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LONDON — With royal fanfare tweeted instantly around the world, Buckingham Palace on Monday announced the birth of a boy to Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, placing a framed proclamation on an easel at the palace gates.
“Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4:24 today,” the statement proclaimed, more than four hours after the birth. “Her Royal Highness and the child are both doing well.”
A palace statement said the child weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces and that William had been present. Mother and baby would remain in the hospital overnight.
No name was immediately announced. The child is third in line to the throne. His birth gives the royal family three generations of heirs to the throne for the first time since Queen Victoria's rule.
Cries of joy erupted from the waiting crowd amassed near Buckingham Palace as the news came through, and hundreds of onlookers — some of whom had camped outside for hours — crushed against the palace's fences to catch a glimpse of the bulletin, placed outside the palace's forecourt, formally announcing the birth.
The announcement came more than 12 hours after Buckingham Palace said early Monday that the 31-year-old duchess had gone to St. Mary's Hospital in London in the early stages of labor. Then, until the birth was announced, not another word emerged from royal officials, beyond the assurance from palace officials that matters were “progressing normally.”
Hundreds of reporters and photographers gathered by the hospital in Paddington, a district on the edge of central London, wilting in a heat wave. They were joined through the day by excited well-wishers from Britain and beyond, some pledging to stay until the birth was announced.
Queen Elizabeth II offered a signal that an early development might be at hand when she left her London quarters at Windsor Palace and drove the 20 miles to Buckingham Palace. That put her in position to be on hand, her royal standard fluttering, when the birth was announced.
The statement from the palace said members of the immediate family, including Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, “have been informed and are delighted with the news.”
William's father, Charles, and his wife, Camilla, spoke of their joy and pride in becoming grandparents for the first time.
“It is an incredibly special moment for William and Catherine, and we are so thrilled for them on the birth of their baby boy,” Prince Charles said in a statement.
“Grandparenthood is a unique moment in anyone's life, as countless kind people have told me in recent months, so I am enormously proud and happy to be a grandfather for the first time, and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing the baby in the near future.”
William and Kate met in the early 2000s, when both were students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and their relationship, which was later hailed as a fairy tale union, proceeded sporadically for several years until their wedding in April 2011.
Many Britons had hoped that the couple would start a family shortly after their wedding, which drew a global television audience in the hundreds of millions.
The couple waited, however, until William was nearly finished with his military work as a seaarch-and-rescue helicopter pilot based at an air base in a remote island off the coast of Wales.
That allowed Kate, before becoming a parent, to ease into royal life and to become more comfortable in the spotlight. It also allowed her to play a supporting role during Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations last summer.
The first months of her pregnancy were not easy, and she was hospitalized in early December with acute morning sickness that left her weak and dehydrated. But she seemed to recover her stamina fairly quickly and made a series of public appearances until the final weeks before giving birth, drawing praise for her poise and good cheer.
The duchess had traveled by car Monday to the hospital from another royal residence, Kensington Palace, a second message said. Reporters outside the hospital said the couple had slipped in through a side entrance, largely unobserved by the waiting press corps.
In some ways, the phantom of William's mother, Princess Diana, has hovered over the couple, and he has frequently made it clear that he wants to protect his wife from the intense media scrutiny associated with his mother.
Nevertheless, photographers and camera crews have for weeks been camped out with stepladders and other equipment outside St. Mary's Hospital, where William was born in June 1982. His brother, Harry, was born there in 1984.
The period preceding the birth, however, was marked by a display of restraint among Britain's usually aggressive tabloids, with no sign of photographs of the royal couple from clandestine stakeouts.
Intrusive and highly competitive coverage of royal events was common for decades. But Britain's tabloids have been chastened by public opprobrium resulting from a phone-hacking scandal that led to broad scrutiny by Parliament, the public and the police of the way the media operate.
The baby is expected to be known formally as the Prince of Cambridge. In the line of succession, he will be third after Charles, 64, and William, 31. Harry will be fourth.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Reaction to birth of a royal heir
“Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight. Members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news.” — Birth announcement from Kensington Palace
“Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child. We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings. — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama
“I'm delighted for the Duke and Duchess now (that) their son has been born. The whole country will celebrate. They'll make wonderful parents.” — British Prime Minister David Cameron
The arrival of “a future sovereign of Canada” is a “highly anticipated moment for Canadians given the special and warm relationship that we share with our Royal Family.” — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
— The Associated Press
Infographic: the royal baby and the line of succession