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Royalty

Postcard: 'The Great Kate Wait' is over, sort of!

The media have been camping outside the Lindo Wing in London for the last three weeks, engaged in the so called 'Great Kate Wait'. So what did Danish native Ellen Otzen make of the madness? This postcard from London.

You'd have to be living under a rock not to have realized that the future heir to the British throne was born on Monday. Congratulatory messages have been flooding in from around the world to mark the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son, the third in line to the throne. The arrival clearly comes as a relief to the international media, who have been camped outside the hospital where the future king was born, for over three weeks.

And so, on the hottest day of the year, for one glorious moment, the top story in almost every media outlet in Britain, and the world, was the same:  A prince is born.

The thundering inanity of no news

The Guardian, Britain's left-leaning newspaper, was liveblogging the "Great wait for Kate to dilate", as it was dubbed informally, much to the consternation of some of its republican readers and staff. They did install a "republican button" to filter out the thundering inanity of no news as Kate labored through the day, but even republicans might have been tempted to sneak back now and then for a quick update on the facts and figures of perhaps the most watched royal birth in history.

One Turkish correspondent reported being called back from his holiday, so important was the royal birth deemed to be in Turkey. The American news crews set up shop on July 1, and after three weeks, with so many journalists and so much summer air time to fill, every new detail had to be scrutinized.

Filling air time

"Duchess travelled by car from Kensington Palace to hospital with Prince William," read the strapline on Sky News.

By car? She didn't cycle then, or run? The same TV station's anchor Kay Burley, helpfully informed us that the birthing room "is air-conditioned."

As the wait for the new family's emergence from hospital, and the name to be announced, gathers pace, journalists have been filling their column inches with tales from the Lindo wing's "Mary Poppins style" advice for new mothers, (cabbage leaves in your bra, and half a glass of good red wine each night) and pictures of lit blue monuments throughout the Commonwealth celebrating the arrival of the boy.

Crowds of people try to look at a notice formally announcing the birth of a son to Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, placed in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, in central London July 22, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall )

Not much space for republicans in London at the moment

As the BBC's reporter Simon McCoy put it, "never have so many people gathered together in one place with absolutely nothing to say."

Are the British more royalist than other countries?

Some newsrooms were told that if Nelson Mandela were to die on the same day as the arrival of the royal baby, Baby Cambridge would remain the lead story. "It's the heir to the throne after all!" I heard one news editor proclaim.

Meanwhile, the crowds outside Buckingham Palace kept swelling. The vox pops on radio and TV grew more and more dubious:  "I think it will be a boy, I really do. Because, well, my first, he were a boy...," announced one woman.

In my native Denmark there was excitement when their second in line to the throne was born eight years ago, but it was nothing like this. Are the British simply more royalist than other nations? "No," says the Guardian's Zoe Williams, it's just that people are nosy parkers. "Waiting for this baby to come out has never had anything to do with its constitutional import, except to use its place in history as a cover for the unabashed prying," she writes.

In this age of Twitter, where Kate can sell newspapers, magazines and TV shows like they were hot cakes, and the rest of the nation is searching for a new industry to regenerate the economy, royal fever seems to be the only thing left to capitalize and put the "Great" back in to Britain.

'Bizarre theater'

Finally, at around 8.30 pm last night, it was over. In a throwback to Victorian times, the news of the baby's safe arrival was made by the age-old custom of placing a proclamation on an ornate easel behind the palace railings.

A notice formally announcing the birth of a son to Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is placed in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, in central London July 22, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall )

The new baby's birth announcement, a throwback to Victorian times

A town crier, dressed in traditional Elizabethan garb but apparently not employed by the royal family, announced the birth on the steps of the Lindo Wing where the royal baby had popped out a few hours earlier.

It was a bizarre theater.

Although, according to historian Tracy Borman, such a public birth is not a new phenomenon. In the past it was even worse, she says.  When the current monarch Queen Elizabeth was born, the Home Secretary had to be around for the birth - a tradition going back to the 17th century to make sure the baby had not been switched with an imposter at the last minute.

So Kate Middleton's got it easy compared to some.

Stuffed with hormones to face the waiting press

Pity is not normally an emotion you would have for the Duchess of Cambridge, who had all of 19 official engagements since the pregnancy was announced in December last year. But you can't help feeling a little bit sorry for her.

When she leaves the hospital with baby Cambridge, she will be riddled with hormones, her breasts about to explode and her stomach still loose and spongy from the pregnancy. And she will have to face inane questions from the world press and intense scrutiny over her appearance.

Employee Hayley Simmonds reacts as she celebrates the news that Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has given birth to a son, outside the British themed restaurant Tea & Sympathy in New York, July 22, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson )

Royalism or nosiness? Zoe Williams thinks the interest is because 'people are nosy parkers'

Of course she will answer politely. Although you could forgive her if she refused to suffer fools gladly and did a Prince Henrik.

The husband of the Danish Queen, when asked by a breathless TV reporter if he was excited that a new heir to the throne had been born, sourly replied: "What do you think?"

No quirks?

For that, perhaps, we will have to wait for Prince Philip, or Prince Charles, who, whilst expressing his delight at his new "grandfatherhood" is reportedly not keen on noisy children running around his home, and has chosen to continue his official visit to Yorkshire before going to meet the newest addition to the family.

I find myself wishing that Kate would show a more human side and get stroppy with reporters. That she would transcend what the novelist Hilary Mantel has described as "her perfect plastic smile" and show some personality.

But let's face it, that's unlikely to happen. I'm sure Kate is a great gal. But it does appear, as Mantel argues, that Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she is well-mannered and - unlike Lady Diana - has no quirks.

Perhaps she'll leave the quirks to the new-born third in line to the throne.

For now though, it seems the royal circus will be the story to fill the summer season for a good while yet. We've still got the first official photographs to look forward to, the christening, and then the first overseas trip, no doubt somewhere in the Commonwealth. Well cute baby news only goes so far to shoring up support for the monarchy, and as the children who share the Prince's birthday will quickly realize, he's got every chance of living, on average, 14 years longer than them, and inheriting far more untaxable wealth, of which they can only ever dream.

Ellen Otzen is a Danish journalist based in London.

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