Britain Welcomes A New Heir To The Throne

In London, the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to an 8-pound, 6-ounce boy who now sits third in line to the throne. The world will likely get its first glimpse of the boy when the duchess leaves hospital, which may be Tuesday.

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Royal fans are hoping to get a glimpse of the baby boy expected to leave the hospital today and head home. Known at this point only as the Prince of Cambridge, he's the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, better known as William and Kate. No name has been announced so far, but bookmakers by big odds are favoring the names George or James.

From London, NPR's Philip Reeves catches us up on the excitement and hype around the birth.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Congratulations are pouring in from far and wide. The new royal parents must now face the task of trying to protect their son's privacy in the face of intense global media interest. Yesterday they had four special hours alone with him. This was the gap between the actual time of the boy's birth and its announcement to the world. That announcement has been eagerly anticipated here for weeks.

News that the wait was finally ending came as the British were sitting down to breakfast yesterday. TV channels switched to rolling live coverage, including the BBC.

(SOUNDBITE OF BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So if you have just joined us, the news this morning is that the Duchess of Cambridge finally has been admitted to St Mary's Hospital here in London.

REEVES: As the day passed with no news of the birth, speculation about the baby's name and gender heated up - so did the weather. It was London's hottest day in years. By lunchtime a crowd had gathered outside Buckingham Palace. By tradition, palace staff posts the announcement of royal births in a document on an easel in the palace forecourt. Everyone knew the news would be instantly flashed live on TV.

But for Steve Kyriacopoulos, a Canadian, there's no substitute for being there.

STEVE KYRIACOPOULOS: You know what? I can watch hockey on TV, but there's nothing like being in the front in the best seat. It's a different experience. This is a big deal.

REEVES: Samantha Felmus, a student from Virginia, says moments like this just don't work in cyberspace.

SAMANTHA FELMUS: When you are on a computer or in front of the TV, it doesn't feel the same. But when you are in the moment and at the city and at the place, you know, it's all perfect.

REEVES: In the end, the prince's birth was announced by a royal press release.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

REEVES: Soon afterwards, the news was posted on the palace easel, to be read by an excited crowd and TV audiences around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You can read it from here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMS)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, was safely delivered of a son at 4:24 p.m. today.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BELL)

REEVES: Outside the hospital, dressed in frock coat and feathered hat, town crier Tony Appleton spread the news in the only way town criers know.

TONY APPLETON: We welcome to public duty a future king...

REEVES: In Britain, the birth of the prince is prompting intense soul-searching about the state of the nation and its standing in the world. Today's Daily Telegraph says the country is in transition, but the new prince is a declaration of confidence in the future, it says.

After the death of Princess Diana in 1997, Britain's monarchy hit a low point. But monarchists now greatly outnumber those who want a republic. Credit for this should go to the royal family itself, says writer and commentator Rachel Johnson.

RACHEL JOHNSON: I think we have become a more monarchist country, and I think that shows the brilliance of the royal family in its ability to duck and weave with the times.

REEVES: This royal birth means there'll be even more public interest in the House of Windsor. A debate's already begun here about the upbringing of the new prince.

Penny Junor, a royal biographer, expects Kate's mother, Carole Middleton, to play a prominent part.

PENNY JUNOR: Kate is very close to her and she is the only grandmother. Diana sadly is no longer around. So I think the grand maternal duties will fall to Carole Middleton.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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