Royal baby shown to world

Last updated 07:48 24/07/2013

Prince William said his son has "his mother's looks, thankfully" as he and Kate made their first public appearance with their son, Britain's new prince.

Britain's Prince William holds his baby son outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital before leaving with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in central London.
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Britain's Prince William holds his baby son outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital before leaving with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in central London.

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The world has caught its first glimpse of the royal baby, as Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge left hospital this morning to the cheers of a waiting crowd.

They adhered to tradition by giving the public the first sight of the baby on the steps of London's St Mary's Hospital as they left.

Kate was wearing a baby blue polka dot Jenny Packham dress, echoing the polka dot dress worn by Diana when she emerged from the same hospital with William after he was born.

Kate smiled and waved as she stepped out from the hospital doors with the future monarch in her arms.

She said she felt "very emotional," and passed the baby to her husband.

"It's such a special time. Any parent ... will know what this feeling is like," she said.

"He's got her looks, thankfully," William said. "He's got a good pair of lungs on him, that's for sure."

William added: "He's a big boy, he's quite heavy," and laughed when a reporter asked him about the baby's hair.

"He's got way more than me, thank God," he said.

Confirming the baby was overdue, William said: "I will remind him of his tardiness when he is older."

"We're still working on a name," he said.

The couple also revealed that William has had a go at changing the infant's first nappy. "He's very good at it," Kate said.

The couple re-entered the hospital to place the child in a car seat before re-emerging to get into a Range Rover.

William drove the couple away - palace officials said they will head to an apartment in Kensington Palace.

The couple would now have a "catch up" with the heir.

Crowds of journalists and onlookers camped outside London's St Mary's Hospital eagerly anticipated the baby's first public appearance.

The new parents and baby had spent their first full day as a family the hospital.

Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, were the first visitors to see the couple and their new child. Asked if she would reveal the name or had made any suggestions, Carole Middleton laughed and said: "Absolutely not."

"He's absolutely beautiful. They're both doing really well, we're so thrilled," she said of the baby and Kate.

Earlier, visiting his grandson for the first time, Prince Charles said the baby is "marvelous".

William thanked staff at St Mary's Hospital "for the tremendous care the three of us have received."

"We know it has been a very busy period for the hospital and we would like to thank everyone - staff, patients and visitors - for their understanding during this time," he said in a statement.

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The couple's Kensington Palace office said Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, had given birth to the 8 pound, 6 ounce (3.8 kilogram) baby boy at 4.24pm Monday local time, sparking celebratory lights, gun salutes and other tributes in Britain and abroad.

An impromptu party began outside Buckingham Palace and in front of the hospital's private Lindo Wing.

Tourists and well-wishers flocked to the palace, lining up outside the gates to take pictures of the golden easel on which, in keeping with royal tradition, the birth announcement was displayed.

"This was a great event - yet again our royal family is bringing everyone together," said 27-year-old David Wills, who took a three-kilometre detour on his run to work to pass the palace. "I kind of feel as though I am seeing part of history here today."

A band of scarlet-clad guardsman at the palace delighted onlookers with a rendition of the song "Congratulations."

Other celebrations today included gun salutes to honour the birth by royal artillery companies in Green Park, near the palace, and the Tower of London, and the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey.

Halfway around the world, royalist group Monarchy New Zealand said it had organised a national light show, with 40 buildings across the islands lit up in blue to commemorate the royal birth, including Sky Tower in Auckland, the airport in Christchurch, and Larnach Castle in Dunedin.

A similar lighting ceremony took place in Canada; Peace Tower and Parliament buildings in the capital, Ottawa, were bathed in blue light, as was CN Tower in Toronto.

The baby has already has a building dedicated to him.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said an enclosure at Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo would be named after the prince as part of a gift from Australia.

The Government would donate money on the young prince's behalf toward a research project at the zoo to save the endangered bilby, a rabbit-like marsupial whose numbers are dwindling in the wild.

British media joined in the celebration, with many newspapers printing souvenir editions.

"It's a Boy!" was splashed across many front pages, while Britain's top-selling The Sun newspaper temporarily changed its name to "The Son" in honour of the tiny monarch-in-waiting.

Beyond the newsstands, the birth of the royal baby was welcome news in a country where polls show the monarchy is as popular as any time in recent history. In the Yorkshire village of Bugthorpe - which Prince Charles was visiting as part of a tour through northern England - the baby was on everyone's lips.

"Morning Granddad," said local resident Robert Barrett, which drew a chuckle from the prince.

Back in London, there was a healthy interest in the baby's name, combined with a note of concern for his future.

"I hope the child is given the opportunity to have a normal childhood," said Julie Warren, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher waiting for her grandson outside one of the capital's subway stations.

The birth caps a resurgence in popularity for Britain's monarchy, whose members have evolved, over several decades of social and technological change, from distant figures to characters in a well-loved national soap opera.

The institution reached a popular nadir after the death of Diana in a car crash in 1997. Diana had been popular, glamorous and - in the eyes of many - badly treated by the royal "Firm."

But the dignified endurance of Queen Elizabeth II - now in her 62nd year on the throne - and the emergence of an attractive young generation that includes William, his soldier-socialite brother Prince Harry and the glamorous, middle-class Kate has been a breath of fresh air for the monarchy.

The baby, born to a prince and a commoner, looks set to help the institution thrive for another generation.

"I think this baby is hugely significant for the future of the monarchy," said Kate's biographer, Claudia Joseph. "It is the first future king for 350 years to have such an unusual family tree. Not since Queen Mary II has the offspring of a 'commoner' been an heir to the throne."

That view was echoed by Pippa Rowe, head teacher at the primary school in Kate's home village of Bucklebury, west of London.

"The children have been very excited about the birth - fizzing is the word I would use," she said. "It's all the talk in the playground.

"I think this will enable the children to have a real chance to connect with the monarchy. They learn about kings and queens but we are going to have a real live prince with one set of grandparents living down the road."

For some, though, it was all a bit much.

"It's a baby, nothing else," said Tom Ashton, a 42-year-old exterminator on his way to work. "It's not going to mean anything to my life."

- AP


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