By Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
LONDON (CNN) — Prince William’s wife, Catherine, plans to give birth to their first baby in the same hospital wing where her husband was born to Diana, Princess of Wales, almost 31 years ago, sources familiar with the plans said Wednesday.
The first details of the protocol surrounding the announcement of the birth were revealed as the Duchess of Cambridge enters the final weeks of her pregnancy.
The baby — which, regardless of gender, will be heir to the British throne — is expected to arrive in mid-July.
According to sources familiar with the plans, the birth will take place in the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London.
The first indication that the baby is on its way will be the announcement to the media that the Duchess of Cambridge has been admitted to the hospital in the early stages of labor, royal sources told CNN.
The next public announcement is expected to be that of the birth.
It will be made in the form of a formal bulletin, signed by medical staff and rushed in a car with a police escort to Buckingham Palace.
There, the notice will be placed on an easel on the palace forecourt, the royal sources said. This will be the first chance for the nation and those watching around the world to find out if the new baby is a boy or a girl.
William and Catherine don’t know the sex of their baby and want to keep the surprise until it’s born, the royal sources said. William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and other members of both families will be told of the birth before the public knows.
The next announcement will be that the Duchess of Cambridge and her baby are to be discharged from the hospital.
The royal couple will probably present their baby to the world on the same doorstep where a proud Diana and Prince Charles showed off William back in 1982.
It’s not yet been disclosed where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plan to spend the days and weeks following the birth, the royal sources said.
William, who will turn 31 on Friday, is expected to be given the usual paternity leave of two weeks by the Ministry of Defence, the royal sources said. He will then return to his job as a helicopter search and rescue pilot.
The revelation of the birth details may be cause for some anxiety, given the tragedy that followed Catherine’s hospitalization late last year for acute morning sickness.
In that instance, a prank call by an Australian radio station to nursing staff at King Edward VII’s Hospital, which sparked a media frenzy after details of Catherine’s care were revealed, resulted in a nurse’s suicide.
“We would appeal to all members of the media for an appropriate degree of sensitivity, dignity and privacy in their reporting,” a royal source said.
“With the events of the King Edward Hospital still strong in our memories, we would expect any media covering the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospitalization to ensure that the normal functions of the hospital are not impeded by any media presence.”
Champagne on ice?
According to the Lindo Wing website, it has been offering private obstetric and neonatal care for mothers and babies since 1937.
The private wing operates alongside the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which is part of the National Health Service.
“Over the years, we have gained an international reputation for clinical excellence in both obstetric and neonatal medicine which has made us the choice for thousands of mothers. But what really sets us apart is the discreet, traditional, individualised service we provide,” the Lindo Wing’s online brochure says.
According to the prices listed, a stay in the Lindo Wing doesn’t come cheap by comparison with National Health Service care, which is free at the point of delivery.
However, the mother can stay in a room with its own bath or private suite, with a range of facilities and services offered. Among them is “a comprehensive wine list should you wish to enjoy a glass of champagne and toast your baby’s arrival.”
The care package for the first 24 hours with a normal delivery starts at £4,965 ($7,777), with the price increasing for a larger room or suite, or if a forceps delivery or caesarean section is needed. An additional night’s stay costs £900 ($1,400) or more on top of that price.