World awaits birth of Royal baby

Media from around the world camped outside St Mary's Hospital in London since 1 July.

Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Members of Britain's royal family were anxiously "waiting by the telephone" for word of the imminent birth of Prince William and his wife Kate's first child, expected soon.

Photographers and TV crews from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and China, have been outside St Mary's Hospital in London since July 1 waiting for the couple's first child who, regardless of sex, will be third-in-line to the throne.

Royal officials have remained vague on the due date, only saying mid-July, but there was a noticeable rise in anticipation following remarks by Camilla, the wife of William's father and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles.

"Hopefully by this weekend, he or she will be here," Camilla said during an official visit in southwest England. "We are all just waiting by the telephone."

As the days of waiting for the new royal heir have rolled into weeks, rumors have sped around the Internet and via Twitter where an account has been set up for the Royal Fetus and the hashtag #GreatKateWait is widely used.

The waiting game has proved a boon for bookmakers offering odds on the date of the birth and for public relations companies pulling royal-related stunts to capture the interest of bored journalists looking to fill the time and publication pages.

One bookmaker sent four oversized toddlers with crowns to Buckingham Palace while US TV station NBC stuck a sweepstake on a wall by the hospital for bets on the arrival date.

On Tuesday, a photo of William and Kate lookalikes pushing a pram in a park splashed the front page of one British newspaper.

The gender of the baby, who will displace Prince Harry as third to the throne behind grandfather Charles and father William, is said to be unknown as the couple want to be surprised.

But bookmakers expect a girl and have made Alexandra the favorite for the baby's name, followed by Charlotte, Diana and Elizabeth. George and James are hotly tipped if it is a boy.

Prince William, a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot, is on standby to join Kate for the birth at the hospital where he was born to the late Princess Diana 31 years ago.

The baby will be future heir regardless of sex.

The birth will be announced in the traditional way with an envelope containing the baby's details taken from the hospital to Buckingham Palace, where the news will be posted outside.