Speculation had grown in recent weeks that the couple might be expecting, though the rumor mill appeared driven more by desire and anticipation than insider knowledge. Tabloids had taken to scouring every photo of the duchess for evidence of a “royal bump.” On Wednesday, the saucy Daily Mail reported that the duchess’s new chic coiffure must surely be a harbinger of pregnancy: “If she is keeping a Very Important Secret, then that demure long fringe is perfect for hiding behind.”
The hawk-eyed could detect perhaps more reliable signs of royal fecundity. On a recent tour of Asia, the duchess eschewed wine for water during a state dinner, prompting torrid rounds of baby speculation. And last week, a young mother in Cambridge handed Prince William — a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot — a handmade onesie with a helicopter and the words “Daddy’s little co-pilot” embroidered on it. According to Britain’s ITV television network, William promptly placed the suit in the care of an aide, quipping, “I’ll keep that.”
As the couple steamrolled toward their second wedding anniversary, royal-watchers pointedly noted that Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to Prince Charles almost a year to the day after her wedding. The late Diana produced an heir — the now-expectant father — after 11 months of marriage.
In the Queens Park neighborhood of North London — known as “the Nappy Valley” because of its proliferation of families with babies — a parade of young couples wished Will and Kate well. “It’s perfect, why wait?” said Miranda Little, 36, a full-time mother pushing her 10-month-old son in a stroller. “Get on with it, give the people what they want.”
Yet in a country rich in gross national sarcasm, the blogosphere also rang out with priceless missives of the sort posted on the mothers’ chat site Mumsnet by someone going by the handle HullyEastergully: “Oh how lovely! Another little privileged sprite to ponce off the taxpayer! Joy to the world.”
For the House of Windsor at least, the royal couple remained the gift that keeps on giving, and just in time for the holidays. Their wedding, watched by 2 billion people on six continents, helped usher in a renaissance of a family once stained by constant scandal. Polls show that support for the monarchy has never been higher in the modern era. After recent doses of racy press — including a topless photo of the duchess and photos of Prince Harry playing naked pool — the pregnancy offers the family a more traditional talking point.
Royal-watchers say the birth could mark the evolution of the duke and duchess’s roles in the public eye, with Prince William in particular expected to take on an ever-expanding list of official duties next year.
“This is the Christmas present people have been hoping for, and what a royal family is all about — renewal,” said Robert Lacey, royal biographer and author of “The Queen: A Life in Brief.” “There is nothing like youth to revive monarchy. This announcement is about the next stage to come, with the young couple more and more in the public eye as the next generation of royal family.”
Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.