LONDON // Prince William's wife Kate has given birth to a baby boy.
Officials said yesterday the baby was born at 4.24pm and weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces.
The infant will be third in line for the British throne after Prince Charles and Prince William.
Kate checked into a private wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London early yesterday morning.
William spent the long hours of labour at her bedside. This is the couple's first child.
It was a long wait. Outside St Mary's, the throngs of locals, tourists and journalists, sensing that days-long vigils anticipating a royal baby might finally reach a conclusion, waited for hours.
Labour was "progressing normally", the palace said, leaving royal commentators struggling to even report whether the baby was on time. No due date had ever been officially confirmed.
That did not stop the avalanche of coverage.
As one BBC correspondent put it, standing in front of a crowd of international journalists gathered outside the plush, private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital: "Never have so many gathered with so little to say."
On a scorching day in the British capital, which began the third week of a heatwave with the hottest day of the year so far, crowds also massed outside the gates of Buckingham Palace for the formal announcement of the royal birth.
Kensington Palace announced details of the birth in a press release, a departure from tradition in which the news is first posted up on an easel placed in the courtyard inside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The notice stated the baby's gender, height and weight. It did not include a name.
The public did not know the name of the baby's grandfather, Prince Charles, first in line to the throne, for a month after the Prince of Wales was born.
The notice used to be handwritten, but is now typed. In another nod to modernity, news of the birth was also announced on the British monarchy's website, Facebook page and via Twitter.
The size of the crowds and the huge global media presence have been seen by many as a testament to the enduring appeal of Britain's royal family.
The family's fortunes – from the lows of Queen Elizabeth II's so-called annus horribilis in 1992 and to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the baby's grandmother, in a car crash in Paris in 1997, to the highs of Kate Middleton's marriage to Prince William in 2011 and the queen's diamond jubilee last year – could be said to make up the world's favourite soap opera.
The royal family is enjoying a wave of popularity at home, where an opinion poll this month found that 77 per cent of Britons were in favour of remaining a monarchy rather then becoming a republic.
That percentage has only been bettered twice in the 20 years Ipsos/Mori has asked that question.
For the first time, the matter of succession was not contingent on the baby's gender.
A law change in April ensured that Kate and William's first child would succeed its father as British monarch, whether it was as king or queen.
* With agencies