Britain's #RoyalBaby blitzes social media

LONDON - Britain's royal baby spawned a social media frenzy on Monday, but one newspaper's website installed a "republican button" to let readers escape the wall-to-wall coverage.

The announcement that Prince William's wife Kate had gone into labour sent #RoyalBaby and similar tags trending on the microblogging site Twitter.

Among those tweeting was the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who as head of the Church of England is expected to baptise the royal infant.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Kate and the whole family on this enormously special day," Welby tweeted.

CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan tweeted: "Keep Calm...and Carry On. #Kate" and added, in a reference to England's Ashes cricket win on Sunday: "My money's on an Australian cricket birth - all out by tea." Former British deputy prime minister John Prescott of the centre-left Labour party joked: "Great to hear the Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour. Is she an affiliated member?" But it was not all royal baby joy.

The Guardian newspaper, long known for its left-leaning anti-monarchist stance, gave its website readers the option of making all royal baby stories disappear.

Its front page carried a button saying "Republican?" in purple lettering above the box containing the site's royal coverage.

Pressing it eliminates all mention of the baby - except on the breaking news feed, where the words "Royal Baby: Duchess of Cambridge admitted to hospital" continued to scroll relentlessly.

The republican version of the paper meanwhile carries a button saying "Royalist?" to opt back in.

There were also plenty of Twitter comments that were critical of both the British royals and of the global media's fascination with them.

The parody account "God" (@TheTweetOfGod), which has 868,000 followers, wrote: "Does anyone know where I can find a live blog for the imminent birth of one of the 15,000 children born today who will die of starvation?" One of the many parody royal baby accounts on Twitter (@RoyalBaby-NOT) meanwhile took aim at the monarchy for failing to reflect Britain's ethnic diversity.

"My mum has said if I'm a boy, I'll have a popular British boys name. I'm looking forward to be known as baby Mohammed," it said in a comment which was retweeted more than 300 times.

Mohammed, in its variant spellings, is one of the most popular name for newborn baby boys in Britain due to its large Muslim community.

Some 2.7 million people in England and Wales are Muslim, representing 4.8 per cent of the population, according to census data released in December.