London: Prince William’s wife Catherine was admitted to hospital Monday in the early stages of labour, Kensington Palace said, as the world awaited the birth of a baby third in line to inherit the British throne.
The couple, both 31, were driven the short distance from the palace to the private Lindo wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, central London, arriving at around 6:00am (0500 GMT).
The baby will inherit the throne after Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son Prince Charles and his eldest son William.
“Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has been admitted this morning to St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London in the early stages of labour,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
“Things are progressing as normal,” a spokesman added.
The sex of the baby will remain a mystery until it is born.
If it is a girl, then new succession laws being brought in across the 16 Commonwealth realms would mean that it could no longer be overtaken by any future younger brothers.
The new arrival will be the monarch’s third great-grandchild, and a first grandchild for Charles.
Kate is hoping to give birth by natural delivery.
The duchess is being tended by a top medical team led by the queen’s former gynaecologist Marcus Setchell, assisted by his successor Alan Farthing.
The world’s press have been camped outside St Mary’s for the past three weeks in anticipation of the birth.
There was a strong police presence around the hospital and two police officers guarded the entrance to the private wing.
According to the palace, the next statement will be issued when the baby is born.
The duchess made her final public appearance before giving birth on June 15, attending the queen’s official birthday celebrations.
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth said the royal family were unlikely to visit once the new addition arrives.
“I was here 31 years ago when William was born so we have come full circle,” he said.
“The family will be waiting like any other family for news of the baby.
“The queen will be the first to be informed because William will telephone her as soon as something happens.
“William be at Kate’s side comforting her. He will be as concerned as she is. She is going through the agony and he is sharing it.
“It is a new experience for every father and parent; he can be told about what details are like but she’s experiencing it.
“The Middletons might come down but the royals won’t because it demands another level of security and the last thing they’ll want is to disrupt the hospital.”
William and Kate live in a cottage at Kensington Palace when in London.
Otherwise they are based on the rural island of Anglesey in northwest Wales, where William works as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot.
The only other member of their household so far is Kate’s dog Lupo, bought last year to keep her company when William was posted to the Falkland Islands.
There has been a betting frenzy on the name of the royal baby, with Alexandra topping several bookmakers’ lists.
Other names among those with the shortest odds are Charlotte, Diana, Elizabeth and Victoria, with George and James picked by those who think the new baby will be a boy.