“The baby world has been waiting for this,” said Olivia Robinson, creative director of Mamas & Papas, a British baby outfitter. “Grandparents, mothers, are going to be watching. The high chair. The clothes. They are going to want them.”
In a celebratory nation, the birth nevertheless left a flicker of disappointment for some longing to see a princess break one of the loftiest glass ceilings — the one towering above British royal heirs. Under a change that became law this year, a firstborn girl would not have been outranked by a younger brother.
But a boy was still more than enough reason to pop a cork. In the street party that broke out in front of Buckingham Palace, Paul Armstrong, 35, a London real estate agent, chugged down the pink sparkling wine he brought in hopes of a girl, while toasting baby blue.
“We were convinced it was a girl, partly because we have such a great queen now, but hey, we’re happy it’s a boy, and if he follows in the footsteps of his grandmother, he’ll do great,” he said.
For Americans of a certain stripe, a little thing like the Revolutionary War was not going to get between them and some ownership over this birth. Some who made a beeline for Buckingham Palace conceded that their love affair with the royals was rooted in the conspicuously absent family member — Diana, who, after her breakup with Charles, died in a Paris car crash in 1997.
“I think Diana would love this and would be so excited to be a grandma,” said Cheryl Hannah, a 62-year-old Ohio retiree.
William and his wife have been splitting their time between London and Anglesey, an island off the northwest coast of Wales, where the prince has worked as a search-and-rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force. But after the birth, many expect the pressure to grow for him to leave military service and begin taking up the full-time role of king-to-be (he is second in line after his father).
The parents are poised to move later this year into Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace, formerly the home of the queen’s sister, Princess Margaret. The residence has undergone a major face lift.
The British tabloids have reported that Catherine and the baby will spend the first six weeks after her release from the hospital with her parents, in Bucklebury, 55 miles west of London. A palace spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny that report.
If it happens, it may be the first of many breaks with tradition. Catherine’s non-royal upbringing — while privileged — is expected to prompt her to try for a more “normal” life for the young prince than palace culture has traditionally allowed. The daughter of former airline workers who struck it rich in business, Catherine is also the great-great-granddaughter of a coal miner.
Diana fiercely guarded the privacy of her sons but also wanted them to have typical childhood experiences, famously taking them on outings to McDonald’s and Disneyland.
Some royal watchers expect William to be particularly protective, given his mother’s death while being chased by paparazzi.
“This is going to be the hardest part for Prince William,” said Dickie Arbiter, former spokesman to Queen Elizabeth II. “He still blames the press for the death of his mother, and he will be setting limits between the press and his child now. ”
Karla Adam in London and William Branigin in Washington contributed to this report.