Crowds, cakes, cocktails: UK prepares to greet royal baby
With the countdown to the royal baby’s arrival under way, fans of Prince William and Duchess Kate are already planning champagne-filled celebrations.
“There will be a lot of excitement,” said royal biographer Ingrid Seward. “People will go to the pubs and raise a toast,” she said.
Unlike the royal wedding, there is no exact date to plan around – the baby’s due date is reportedly mid-July, but some speculate that date may have been used to throw off the media and that the birth is actually expected to take place a week or more beforehand. Meanwhile, betting agents have odds on July 17.
“We just don’t know when this child will be born so it will be all very last minute,” said Seward, who is editor of Majesty magazine and has a book titled “A Century of Royal Children” coming out shortly after the birth.
A new heir
Palace officials have disclosed that Kate will give birth at St. Mary’s hospital, the same hospital where Princes’ William and Harry were born. During William’s 1982 birth, the media described a “carnival atmosphere” as fans gathered outside the hospital.
After the news has been shared with Queen Elizabeth and the Middleton family, a birth announcement written on official Buckingham Palace letterhead will be driven to the palace gates and placed on the same easel used to announce William’s birth 31 years ago.
“There will be big crowds and a lot of press outside Buckingham Palace,” said Seward.
The country will then know if a prince or princess has been born. However, the baby will be heir to the throne (third in line after Prince Charles and Prince William) regardless of its sex. The U.K. changed its rights of succession, ending centuries of male primogeniture.
“It won’t matter remotely if it’s a boy or a girl like it mattered to (Princess) Diana to produce a boy,” said royal biographer Seward.
Prince William might make a short statement on the steps of the hospital after the news has been dispersed. Fans will also be hoping to get a glimpse of the new royal when the proud parents leave St. Mary’s just as Prince Charles and Princess Diana showed off newborn William.
A 41-gun salute is also expected as “it is traditional with a royal birth that is so close to the throne,” Seward said.
Jubilant street parties are usually held to mark big occasions in Britain, but the royal biographer said it would be impossible for people to get the permission needed to close down streets at the last minute.
For this royal arrival, Britons are forecast to spend £62 million ($95 million) on alcohol and £25 million ($38 million) on food for parties, according to the U.K. Centre for Retail Research.
Although street parties are out, government resource web site The Street Party recommends hosting “a last minute informal street meet without permissions.”
One venue that is already planning a big celebration is Café Diana, a little restaurant the royal baby’s late grandmother used to dine at near Kensington Palace. Since Diana's death, the café has become a gathering place for her admirers from across the globe.
“We will have a lot of people coming; most of them are fans of Princess Diana,” said restaurant manager Fouad Fattah.
“When Prince William got married, everyone ate food and cake, got drunk, and stayed until two or three in the morning; I think they were happier than him!” he said.
In addition to the many photographs of Princess Diana and the princes already adorning the café, Fattah said they would be putting up pictures of the 2011 royal wedding and of Kate pregnant. A special cake and drinks menu will be available as well.
Although few restaurants have disclosed their plans, royal biographer Seward said they will surely throw parties and cash in on the excitement.
“If I were a pub or a restaurant, I would make a big fuss about it as it’s a great chance to eat, drink and make merry,” she said.
When Prince William was born, even British Airways served a special cocktail on its flights.
High teas and exhibitions
Visitors to London are also being encouraged to celebrate with English high teas, spicy delicacies, and special exhibitions dedicated in honor of the new heir.
St. James’s Hotel is offering a “royal baby shower"-themed afternoon tea as well as spa packages for pregnant women. Also in London, two specially designed caramel crown cakes – one decorated in blue icing for a prince and another in pink icing for a princess – will take center stage in the decadent tea room of The Balcon restaurant.
At Cinnamon Club, chefs have created a "royal labour of love" menu. The innovative Indian cuisine is divided into four tongue-in-cheek dishes to mimic the stages of pregnancy: expecting, 9 months, overdue, and special delivery.
Meanwhile, a new exhibition of royal baby memorabilia – featuring items worn by Queen Victoria’s children, including Edward VII, Charles I, and George III – is opening at the Museum of London.
Rarely-seen photographs of British royal children will also be on display at the Athenaeum Hotel. The “Royal Child” exhibit will feature images from Victorian times to the present day.
For those who would like a keepsake of the special day, royal baby gear – bibs, burp cloths, mugs and much more – will be on sale all over London.
If you just can’t wait for the birth to celebrate, royal baby showers are the latest fashion.
After it was reported that Pippa Middleton might be throwing an American-style shower for her royal sister, parties and charity events in honor of the unborn heir have sprung up in the U.K., and as far away as Carefree, Arizona, and Calgary, Canada.
With such international appeal, it is likely that royal family fans across the pond will be raising a glass when the baby’s born too.
If the future prince or princess should arrive between July 11 and 14, the birth will coincide with the Queen’s Coronation Festival – a four-day celebration to mark 60 years since Queen Elizabeth was crowned. Those already enjoying the festivities would no doubt be overjoyed to welcome the monarch’s first great-grandchild into the world on Buckingham Palace grounds.
For anyone who misses out on a birthday party, the baby’s reported christening – full of pomp, circumstance, and water from the River Jordan – will be the next cause for a royal celebration.