LONDON Queen Elizabeth joined the band of increasingly impatient royal baby watchers hoping Prince William and his wife Kate's first child arrives soon, saying she is due to go on holiday.
With the future heir to the British throne due any day, the queen, on a series of engagements in the Lake District in northern England, was asked if she would like her third great-grandchild to be a girl or a boy.
"I don't think I mind. I would very much like it to arrive. I'm going on holiday," she told children at the Wiggonby Church of England Primary School on Wednesday, dressed in a green suit and matching hat despite the summer heat.
Every summer the queen leaves London for her Scottish country estate, Balmoral. Her final public engagement before her holiday is next Tuesday.
Queen Elizabeth is the second senior royal this week to publicly express hopes of a imminent arrival for the baby who, regardless of sex, will be third in line to the throne after her son Prince Charles and his son Prince William.
Royal officials have remained vague about the due date of the baby so the world media's has been camped since July 1 outside St. Mary's Hospital in London where Kate is due to give birth, growing increasingly impatient with what has been dubbed the "Great Kate Wait".
Prince Charles's wife Camilla said earlier this week that everyone was "just waiting by the telephone" at the moment and she hoped the baby would arrive by the end of the week.
By tradition, the queen will be the first person to be informed when the baby is born, with a handwritten note taken from the hospital to Buckingham Palace.
A note will then be pinned outside the gates of the palace.
The waiting game has proven a boon for bookmakers offering odds on the date of the birth and for public relations companies pulling royal-related stunts to pique the interest of journalists in need of stories during the summer lull.
Former England football captain David Beckham made headlines this week when he jokingly suggested that the baby could be named David and one bookmaker was offering odds on him being named as a godfather to the royal heir.
A newspaper's website is even streaming live footage of the entrance to the private Lindo wing at the hospital, where Prince William, a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot, was born to the late Princess Diana 31 years ago.
The gender of the baby is said to be unknown as the couple, who married in April 2011 and are known officially as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, want a surprise.
But bookmakers expect a girl and have made Alexandra the favorite for the baby's name, followed by Charlotte, Diana and Elizabeth. George and James are hotly tipped if it is a boy.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)