Berke Breathed, the cartoonist who draws the satirical strip "Bloom County," breathed a sigh of relief at Monday's announcement from Buckingham Palace that the new royal heir is a boy. His syndicate had already distributed strips that star a precocious, diapered, Machiavellian little prince. The strips, drawn June 1, are scheduled to run July 20-24.

"I'm very glad it was a boy," said Breathed. "There was nothing that would have looked sillier than a new queen when I was talking about a new king."

Breathed denies any inside information from the royal couple. "The British tabloids had been saying that tests showed it was a boy and that's what tipped me off," he explained. "Most of my friends are doctors, since my girlfriend is a medical student. They found out what kind of tests might have been done, looked into the probability of whether the tests were correct or not, and they said it was a safe bet" the heir would be male.

And what would have happened if the royal offspring had been a young lady? "If I had had two weeks, I would have shot off another week's worth of strips to run in its place. But if it had been a late pregnancy, if it had been a girl . . ." Breathed laughed. "I would have had to eat my creative words."

The cartoonist has been skewering the royal couple since their betrothal. "I think it's a dangerous topic, it's definitely been my most controversial. The British really do consider their king, queen and the royal family entirely above any satirical comment, which I find a little stuffy."

Breathed, who lives in Iowa City, where his girlfriend goes to medical school, shares a birthday with the royal baby. He turned 25 on Monday.