William and Kate await new arrival
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are counting down the days to the arrival of their second child, with the royal baby due before the end of the month.
Kate went on maternity leave at the end of March, starting final preparations for the birth of Prince George's baby brother or sister.
The new prince or princess will be fourth in line to the throne but, unlike George, he or she is not expected to rule as sovereign. The baby will be the Queen's fifth great-grandchild.
Kate is returning to the exclusive, private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, after the successful delivery of her first born just under two years ago and her care will be led by Guy Thorpe-Beeston, who is surgeon-gynaecologist to the household.
This time the Duchess will be given 10% off the Lindo Wing's pricey fees as part of a loyalty discount to mothers who go back to have a second child.
Prices have increased since George was delivered and a suite of two rooms now costs £6,570 for a one-night stay with normal delivery - £5,913 with Kate's 10% off - plus consultant fees of around £6,000 on top. Prices are set to go up again in July.
William and Kate will be anxious to ensure there are no pictures of the Duchess heading in to the hospital in labour. M edia will not be allowed to gather in the press pens outside the Lindo Wing until after she has been admitted.
Kate will be hoping for a straightforward, natural birth - just as she had with George - and second labours are often much quicker than the first.
Last time the Duchess gave birth 10 and a half hours after being admitted to hospital, but this royal baby is likely to make an appearance even earlier.
Media interest in the royal birth is likely to be intense, but perhaps not as feverish as with George. The arrival of a royal baby is now much less of a novelty, the prince or princess is not a future monarch and the nation is also gearing up for the General Election on May 7.
The Duke and Duchess have thanked people for their "warm wishes" ahead of the birth.
"They know that people are excited Prince George will soon have a little brother or sister and it means a great deal to them that so many will be celebrating this important moment for their family," a source said.
Bookmakers will be waiting to see whether they have to pay out on the name, delivery date, hair colour and weight of the baby.
There is speculation the baby might arrive on the Queen's birthday on April 21 or even William and Kate's fourth wedding anniversary on April 29. Other reports suggest the due date could be April 25.
Favourite names thought to be in the running include Alice, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Victoria or Diana for a girl and James, Arthur, Charles and Philip for a boy.
In 2013, William and Kate returned briefly to Kensington Palace with their son, allowing the Queen to pay them a visit and meet her new great-grandson before the new family headed to the Middleton mansion near Bucklebury in Berkshire for several weeks to adjust to their new life.
This time, they will stay for a few days at Kensington Palace, where Kate is set to spend the last days of her pregnancy, before decamping to their new country bolthole, Anmer Hall on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
William has already started work with the company that runs the East Anglian Air Ambulance, but will take two weeks paternity leave before resuming training ahead of beginning to fly rescue missions in the summer.
He could face a two-hour dash by car to be at his wife's side during labour as he is currently working at three different locations around the country - Norwich, Cambridge and Staverton.
The couple have George's full-time, live-in nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo on hand. Sources dismissed speculation they will hire a maternity nurse for the challenging first weeks with their newborn or even a permanent second nanny.
Kate's pregnancy was announced by Kensington Palace on September 8 last year when she was thought to be just six weeks pregnant. The news was revealed early because, just like when pregnant with George, Kate was was suffering from extreme pregnancy sickness hyperemesis gravidarum.
The Duchess pulled out of a number of engagements and an overseas solo tour to Malta, but was back in the spotlight by the end of October, confessing at the Singapore state visit: "I've been looking forward to getting out of the house, that's for sure."
William has confessed he cannot wait for the baby to be born, describing George's arrival as a life changer, but adding: "number two is a game changer".
Kate has revealed the baby was kicking and moving all the time during official engagements, that she was struggling to get back up after bending down. She also said the baby was due in mid to late April and she did not know whether it was a boy or a girl.
If the baby is a girl, it will be the first time a great-granddaughter of a still-serving sovereign has been born in direct succession on the male line since 1897, when George VI's sister Princess Mary was born.
There has not been a Princess of Cambridge born for 182 years. The last was King George III's granddaughter Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge who was born in Hanover, Germany in 1833.
Grandfather the Prince of Wales has revealed his hopes for a granddaughter, while Prince Harry has joked he would love to see William cope with having a girl.
The new addition to the royal family will also be a big change for George, who turns two in July. He will become an older brother and have to share his parents' attention with the newborn, just as he nears the "terrible twos" phase.
Kate and William will have two children under the age of two. If the baby arrives on time, the age gap will be 21 months - exactly the same as between Charles and his younger sister the Princess Royal.
William and Harry were born 27 months apart, with Harry arriving in September 1984, when William was two years and three months old. Kate is just 20 months older than her sister Pippa Middleton.
The arrival of the Cambridges' second child will be announced in both conventional and contemporary ways.
After the birth announcement is emailed to the press, there will also be a celebratory tweet on the Kensington Palace Twitter feed - @KensingtonRoyal.
George became the first future British monarch to have news of their birth tweeted by a royal household, with @ClarenceHouse declaring "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm".
There will also be the age-old custom of placing a paper proclamation behind the iron railings of Buckingham Palace.
There will be less theatre around the transportation of the paper notice. Last time the couple's press secretary was filmed handing over the foolscap sized sheet, signed by the Duchess's doctors, in a smart red leather folder to a car to be taken to the Palace. The aim this time is for the delivery to be made more discreetly.