Kensington Palace released a surprise announcement that Duchess Kate and Prince William are expecting their third child. USA TODAY
Only a month ago, Duchess Kate of Cambridge was heard telling someone about having “more babies” and everyone thought she was just joking. She wasn’t, to the surprised delight of all on Monday.
Five days after the poignant 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, her son, Prince William, and the daughter-in-law she never met announced Diana would be a grandmother a third time, probably sometime in the spring after Kate turns 36 in January.
Here are some of the reasons why this matters:
The succession: The new baby, boy or girl, will alter the line to the throne. He or she becomes fifth behind sister Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, 2, brother Prince George of Cambridge, 4, father Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, 35, and grandfather Prince Charles, 68, the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son.
With George and Charlotte as their generation’s “heir and spare,” the new baby becomes another spare but in a new era of recent changes in succession law that make royal birth order more important than gender.
So if it’s another boy (royal fans are already speculating about names on Twitter), he will follow Charlotte, not jump ahead of her. And if it’s another girl, she would not lose her place to a younger brother who might follow.
Uncle Prince Harry, 32, moves down to sixth in line, while great-uncle Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, moves down to seventh. His daughters, Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, move down to eighth and ninth respectively, and the queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, moves to 10th.
The memory of Diana: No one would have been more thrilled about another baby than Diana, a woman described by her sons as a wonderful mum who had a special rapport with children. During these last weeks of commemoration, happy pictures of her with her sons were everywhere. People recalled she first came to public attention before her engagement to Prince Charles was announced in 1981 as a London nanny and, in a famous picture, as a nursery school aide clutching toddlers to her hips.
A new baby may have been coincidental but it was an apt reminder that life goes on, turning the page on a new chapter for the royal family and for the Cambridges in particular.
Following the queen’s lead: Will and Kate may be on their way to imitating his grandparents in family size, which would make them relative rarities as royal heirs since at least George V, who had six children.
The queen, 91, and Prince Philip, 96, have four children, but aside from them, no others in the close line of succession since her grandfather (he died in 1936) have had more than two children.
Prince George: The nation’s favorite 4-year-old starts his first day of school on Thursday. No doubt his mother would have been expected to accompany him a few miles from the palace across the Thames to Thomas’s Battersea, a well-regarded private school in an upper-middle-class neighborhood.
The Cambridges have already indicated they want low-key media coverage (meaning just a small pool of photographers) of the day —no repeat of the mob scenes when Will and Harry attended their first days at school with Diana back in the 1980s. But it’s not clear whether the news and Kate’s absence or presence will alter those hopes.
Prince Harry: He’s thrilled about the new baby. On Monday, during a visit to Manchester, he was asked about the new heir and told reporters, “Fantastic. Great. Very, very happy for them.”
Although he moves down further in the succession, Harry is still required by law to get the permission of the queen to marry (the 245-year-old law that required all royals to get the monarch’s permission changed in 2013 to include only the first six in line).
But the pressure is still relieved for the bachelor prince, who might be the next royal to announce an engagement: to his girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle, 36. The couple just returned from a romantic safari vacation in Africa, the same continent where Will and Kate got engaged in 2010.
Harry, who turns 33 on Sept. 15, will open his third Invictus Games for wounded warriors on Sept. 23, in Toronto, where Markle lives while filming Suits. Markle, who accompanied Harry to the wedding reception of Kate’s sister, Pippa Middleton, in May, is on the cover of Vanity Fair‘s October issue, saying in an interview she and Harry want to be left alone for now.
“We’re a couple. We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time,” she said. “This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.”
Prince Andrew: The new baby means the Duke of York, 57, no longer has to get the queen’s permission to remarry — even if he and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, get hitched again. The two are still close, sharing the same royal mansion for years even though they divorced in 1996, but they have always denied they plan to remarry.
The grandparents and great-grandparents: Everyone in both families was pleased, according to the Kensington Palace announcement. This will be the queen’s and Philip’s sixth great-grandchild. And it will be the third grandchild for Prince Charles and for the former Kate Middleton’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.
Why the announcement now?: The news was announced Monday because Kate is suffering from the acute morning sickness she had during her first two pregnancies, according to the palace statement. As a result, her scheduled visit Monday to a family mental health center in London had to be canceled at the last minute. British media, including The Telegraph and The Guardian, reported she is believed to be less than 12 weeks pregnant.
More Acute morning sickness explained: What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
She also didn’t make it Tuesday to a visit with Will and Harry to their charitable foundation’s new Support4Grenfell Community Hub in north Kensington, aimed at providing mental health resources for families from the Grenfell Tower public housing fire in which at least 80 people died in June.
Recovery in nice digs: The palace announcement said the duchess is under care for morning sickness at the Cambridges’ 20-room Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace, which is a far more spacious abode than tiny Nottingham Cottage where she spent time during her first pregnancy. (Harry now lives in Nottingham Cottage.)
Will and Kate and their children recently returned full-time to Kensington Palace, where Will and Harry grew up with Diana after her separation and divorce from Prince Charles. The Cambridges had been living at their country retreat in Norfolk, where Prince George attended a Montessori nursery school, and near where Will had a part-time job as a helicopter pilot for an air ambulance service. He’s now given that up to become a full-time member of the royal firm.