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In Britain, the stakeout is on as nation awaits newest royal

Britain awaits arrival of newest royal -- William and Kate's second will be fourth in line to the throne

"Is she here yet? Is she in labor?" a passerby asked the gaggle of reporters standing around the entrance to St. Mary's Hospital in London on a recent morning.

The small child hanging off the woman's arm looked up expectantly, her eyes revealing her excitement.

"No. Not yet. But soon," came the reply.

"She" is the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, who will soon give birth to her second child - a brother or sister for Prince George and a new royal baby for the world to fawn (or yawn) over.

The excitement, the anticipation and the hype have begun, and soon a highly choreographed birth plan will be put into action.

Although the arrival of this second baby for Prince William and his wife had passed with noticeably less furor, the all-too-familiar media circus began setting up camp around the hospital's private Lindo Wing as soon as signs restricting traffic were affixed to street posts last week.

They only cryptically said the parking disruption was due to a "special event," but no more explanation was needed.

Palace officials announced Catherine was pregnant on Sept. 8, and she has been more candid about her due date this time around, revealing the baby will probably arrive in "mid- to late-April."

The British media seem to be predicting April 25.

If the baby arrives a few days earlier, it could share a birthday with its great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 89 on the 21st.

If he or she is a few days late, it could be a fitting fourth wedding anniversary present for William and Kate, who tied the knot in Westminster Abbey on the 29th.

Bets are also already being wagered on the sex and the name.

Bookmakers and die-hard royalists seem fairly committed to the idea that it will be a baby girl, despite the fact that the couple themselves reportedly don’t know.

Alice is the odds-on favorite name, followed by Victoria and Elizabeth, with some bets being placed on Diana, a homage to William's late mother.

"It's a girl, it's a girl," royal fan John Loughrey, 60, sang outside the hospital when a foreign journalist asked him what he was hoping for.

He also offered an impromptu dance and was clad head to toe in red, white and blue.

Loughrey has been present at a plethora of royal milestones, including the birth of Prince George, the wedding of Catherine and William, and Princess Diana’s funeral, and began making a daily pilgrimage to the area on April 1 to ensure he did not miss any of the action.

“We are here because we love the royal family, we are their subjects,” he said. “The most important thing is that it’s a healthy baby.”

The arrival of this new royal will follow a similar protocol for Prince George's birth.

He or she will be delivered by a team of doctors led by Alan Farthing, the queen's surgeon-gynecologist, who has treated the royal family since 2008.

Catherine, 33, will be in the comfort of the Lindo Wing, which charges $7,800 for the first 24 hours of a delivery in a standard room, and about $1,500 for any additional nights, according to the hospital's website.

Costly consultant fees are additional, although Catherine will reportedly get a 10% "loyalty discount" on her bill for being a repeat customer.

Since carrying out her last official duties in March, Catherine has been staying close to her London home in Kensington Palace, but William, 32, recently started a job as an air ambulance pilot, so he could be up to two hours' drive from the hospital when he gets word that the contractions have begun.

News that Catherine is in labor will undoubtedly travel fast, but no one is expected to see the duchess enter the hospital.

Security has been amped up, and police were even spotted checking inside lampposts, trash cans and flower beds for any suspicious items.

When the baby has been delivered, senior royals and Catherine's family will be the first to find out. They include William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, who is on assignment with the Australian army.

The news will then be disseminated to the world via the palace's official Twitter account and in an emailed news release to journalists.

A more traditional paper announcement will be posted on a gilded easel outside Buckingham Palace soon after.

Once Catherine and the newborn are cleared to go home, they will step out into the street to face the world's media, which will broadcast the images around the world.

The new baby will follow Prince George in the royal line of succession. George is third in line to the throne, after his grandfather, Prince Charles, and father, William.

William and Catherine are expected to spend a few days at Kensington Palace before going to Anmer Hall, their 18th century Georgian country manor, on the queen’s Sandringham Estate to start enjoying life as a family of four.

Boyle is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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