IT is a media circus like no other, but the preparations next week for the arrival of the fifth in line to the throne will follow a template for modern royal births that can be traced back a generation, to a walkabout in Leeds.
It was at the end of March 1982, on a visit to a ward at St Gemma’s Hospice, that the date of the future Prince William’s birth was revealed, without ceremony and perhaps by accident, by his mother Princess Diana.
Her first child was due on her birthday, July 1, she told Edwin Wilson, to whom she was introduced. He said he “couldn’t believe his ears”, and was “pleased as punch” to be the first to hear the news for which the world had been waiting.
In the event, William arrived 10 days early. Diana was induced because she said she could not bear the pressure from the media any longer, and was later to claim that doctors had been made to find a date that was conducive to her husband’s polo commitments.
Charles’s recollection was different. “I really felt as though I’d shared deeply in the process of birth,” he said.
A due date for the current Royal pregnancy, the third for William’s wife Kate, has not been released but is expected to be during the second half of this month. Next Monday, crowd barriers will be erected and parking restrictions enforced in the street opposite the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London’s Paddington district, where Kate gave birth to Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
As before, she will have a team of more than 20 senior doctors and other staff working or on standby from Imperial College NHS Trust, which runs St Mary’s. The team will include consultant gynaecologist Alan Farthing, who was involved in helping to deliver Kate’s previous children and who was engaged to TV presenter Jill Dando at the time of her death in 1999.
The Cambridges do not know the gender of their third child, having opted not to ask.
A great-grandchild of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, he or she will bump Prince Harry out of the top five in the succession line and into sixth place. The Prince of Wales is first in line, followed by William, with Prince George third and Princess Charlotte fourth.
The birth will be announced in the traditional manner, with a bulletin notice pinned to an easel in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. However, in deference to the more immediate media of the 21st century, it will also be propagated on the official Kensington Palace Twitter and Instagram accounts.
A traditional christening will follow. With William a future head of the Church of England, the baby must be welcomed formally into the Christian faith.
Neighbours Aunt Meghan Markle and Uncle Prince Harry, who will live at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace, will be on hand to dote on the new arrival, who is also likely to have five godparents – the same number as Charlotte. George, a future king, has seven.
William and Kate’s primary residence is apartment 1A of Kensington Palace, the former home of the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret. They also have a 10-bedroom home, Anmer Hall, on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.