Happy royal news! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby.
The news that all of Britain has been waiting for — Will and Kate are pregnant! — is more than just a boon for the baby-mad media; it's a reassuring symbol of continuity for the monarchy and, by extension, the United Kingdom itself.
Girl or boy, it means a future sovereign for the British throne is on the way. It's only the second time in 1,000 years of English history that a reigning monarch, great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, would be alive at the same time as three generations of her future sovereign heirs. In effect, her already stable Windsor dynasty is bolstered again.
Nearly 20 months after their wedding, Prince William of Wales and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, are pregnant with their first child, the palace announced Monday, after the duchess was hospitalized with severe morning sickness.
The news was greeted with joy in the U.K., transforming stiff upper lips into broad smiles across the land, and especially among the media. The news of a thoroughly modern royal pregnancy spread in a thoroughly modern way: via Facebook accounts, TV screens in pubs and train stations, and news alerts sent to mobile phones. And Brits reacted with thoroughly modern sentiment.
"I did become quite excited," says Bev Isherwood, an assistant shop manager from North Yorkshire who was visiting London. "They seem like a very genuine and happy couple, and it just feels very right. ... I feel more happy for them as a couple than for the lineage going on."
BABY NAMES: No Apple or Hashtag for Duchess Kate
The Telegraph reported that the couple have known for about a month of the pregnancy but did not want to announce it until at least 12 weeks had elapsed, which has become customary even for non-royal couples. But that became moot after she was admitted to the hospital.
The baby, due next year, will be third in the line to the throne, now that Britain's antique rules of royal succession have been changed to allow a first-born girl to succeed even if she has younger brothers.
So this, the most eagerly awaited royal baby since William was born in 1982, will follow grandfather Prince Charles, 64 (first in line), father William, 30 (second in line), and great-grandmother Elizabeth, 86. Once the baby is born, William's younger brother, Prince Harry, will move to fourth in line.
The palace said the royal family was "delighted" by the news, setting off an avalanche of congratulatory messages and tweets. British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that the couple "will make wonderful parents."
Even President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama weighed in, congratulating the couple on "the welcome news" through spokesman Jay Carney in Washington.
"A ROYAL BABY AT LAST!," shouted the Express online headline, in one typical of the press reaction in the U.K. Indeed, the happiest people in Britain may have been the editors of tabloids and celebrity publications, who were jonesing for the return of the old days of all-royal-baby-all-the-time news.
Still to be decided is William's immediate job future. He is a helicopter pilot in the RAF, based in Wales, so his other job as a working royal is still a part-time job. But he has said he will decide by the end of this year whether to move to a full-time working royal, and the addition of a baby might be influential in whichever path he chooses.
For now, the palace said the duchess will remain in the hospital for a few days, and the next three public engagements on her schedule have been canceled.
Monday evening, William visited Kate at the London hospital where she is being treated. The King Edward VII hospital, which was founded by and named for one of his ancestors, has a long association with the royal family because of its discretion in treating most senior royals for a variety of ailments over the years.
The baby will almost certainly be born in London in a hospital, as William and Harry were (they were the first heirs to the throne to be born in a hospital instead of in one of the royal palaces). Although William and Kate live mostly in a rented farmhouse in Wales near his RAF base, they also have a cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace, and next year, they will move into a refurbished apartment in the palace itself.
Once the news broke Monday, the various websites maintained for members of the royal family, including Will and Kate, crashed. Next, baby-naming speculation commenced, especially via Twitter, which reported a 377% jump in the term "royal baby" over 24 hours.
But this baby will not be graced with a moniker such as Blue Ivy. The queen will have a major say in the name, which could include up to four names. Plus, the name will likely come from the small pool of English monarch names, such as Charles (two kings), William (four), Henry (eight), Victoria (one) and Elizabeth (two). Anne, Mary, Catherine (like her mother) and Margaret also are approved names for queens.
"This is a name that a thousand years from now, people will be looking up," says baby-naming expert Pam Satran, co-author of Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now. "It probably won't be Diana, but that may have a place among the middle names."
Paddy Power, one of Europe's largest betting companies, reported that Mary, Victoria and John were the joint 8-to-1 favorite baby names for bettors.
Staying maternity chic
The other topic of fevered speculation: What will Kate wear while she's pregnant? Amy Tara Koch, author of Bump It Up: Transform Your Pregnancy Into the Ultimate Style Statement, predicted, "Her style is very elegant and refined, so I see a lot of modified sheath dresses, a lot of beautiful capes and trapeze dresses, a lot of empire-waist things. It's an extension of her existing style."
And what if she's pregnant with twins? Acute morning sickness sometimes occurs with twins and triplets, but there is no recent history of multiples in the Middleton family, and no case of surviving twins born to an English monarch (although Scotland is another story). If it is twins, the first one born would be in line to the throne.
Speculation ran wild
Of course, it was not a total surprise that Kate might be with child. The British have been hoping for pregnancy news for months, obsessively examining the duchess' stomach every time she stepped out in public.
In her most recent engagement, on Friday, when she returned to her old school for a visit, she looked in robust health, even running across a hockey field in high-heeled boots. Also last week, she wore a tightly belted green silk dress to a museum opening. No baby bump in sight.
Still, the duchess behaved as if she were at least trying to improve her chances of getting pregnant. Several times at public events, she avoided drinking alcohol, toasting with water instead.
In November 2011, after the duchess refused to sample peanut paste during an appearance in Copenhagen, many leaped to the conclusion that she must be pregnant. Doctors advise pregnant women to stay away from peanuts to avoid dangerous allergies in their babies.
Then, in this week's issue, Life & Style (cover headline: "Yes, it's true!") quoted a woman claiming to be an old friend of Kate's, Jessica Hay, who confirmed the pregnancy, although there is some dispute about whether Hay is indeed a friend and in a position to know.
Interest in the baby is so high because bearing the next heir, and the sooner the better — she's 30 — is sort of Job No. 1 for the duchess. William's mother, the late Princess Diana, and his grandmother, then Princess Elizabeth, both had their first babies within a year of their weddings.
The reporters who cover the royals have been waiting for this news almost since the couple's April 2011 wedding.
Everybody loves a baby, but especially a royal baby who will be a future sovereign. It's no exaggeration to say that an heir to the throne means there will always be a Britain.
And besides all that, Will and Kate and their baby are good for business — they will sell many, many newspapers and celebrity magazines and garner a zillion clicks.
Contributing: Traci Watson and Donna Freydkin