LONDON — Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Monday, touching off polite, happy but muted jubilation — and a few yawns — across Britain.
In accordance with custom, news of the arrival was displayed on an easel in front of Buckingham Palace. But by then, everyone knew.
“The baby weighs 8lbs 7oz,” Kensington Palace announced in a morning tweet, showing how the British royals and their massive public-relations operation both maintain and upend tradition. “The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”
The roadway in front of the maternity entrance at St. Mary’s Hospital was lined all day with reporters, speaking a babel of languages and doing stand-ups with cameras pointed at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
A surge of royal fans played for the media. But they numbered in the hundreds, not thousands.
Self-proclaimed royalist Tony Appleton, 81, showed up dressed in a feathered tricorn hat, unfurled a faux parchment and roared: “Oyez, oyez, oyez! We’ve got a royal baby, a prince!”
“I knew it. Oh, what a day,” said Margaret Ashford, who was visiting the hospital to see a sick friend when the nearby streets erupted with people shouting — in muted British fashion — “It’s a boy!”
Prince George, 4, who was still wearing his school uniform, and Princess Charlotte, 2, came to meet their new sibling on Monday afternoon. Before walking in, Charlotte gave a wee royal hand wave to the cannonade of cameras. It was the shot of the day.
Then, just before 6 p.m., the world got its first peek at the newest royal, when the duke and the duchess stepped out of the hospital. Catherine cradled the newborn in her arms, his tiny fingers poking out from a white blanket.
The duchess, wearing a red dress, sparked a wave of comment on social media about how a mum who had just given birth could look so great — and also how her flawless reemergence only hours after delivery put pressure on women who may be overwhelmed physically and mentally postpartum.
As the Cambridges got into their waiting Land Rover, William told the throng of reporters that he was “very delighted, thank you.”
“Thrice the worry now,” he added, in a bit of fatherly wisdom.
The trio then returned to their home at Kensington Palace, just a couple miles away, with a police escort.
The soon-to-be-named babe is fifth in line for the throne — not a bad résumé for his first day on the job.
In the dynastic line to succeed great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 on Saturday, the baby is behind grandfather Prince Charles, father William, brother George and sister Charlotte. A 2013 act of Parliament removed preference for male heirs. The child is the queen’s sixth great-grandchild.
The baby knocks William’s brother, Prince Harry, down a notch in the succession to the throne. But for royal watchers, the clamor surrounding the birth of the royal baby is merely a warm-up for next month, when Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle.
Despite being overshadowed by that other upcoming event, royal baby fever had ratcheted up in recent weeks — thanks in part to parking authorities.
Kensington Palace had disclosed that the baby was due in April. But it never dished on the exact due date.
Earlier this month, however, yellow signs appeared outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, announcing parking restrictions from April 9 to 30 because of an “event.” As students of royal baby births know, this was code for: Royal. Baby. Watch. Is. On.
A clutch of die-hard fans quickly changed into Union Jack-themed attire and made a beeline for the hospital. For days, they slept outside on benches and in tents, opined on baby names and stared at the door to the private maternity unit where Kate, as she is informally known, would give birth.
“If it’s a boy, they could call it Philip Michael. Philip after the duke and Michael after Catherine’s father,” mused John Loughrey, 63, who had been sleeping in a red tent since April 9. He said Monday that the staff at the hospital had been generous, offering them showers, coffee and food.
To be sure, the fever never rose to the soaring temperatures of the “Great Kate Wait,” before Catherine gave birth to her first child in 2013.
George’s arrival was greeted by prime-time specials and wall-to-wall media coverage. And that was just in the United States.
But a royal baby is still a royal baby, even if he’s the third. Attention will soon shift to the name of Baby Cambridge, which may not be announced immediately. George was two days old when the world learned of his name.
Luckily, British bookies, who will take bets on nearly anything, are helping to fill that void. Arthur, Albert and Jack are top picks. And to be fair to the bookies, George and Charlotte were two of their top picks for the other Cambridge children.
Rupert Adams, a spokesman for the bookmaker William Hill, said that for George, the bookie took in about 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) in bets; for Charlotte, it was about 800,000 pounds ($1.1 million).
“We’d be chuffed if we got 600,000 this time,” he said. “It is the third child.”
See Prince William and Catherine out and about
Last year, William quit his job as an air ambulance pilot, and he and Kate packed up the family from their residence in Norfolk and moved to Kensington Palace, in Central London. George started school last year in Battersea, South London, and earlier this year Charlotte started at a nursery near the palace.
Within seconds of hearing that Kate had been admitted to the hospital, Twitter erupted in celebration. The hashtag #RoyalBaby began trending.
Not everyone was thrilled. “The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant? I didn’t know,” wrote one Twitter user.
Republic, an anti-monarchy group, tweeted: “Shouldn’t every child be #bornEqual? Able to aspire to the top job and make their own path in life?”
Jennifer Hassan in London contributed to this report.