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Kate's crowning achievement: A boy!

| Monday, July 22, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

LONDON — Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth on Monday to a boy, a much-anticipated royal baby descended from kings and coal miners and third in line to the British throne.

The royal heir was born at 4:24 p.m. London time and weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces, the royal family announced. There was no word on the baby's name, which is expected to be announced within days.

The official announcement said Prince William was present for the birth. It added: “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news.”

It said the duchess and her child “are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight.”

Britons awoke to the news that the royal formerly known as Kate Middleton was driven in a car to the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital near Paddington Station in West London, where the media have camped out for weeks in the hopes of getting a first glimpse of the littlest heir. Prince William rode with his wife to the hospital and remained by her side, a palace spokeswoman said.

Catherine was admitted during the early stages of labor just before 6 a.m., the spokeswoman said. She is in the same wing of the hospital where Diana, Princess of Wales, gave birth to Prince William 31 years ago after a 16-hour labor.

The attending physician was Marcus Setchell, Queen Elizabeth II's gynecologist, who reportedly put off retirement and went on a no-alcohol diet to prepare. While royal-watchers here endlessly debated whether Kate might be “too posh to push” and choose to have a Caesarian section, palace officials insisted that, barring complications, she wanted to avoid surgery.

Apparently concerned about being scooped by leaks on social media, the palace made a late change in the way it would notify the world of the birth.

Initially, an official announcement was to be sent by royal messenger to Buckingham Palace for posting at the gates. Instead, the palace sent out an electronic press release to disseminate the news “as quickly and simply as possible.”

But the pomp that greeted the birth was suitably traditional. A 41-gun salute in London's Green Park and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London hailed the arrival of a new heir to the throne.

Outside Buckingham Palace, a crowd shouted “Hip! Hip! Hooray!” and sang “For He's a Jolly Good Fellow” while waving Union Jack flags.

The outpouring of affection for the royal infant is a sign of how thoroughly Britain's royal family has rebuilt its image since the low point that followed the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997. Diana had been popular, glamorous and — in the eyes of many — badly treated by the royal “Firm.”

There was no immediate word on when the first photos of the bundle of joy would be released. The earliest public glimpse of Prince William was of him in the arms of his mother as she exited the hospital in June 1982.

Exactly how to manage a voracious world media may be the single most pressing issue for the young couple.

Some royal watchers expect William to be particularly protective, given his mother's death while being chased by paparazzi.

“This is going to be the hardest part for Prince William,” said Dickie Arbiter, former spokesman to the queen. “He still blames the press for the death of his mother, and he will be setting limits between the press and his child now.”

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