LONDON -- A beaming Prince William and his wife, Kate, emerged from a London hospital on Tuesday with their newborn baby boy, presenting the world with a first glimpse of the prince who is third in line to the British throne.
A smiling Kate, wearing a baby blue polka dot dress, carried the future monarch outside St. Mary’s Hospital in central London so that he could be photographed by the dozens of international press members waiting outside.
The photos are likely to be reprinted for decades as the baby grows into adulthood and his role as a future king. His name has not yet been announced; that’s expected in the next few days.
Kate, who said she felt “very emotional,” passed the baby to her husband, who appeared relaxed and joked with reporters.
“He’s got her looks, thankfully,” William said. “He’s got a good pair of lungs on him, that’s for sure.”
William added: “He’s a big boy, he’s quite heavy,” and laughed when a reporter asked him about the baby’s hair.
“He’s got way more than me, thank God,” he said.
The couple re-entered the hospital to place the child in a car seat before re-emerging to get into an SUV. William drove the couple away — palace officials said they will head from the hospital to an apartment in Kensington Palace.
The young family’s first public appearance together has been the moment that the world’s media and crowds of onlookers camped outside the hospital had long been waiting for. It recalls a similar appearance three decades ago, when Princess Diana and Prince Charles carried the newborn William out to pose for photographs on the same steps in 1982.
Earlier, grandparents Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and Michael and Carole Middleton — Kate’s parents — were the first relatives to visit the young family at the hospital.
Charles called the baby “marvelous,” while a beaming Carole Middleton described the infant as “absolutely beautiful.”
The couple’s Kensington Palace office said Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to the 8 pound, 6 ounce (3.8 kilogram) baby boy at 4:24 p.m. Monday.
The news was greeted with shrieks of joy and excited applause by hundreds of Britons and tourists gathered outside the hospital and Buckingham Palace.
Revelers staged impromptu parties at both locations, and large crowds crushed against the palace gates to try to catch a glimpse — and a photograph — of the golden easel placed there to formally announce the birth. Hundreds were still lining up outside the palace gates Tuesday to get near the ornate easel.
In London, gun salutes were fired, celebratory lights came on, and bells chimed at Westminster Abbey, where William and Kate wed in a lavish ceremony that drew millions of television viewers worldwide.
As the salutes and other tributes were unleashed in Britain and abroad, William thanked staff at St. Mary’s Hospital “for the tremendous care the three of us have received.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
Tourists and well-wishers flocked to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, lining up outside the gates to take pictures of the golden easel on which, in keeping with royal tradition, the birth announcement was displayed.
“This was a great event — yet again our royal family is bringing everyone together,” said 27-year-old David Wills, who took a two-mile detour on his run to work to pass the palace. “I kind of feel as though I am seeing part of history here today.”
A band of scarlet-clad guardsman at the palace delighted onlookers with a rendition of the song “Congratulations.”
Other celebrations Tuesday included gun salutes by royal artillery companies to honor the birth and the ringing of bells at London’s Westminster Abbey.
Halfway around the world, royalist group Monarchy New Zealand said it had organized a national light show, with 40 buildings across the islands lit up in blue to commemorate the royal birth, including Sky Tower in Auckland, the airport in Christchurch, and Larnach Castle in the South Island city of Dunedin. A similar lighting ceremony took place in Canada; Peace Tower and Parliament buildings in the capital, Ottawa, were bathed in blue light, as was CN Tower in Toronto.
The baby isn’t even a day old — and may not be named for days or even weeks — but he already has a building dedicated to him.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said an enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo would be named after the prince as part of a gift from Australia. The government would donate 10,000 Australian dollars ($9,300) on the young prince’s behalf toward a research project at the zoo to save the endangered bilby, a rabbit-like marsupial whose numbers are dwindling in the wild. The prince’s name — when known — will be added to the bilby enclosure.
British media joined in the celebration, with many newspapers coming out with souvenir editions.
“It’s a Boy!” was splashed across many front pages, while Britain’s top-selling The Sun newspaper temporarily changed its name to “The Son” in honor of the tiny monarch-in-waiting.
The Mirror, in an allusion to the fact that news of the baby’s birth first broke online, spoke of: “The Twitter of Tiny Feet.”
Beyond the newsstands, the birth of the royal baby brought welcome tidings in a country where polls show the monarchy is as popular as any time in recent history. Most Britons are thrilled to have a fresh royal heir, and in the Yorkshire village of Bugthorpe — which Prince Charles was visiting as part of a tour through northern England — the baby was on everyone’s lips.
“Morning Granddad,” said local resident Robert Barrett, which drew a chuckle from the prince.
Back in London, there was a healthy interest in the baby’s name, combined with a note of concern for his future.
“I hope the child is given the opportunity to have a normal childhood,” said Julie Warren, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher waiting for her grandson outside one of the capital’s subway station.
Others expressed less interest.
“It’s a baby, nothing else,” said Tom Ashton, a 42-year-old exterminator on his way to work. “It’s not going to mean anything to my life.”
The skeptics notwithstanding, new additions to the royal family typically set off a tug-of-war between the royal household and the media as the public clamors for news. The feverish media excitement ahead of Kate’s engagement to William led to a warning from Britain’s press watchdog, and the appetite for footage, pictures, and other details about the third-in-line to the British throne is likely to be similarly intense.
So far, it’s the palace which has largely set the pace of the wall-to-wall coverage, using social media to keep followers abreast of the news.
William, whose mother Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997 while being hounded by paparazzi, was likely to insist on a measure of privacy, former royal press secretary Charles Anson told the BBC.
On the other hand, he said that “people want more news about this royal baby.”
He said the palace would have to find some way to handle that, predicting “a bit of negotiation, a bit of arrangement with the media to get it right.”
In this image from video, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London Tuesday July 23 2013, carrying their new-born son, the Prince of Cambridge who was born Monday, into public view for the first time. The boy will be third in line to the British throne. (AP Photo/APTN)×
Royal supporters use Union flags to shelter from the rain as they await the departure of Britain's Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and the Prince of Cambridge, outside the entrance of the private Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital in London, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. It's Day One of parenting for Prince William and Kate. After the excitement and fatigue and joy of childbirth, emotions shared with a nation, the young couple is expected to bring the prince home Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)×
Tony Appleton, a town crier, announces the birth of the royal baby, outside St. Mary's Hospital exclusive Lindo Wing in London, Monday, July 22, 2013. Palace officials say Prince William's wife Kate has given birth to a baby boy. The baby was born at 4:24 p.m. and weighs 8 pounds 6 ounces. The infant will become third in line for the British throne after Prince Charles and William. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)×
Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for photographers outside St. Mary's Hospital exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. The Royal couple are expected to head to Londonís Kensington Palace from the hospital with their newly born son, the third in line to the British throne. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)×
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holds the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for photographers outside St. Mary's Hospital exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. The Royal couple are expected to head to Londonís Kensington Palace from the hospital with their newly born son, the third in line to the British throne. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)×
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holds the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as she poses for photographers outside St. Mary's Hospital exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. The Royal couple are expected to head to Londonís Kensington Palace from the hospital with their newly born son, the third in line to the British throne. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)×