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The announcement of the royal birth follows a pretty traditional formula. A royal aide will carry a medical bulletin, signed by doctors at the time of birth, from the hospital to Buckingham Palace by car, after which a proclamation posted on an easel in the Palace forecourt will reveal the baby’s sex and other details. But for the first time, William and Katherine’s baby will also greet the world via social media, with the Palace set to release simultaneous announcements through its website and official Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The baby’s great-great-great-grandfather George V was the first English monarch to drop their house name (the uncomfortably Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) in favour of an adopted surname – Windsor. Elizabeth II then added her husband’s adopted name Mountbatten, so her direct descendants officially have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. Princes William and Harry, meanwhile, use Wales as their surname in the military, after Charles’ title as Prince of Wales. Whether the new baby will adopt Mountbatten-Windsor, Wales, Cambridge or something else entirely is a cocktail-party debate a tad more interesting than boy or girl, if you’re into that sort of thing.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in 2011, David Cameron announced a proposed change to the royal succession laws that would replace male primogeniture with absolute primogeniture. Under the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, a first-born daughter will succeed to the crown ahead of any younger male siblings. In other words, if the royal baby is a girl, she will be the first to become Queen of England regardless of whether a boy is born further down the line.
But before the new law comes into effect in all sixteen Commonwealth countries in which the Queen is head of state, it must be ratified by the governments in those countries. And while all Prime Ministers have expressed their support, some countries, such as the federated states of Canada and Australia, have constitutions that are notoriously difficult to amend. So, in principle at least, a royal daughter could find herself first in line for the throne of England, but behind a younger brother where other countries are concerned. This leads us to a further unlikely scenario where the succession splits, and a Queen reigns in England while her younger brother ascends as King of Canada or Australia.
While everyone is speculating about whether the baby will be a boy or a girl, it’s worth considering that in the biologically impossible event that the royal baby turns out to be a foal, it would be the first recorded occurrence of a human being giving birth to a horse. Which would be pretty historic, royal or not.