Now there are three kings-in-waiting.
The royal baby has arrived, and it's a boy -- which means no women's rights-pioneering queen is in the offing and no test of the country's new succession laws that allow the oldest child to ascend to the throne even if she's a girl.
But who cares? The Duchess of Cambridge and her new son, as yet unnamed to the public, are healthy -- he's 8 pounds, 6 ounces -- and he won't have to be king for a long, long time, after his grandfather, the Prince of Wales, and his father, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. And the baby's great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, 87, shows no signs of flagging after a 61-year reign.
It's not known how the royal labor went -- reports were that the Duchess was aiming for a natural birth -- but "Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight," said a statement from the Royal Household.
The Queen, who received the news via encrypted phone at the palace, was "delighted with the news," as was "The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families."
"Wonderful baby. Beautiful baby," were the only four words uttered by Patrick O'Brien, one of the consulting obstetricians.
The Prince of Wales issued a statement saying he and his wife were "overjoyed" at the news, noting that "grandfatherhood is a unique period in anyone's life," and that he was "looking forward to being a grandfather for the first time."
After 12 hours of labor, with William by her side, Kate gave birth to the Prince of Cambridge -- his formal title -- at 11:24 a.m. Eastern Time (4:24 p.m. London time) in a private wing at St. Mary's Hospital in central London. But an official announcement didn't come until 3:24 p.m. -- 8:24 p.m. London time.
According to royal tradition, the news was to be announced via bulletin posted on an easel at Buckingham Palace's gate. But even as crowds gathered in the growing darkness, there were fears no one would be able to read it, so the royal family issued a press release instead.
Just how the Palace -- or the hospital -- was able to keep the baby's birth a secret for four hours is unknown, given the thousands of journalists and onlookers camped outside St. Mary's for as long as two weeks, while London sweltered under a heat wave. But a resounding cheer went up when the news began circulating, and the crowd started singing "Happy Birthday to You" under a full moon and record-breaking temperatures.
"There was a massive thunderclap over London at the very moment Kate went into labor," noted Tim Walker, a columnist for The Telegraph, who has been on royal baby duty. "Call it a portent. All I know is that if it is a boy, he ought to be called Prince Thor."
Ah, yes, the baby's name. Now the wait begins for that announcement, which may not come for a week, but it's one fraught with historic importance, royal watchers say, given that the child will inherit one of the oldest hereditary thrones in the world. Before the baby's gender was known, the favorite had been Alexandra, at 11-4, followed by George at 6-1, according to oddsmakers.
Others say William's father, Charles, and grandfather, Philip, may be included in the baby's full name -- which is always a long one -- although there's no word on whether Kate's father, Michael, will get in.
It's unlikely that the royal couple, both 31 and regarded as standard bearers for a new, modern, more relevant British monarchy, will go too far out on a limb and name the boy Harry, Jack or Oliver -- the three most popular boys' names in the U.K. in 2012.
At one point, Kate revealed that she and her husband had put together a shortlist, "but it's very difficult. My friends keep texting me names."
While the royal heir didn't make history by being a girl, his birth marks the first time in 120 years that three heirs to the throne are alive at the same time, noted Michael Ellis, a Conservative member of Parliament, during an interview on the BBC, noting that such factoids are testament "to the longevity of the monarchy ... and the magic."
The theater of monarchy plays on: Today there will be a 62-gun salute honoring the Prince of Cambridge from The Tower of London and a 42-gun salute in Royal Park. Then, presumably, the new parents will go home to their 20-room palace, currently under renovation, with their new baby -- but not before posing before the world's media on the steps of the hospital, just as William's parents did before him.
While this marks the end of the royal-pregnancy frenzy that has gripped the British monarchy groupies around the globe for the past nine months there's more to follow: The royal-name frenzy begins, and then the royal-baby official photo frenzy, and so on.
At least for those who care.
"I'm sure everyone in the U.K. wishes Kate and the baby well, but outside of the ranks of photographers at the hospital doors and the near hysteria in the press and on TV, I've seen and heard no evidence of much excitement or even great interest," said longtime BBC journalist Claire Bolderson. "People are more excited about the unusually hot and rain-free summer we're having."
After this, expect silence, since the Duke and Duchess appear determined to raise their children out of the spotlight, as normally as possible, and members of the media were declaring on television Monday that they wanted it, too.
"We don't want them in any way to think they can't live an ordinary, happy childhood," British commentator Eve Pollard told the BBC, who then speculated that it's likely that Kate will take the baby home to her parents for a few weeks.
"The Middletons are a strong family unit, and royal life hasn't diminished that bond," she added.
Certainly it's all been a boon to the economy -- some $360 million is expected to have been spent in royal baby memorabilia. And on Monday, the country's tourist office, VisitBritain.com, wasted no time in making the most of this latest royal happening with a news release announcing: "Baby Cambridge is born! Now's the time to visit family-friendly Britain."
Mackenzie Carpenter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1949. First Published July 22, 2013 11:45 AM