Kate and William thank hospital as world waits to see royal baby

Kate and William thank hospital as world waits to see royal baby

LONDON - Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate on Tuesday thanked staff at the hospital where their baby son was born, as the world waited for a name and hopefully a glimpse of the future king.

Palace officials said mother, father and the new third in line to the throne were "doing well", while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge praised the "tremendous care" they received at St Mary's Hospital in London.

The family were expected to leave the hospital either on Tuesday evening or on Wednesday -- at which point the international media will likely get the eagerly awaited first picture of the child.

Congratulations have poured in from around the globe for the baby, a great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II who will one day reign over Britain and 15 other Commonwealth realms.

"Mother, son and father are all doing well this morning," a spokesman for Kensington Palace said.

Officially at least the baby remains nameless, although the palace has said its names will be released "in due course". George and James, traditional names that hark back to previous kings, have emerged as the favourites following feverish betting

William said he and his wife, both 31, "couldn't be happier" following the arrival of the healthy baby boy weighing eight pounds six ounces (3.8 kilogrammes) at 4:24 pm (1524 GMT) on July 22.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the couple praised the staff at the hospital's private Lindo Wing, where William was born to the late Princess Diana in 1982.

"We would like to thank the staff at the Lindo Wing and the whole hospital for the tremendous care the three of us have received," Kate and William said.

"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."

Hordes of international journalists had been camped outside the hospital for weeks waiting for the baby, testament to the enduring appeal of the British monarchy and particularly the glamorous William and Kate.

Well-wishers gathered there on Tuesday hoping to see the new prince, although royal officials said they did not expect the couple and their baby to leave before 6pm (1700 GMT) -- and they could even stay another night.

William has taken two weeks' paternity leave from his job as a Royal Air Force (RAF) search and rescue helicopter pilot.

Celebratory cannon fire salutes were due to ring out in nearby Green Park and the Tower of London, while Westminster Abbey was due to ring its bells for three hours.

At Buckingham Palace, crowds straining for a glimpse of the official birth announcement on a royal easel in the forecourt were treated to a special edition of Changing of the Guards on Tuesday morning.

The Queen's Guards, resplendent in red tunics and bearskin hats, performed Cliff Richard's "Congratulations", to cheers from the well-wishers and tourists outside the gates.

The baby, titled His Royal Highness, Prince (name) of Cambridge, is directly in line to inherit the throne after Charles and his eldest son William.

The baby's name remains a source of fascination. William's name was not announced for a week, while the world had to wait one month after the birth of Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son and direct heir.

Kate had reportedly wished for a boy, telling a soldier at a St Patrick's Day parade midway through her pregnancy in March: "I'd like to have a boy and William would like a girl."

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