LONDON, UK — It could happen any second. It could be happening right now. And until it does happen, there will be no break from the frantic speculation of a press expectantly waiting for the newest monarch-to-be.
The royal baby is almost here!
Catherine Middleton and Prince William’s first child, which will be third-in-line to the British throne, is due in mid-July. Very few other details have been released since the December announcement of Middleton’s pregnancy.
That hasn’t stopped the British media from filling the vacuum with breathless reporting on every shard of information that can be collected about the forthcoming birth.
BBC television cameras have lovingly panned the exterior of the hospital where the baby will be born (St. Mary’s Hospital in London, also William’s birthplace) and the royal gynecologist who will attend the delivery. Yes, there is a royal gynecologist. The current postholder, Alan Farthing, has looked after the queen’s lady business since 2008.
On Monday, the revelation that four parking spots in front of the hospital have been reserved for the month of July, ostensibly for the royal entourage, was breaking news.
“The suspension period beginning today only highlights the reality the future monarch could be born at any time,” Sky News royal correspondent Paul Harrison reported. Indeed.
As with previous royal births, the official birth announcement will be passed through a hospital door and couriered to Buckingham Palace, where it will go on display on an easel just inside the gates.
At bookmaker Ladbrokes, royalist gamblers can place bets on the baby’s name (“Alexandra” is leading with 4 to 1 odds), gender, date of birth, time of birth, weight and hair color, and on the magazine most likely to secure the rights to the first official photograph (royal-friendly OK! is the current favorite).
Lucky betters aren’t the only ones who stand to make a pound or two from the future monarch’s birth. Between parties and souvenirs, the royal baby is expected to boost British retail sales by $370 million in July and August, according to the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham.
On Monday, no royal baby tat had yet reached the shelves of the souvenir shops on Oxford Street, London’s main retail thoroughfare.
As soon as the sprog’s name and official photo is out, shopkeepers said, their suppliers will begin importing commemorative mugs, plates and other souvenirs, most of which are made in China. Paparazzi shots won’t count: UK law prohibits sales of items with unauthorized photographs of the royal family.
At the souvenir shop Solo, a clerk named Noor gestured to a shelf still crammed with mugs celebrating the royal wedding in 2011 and the queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year.
Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Noor said the royals were good for his line of work.
“The most-selling ones are the royal family. Could be mug, could be pen, anything,” he said. “They bring more people into the country. It’s good.”
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Not everyone feels that way. Republic, a pressure group lobbying for the monarchy’s abolition, has launched its Born Equal campaign in advance of the birth to persuade the public to re-evaluate its support.
“The arrival of a new prince or princess highlights the unfairness of the hereditary principle — for the millions of children told they’ll never be good enough and for the baby whose life has been predetermined,” the group said on its website.
“The absurd media speculation ignores these serious questions while showing us the kind of intrusion the royal baby can expect for the rest of its life.”