London: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate on Tuesday thanked staff before leaving the hospital where their baby son was born.
As the couple stepped out of St Mary’s Hospital in London and into a waiting vehicle, the world finally got a glimpse of the future king.
"It's very special. He's got her looks, thankfully," Prince William said of his newborn son. He said the couple are still working on a name for the baby.
Prince William ushered his wife and baby in the back seat, and drove the car himself.
Palace officials said mother, father and the new third in line to the throne were “doing well”, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge praised the “tremendous care” they received at the hospital.
Congratulations have poured in from around the globe for the baby, a great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II who will one day reign over Britain and 15 other Commonwealth realms.
Officially at least the baby remains nameless, although the palace has said its names will be released “in due course”. George and James, traditional names that hark back to previous kings, have emerged as the favourites following feverish betting.
William said he and his wife, both 31, “couldn’t be happier” following the arrival of the healthy baby boy weighing eight pounds six ounces at 4.24pm on Monday.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the couple praised the staff at the hospital’s private Lindo Wing, where William was born to the late Princess Diana in 1982.
“We would like to thank the staff at the Lindo Wing and the whole hospital for the tremendous care the three of us have received,” Kate and William said.
“We know it has been a very busy period for the hospital and we would like to thank everyone - staff, patients and visitors - for their understanding during this time.”
Hordes of international journalists had been camped outside the hospital for weeks waiting for the baby, testament to the enduring appeal of the British monarchy and particularly the glamorous William and Kate.
William has taken two weeks’ paternity leave from his job as a Royal Air Force (RAF) search and rescue helicopter pilot.
Celebratory cannon fire salutes were due to ring out in nearby Green Park and the Tower of London, while Westminster Abbey was due to ring its bells for three hours.
At Buckingham Palace, crowds straining for a glimpse of the official birth announcement on a royal easel in the forecourt were treated to a special edition of Changing of the Guards on Tuesday morning.
The Queen’s Guards, resplendent in red tunics and bearskin hats, performed Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations”, to cheers from the well-wishers and tourists outside the gates.
The baby, titled His Royal Highness, Prince (name) of Cambridge, is directly in line to inherit the throne after Charles and his eldest son William.
The baby’s name remains a source of fascination. William’s name was not announced for a week, while the world had to wait one month after the birth of Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son and direct heir.
Kate had reportedly wished for a boy, telling a soldier at a St Patrick’s Day parade midway through her pregnancy in March: “I’d like to have a boy and William would like a girl.”
More than 25,300 tweets a minute were sent immediately after the news broke at about 8.30pm on Monday, Twitter said, while the hashtag #RoyalBaby was used 900,000 times in the first 24 hours after Kate went into labour.
The queen, 87, said she was “delighted” at the arrival of her third great-grandchild.
It is the first time since 1894 that three direct heirs to the throne have been alive at the same time, the last being when an elderly Queen Victoria was on the throne.
Visiting the northern English village of Bugthorpe with his wife on Tuesday, Charles, 64, was clearly excited by the arrival of his first grandchild.
He laughed when one well-wisher greeted him saying: “Morning, grandad”, and told one villager: “I’m thrilled and very excited.”
William and the former Kate Middleton are hugely popular and have been widely credited with revitalising “The Firm”, as the British royals are nicknamed, following decades of scandal and the death of Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the birth was “wonderful news” for Britain, a nuclear-armed United Nations Security Council permanent member and the world’s sixth biggest economy.
“It is an important moment in the life of our nation. A proud nation is celebrating with a very proud and happy couple,” Cameron said.
US President Barack Obama led the international messages of congratulations, which also poured in from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, France, Israel, Japan and Singapore.
Even Iran got in on the act, setting aside differences with Britain over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme to congratulate the queen and saying the birth was “a source of happiness”.