In an era of 24-hour news channels, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, there's one announcement that won't be made electronically this summer: the birth of the royal baby.
When the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, delivers her baby next month in London's St. Mary's Hospital, the birth will be announced by the long-standing tradition of placing a public notice outside Buckingham Palace. Shortly after the child is born, medical staff will sign a bulletin that will be driven to the palace, according to royal sources. The note will be shown to the Queen and then placed on an easel outside for public viewing. A formal birth certificate, issued by the City of Westminster, will be released later.
"We could tweet this at the moment it happened," said a palace source. "But on an occasion like this, it's quite nice to adhere to some of the precedents and a degree of theatre."
Britain is already in high gear for the royal baby, which is due mid-July. For months, London newspapers have been filled with photos of the Duchess in varying stages of pregnancy, and there has been a constant stream of speculation about her health and whether she might use novel techniques such as hypnosis to ease the pain of childbirth.
Kate made her last public appearance on Saturday to commemorate the Queen's birthday and likely won't be seen again publicly until she leaves the hospital with her child, who will be third in line to the throne regardless of gender.
Now the palace, hospital and government are in full preparation mode for the birth, which is expected to draw hundreds of media outlets from around the world. Officials are also mindful of what happened the last time Kate was admitted to hospital, in December, for acute morning sickness. A nurse died by suicide after falling for a prank by a pair of Australian radio DJs who called and impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles.
"We would appeal to all members of the media for the appropriate degree of sensitivity and courtesy in their reporting," a palace spokesman said Wednesday.
Kate is having her baby in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's, a private venue where Diana, Princess of Wales, had her sons – Prince William, in 1982, and Prince Harry, in 1984. Deliveries cost about $7,000 at the facility, and sources indicated Kate's care will be covered privately.
A handful of people, including the Queen and the Prime Minister, will be notified prior to the birth notice being posted, sources said. The British government will also notify the governors-general of all the Commonwealth countries. The baby is expected to be baptized a couple of months after the birth.
William will take a two-week maternity leave from his posting with the Royal Air Force, where he works with search-and-rescue crews at a base in Wales. He will then return to his duties, although his three-year tour is coming to an end in September. A decision on his future has yet to be made.
Palace officials have kept mum on possible names for the child, who will carry the title Prince or Princess of Cambridge. Sources have also indicated that the couple do not know the baby's gender. William's name was not announced for several days after his birth, although the name of his brother was announced within hours.
It's unclear where the couple will stay immediately after Kate leaves the hospital, but they are expected to continue living at Kensington Palace.