LONDON -- Champagne bottles popped and shouts of "Hip! Hip! Hooray!" erupted at Buckingham Palace Monday as Britain welcomed the birth of a boy to Prince William and his wife Kate.
Hundreds of Britons and tourists broke into song and dance outside the palace as officials announced the boy, who is third in line to the British throne, was born at 4:24 p.m., weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces, at London's St. Mary's Hospital -- the same place where William and his brother Harry were born three decades ago.
The imminent arrival of the royal baby was the subject of speculation on social media and was covered for days on live television around the world, but in the end, the Royal Family managed to keep it remarkably private.
In line with tradition, a terse statement announced only the time of birth, the infant's gender and that mother and child were doing well. It gave no information about the baby's name, and officials would say only a name would be announced "in due course."
"Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight," it said. William also issued a statement, saying "we could not be happier."
Officials said William, who was by his wife's side during the birth, would also spend the night in the hospital.
His aides had talked about preserving Kate's "dignity" throughout the pregnancy, and the way the birth was handled showed the palace's impressive stagecraft could give the royals a bubble of privacy even in the age of Twitter and 24-hour news broadcasts.
Just before 6 a.m., the 31-year-old Duchess of Cambridge entered the hospital through a side door, avoiding the mass of journalists camped outside. Officials did not announce she was hospitalized until more than an hour later.
Later, the birth went unannounced for nearly four hours, allowing the royal couple the private time they needed to act like a regular family -- a goal 31-year-old William has cherished.
He was able to tell his father, Prince Charles, and grandmother, the Queen, about the birth and enjoy his wife's company without having to cope with the overwhelming media and public desire for information.
By nightfall, the public still knew very few details, but most people seemed satisfied with the day's events. London's landmarks, including the London Eye, lit up in the national colours of red, white and blue, and the city had a party atmosphere unmatched since last summer's Olympics.
Outside the hospital, a man dressed as a town crier in traditional robes and an extravagant feathered hat shouted the news and rang a bell.
A car carrying the announcement drove from the hospital to the palace, where the news was greeted with shrieks of "It's a boy!" and strains of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. A crowd rushed against the palace fence to catch a glimpse of an ornate, gilded easel displaying a small bulletin formally announcing the news.
The framed sheet of paper became the target of a thousand camera flashes as people thrust their smartphones through the railings. Hours after the initial announcement, crowds were still surging forward to get near the easel. Some placed presents and bouquets in front of the palace, while others waved Union Jack flags.
"It's a crazy atmosphere. Everyone is getting very excited," said Andrew Aitchison. "It's great to be part of history, to say we were here and saw it all happen."
Charles and his wife, Camilla, spoke of their joy and pride in becoming grandparents for the first time.
"It is an incredibly special moment for William and Catherine and we are so thrilled for them on the birth of their baby boy," Prince Charles said in a statement. "Grandparenthood is a unique moment in anyone's life, as countless kind people have told me in recent months, so I am enormously proud and happy to be a grandfather for the first time, and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing the baby in the near future."
It could be some time before the baby's name is made public. When William was born, a week passed before his name was announced. Charles's name remained a mystery for a month.
William and Kate's son is third in line to the throne behind Charles and William. The baby's gender had been of interest because the prospect of Kate's pregnancy prompted a change in laws of succession to ensure a daughter would not be passed over for the crown by a younger brother.
No one can tell what political and personal changes the intervening years will bring, but the baby can be expected to become the head of state of 16 countries, including Britain, Canada and Australia.
In Canada, news of the birth was greeted with a flurry of congratulations. Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed the arrival of "a future sovereign of Canada."
Cian Horrobin, a spokesman for the Monarchist League, said the birth marks the beginning of a lifelong relationship for Canadians with "this boy who will one day be our king."
The royal couple and their newborn are expected to spend much of their time in the coming years in renovated quarters at Kensington Palace.
-- The Associated Press