LONDON - The world's most famous baby prince met the world today, when Prince William and Duchess Kate left St. Mary's Hospital here with their infant, about 27 hours after he was born amid national celebrations and a media frenzy.
It was the first glimpse of the little prince, wrapped in a blanket, and the first of what are likely to be innumerable pictures to come throughout his life.
All that could be seen of him was the top of his head, which appeared reddish blond, and his tiny hands flexing in the evening light. Kate carried him out, then William took him in his arms.
The couple and the newborn emerged from the door of the hospital's Lindo Wing, where the media mob has been waiting since July 1, to overwhelming flashes of light from the cameras, shouts from reporters and cheers from a throng of onlookers who have been waiting for them all day.
"He has a good pair of lungs on him," William told the gathered crowd, barely audible above the noise of the crowd. "He's a big boy, he's heavy." The baby was 8 pounds, 6 ounces.
"It was very emotional, it is such a special time, any parent knows what this feeling is like," Kate added.
William noted that they are "still working on a name." He joked he would remind his son of his "tardiness" when he was older. Kate's due date was supposed to be mid-July, so he was probably about a week late.
The couple then went back inside, put the baby in a car seat, and re-emerged to load up a car; William was driving, Kate was in the back seat with the baby.
Both parents looked relaxed, happy, glowing, impeccable. "He's got her lips, thankfully," WIlliam joked.
Crowds that witnessed the spectacle were thrilled. "We saw William and Kate drive away in the car and it was rather magical," said Sarel Bernhardt, 46, from Austria, said.
Bernhardt was in London vacationing with his wife and two children and they decided to stop by St. Mary's Hospital to see if they could catch the action."They are a nice family, a traditional family and that 's what we like about them," he said.
"I think this whole thing has been great. It's something to be happy about, something that everyone can be happy about," said Christina Schweitzer, 22, a Canadian doctoral student at Cambridge University.
Earlier on Tuesday, both sets of grandparents visited, Carole and Michael Middleton first, followed by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
"He's absolutely beautiful," Carole Middleton said. "Marvelous!" said Charles.
Royal heirs - this one will be third in line to the throne and a future king - typically have at least three names and often four. He will be known as HRH Prince (name) of Cambridge, for his parents' titles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Leaving the hospital so soon came as a bit of a surprise. When William was born in the same hospital in June 1982, his name was not announced for nearly a week. But he and his parents, Prince Charles and his then-wife Princess Diana, left the hospital the day after his birth and posed on the steps of the hospital door with William in arms.
Kate's quick recovery and exit suggests she had the natural birth she had planned. Details about the birth have not been released, but if she started labor around 7 a.m., then her labor took a little over 10 hours.
William, 31, who is not a fan of the media and has long sought as much privacy as possible for his family, seemed cheerful as he spoke a few words to the army of journalists assembled outside the hospital, some of them since July 1, during a heatwave. He acknowledged the time the journalists had spent outside the hospital, promised a name for the baby soon, and suggested subtly that the new family would be left alone for at least a while.
On Monday after the birth, the British media quoted him as saying in a statement, "We could not be happier." Today, the couple issued another statement.
About four hours elapsed between the birth and when the palace announced it via a series of tweets and electronic press releases. The couple apparently used that time to spend some time alone with the baby, British media reported, and the news did not leak out of the hospital.
The palace did immediately say where the couple and the baby would go next. The options include returning to their small apartment at Kensington Palace, which lacks air-conditioning, or returning to the air-conditioned estate of Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, in rural Bucklebury about 50 miles outside London.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom got ready to celebrate with its characteristic pomp and pageantry today. Fountains ran with blue water; the lights atop iconic buildings blazed blue at night. A 62-gun salute from the Tower of London was planned today, along with a 41-gun salute from Green Park near Buckingham Palace.
Palace officials are expected today to announce more planned events, but street parties around the country and the Commonwealth are sure to be included.