up and carried on,” he said, adding: “It’s just really easy being with each other; it’s really fun.”
He ribbed her about reports that she had a poster of him on her bedroom wall as a teenager. “He wishes!” she replied with a smile.
Catherine made her mark early on when William was unhappy with his course—like hers, history of art—and almost quit university. She persuaded him to stay on but to switch to geography.
William, in turn, is very protective of her. He waited to propose to give her a chance to “back out if she needed, before it all got too much.”
In June 2003, William told reporters he did not have a “steady girlfriend,” while Catherine was dating someone else.
By Christmas 2003, however, they were reported to be a couple and when they were photographed on a skiing holiday in March 2004, the palace did not deny they were together.
The course of true love never runs smoothly, though, and in April 2007 palace officials confirmed they had broken up, a fact blamed variously on William’s career and his being pictured out partying with various women.
Kate admitted she “wasn’t very happy” about the split but insisted: “It made me a stronger person.”
Catherine’s pregnancy was announced early on December 3 last year as she was admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness. William spent hours at her bedside.
She left hospital after three nights and carried out a series of official duties during her pregnancy, showing off her baby bump. Her last public appearance was at Trooping the Color, Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday pageant, on June 15.
The couple and their newborn baby are to move into Kensington Palace in London, William’s childhood home, once renovations are complete later this year.
The move symbolizes their growing stature in the royal family—and the future that awaits their babe in arms.