LONDON From live TV coverage of a hospital door to a gaggle of royal baby experts, the world's media was in a frenzy on Monday over the arrival of the future heir to the British throne, offering moment-by-moment coverage if very little actual news.
For three weeks photographers from across the globe have been camped outside St. Mary's Hospital in west London waiting for the arrival of Prince William and his wife Kate's first child, who will be third in line to the throne.
As Kate, 31, headed to hospital around dawn on Monday, TV stations and news websites from the United States to Australia pulled out articles and picture galleries about every possible aspect of the royal baby from name to gender to lineage.
Arianne Chernock, an expert on the history of monarchy at Boston University, said royal births had always attracted a lot of attention. Prince William's birth in 1982 is one of the top 10 highest People magazine cover stories.
"What is different this time is that the media has been transformed in the past decade and the existence of operations like Twitter has magnified this tendency for curiosity," she told Reuters.
The lead-up to the birth, dubbed the "Great Kate Wait", has produced reams of stories on every aspect of the royal event of the year. Newspapers ran advice to Kate to speed up the arrival with a hot curry or nipple stimulation.
Several British newspaper websites were running live coverage of the main door to the private Lindo wing where Kate was admitted to give birth, with William at her side.
However the photographers missed Kate arriving before 0500 GMT (1:00 a.m. EDT) on Monday as the couple used an unmarked car and side door.
Prince William, 31, is known to value his privacy and that of his wife Kate after the way the paparazzi hounded his mother Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
"Unbelievable. I've stayed here, I've been camping here for 13 days. I've been on the night shift. There was no indication that it was happening," said Ki Price, a frustrated freelance German photographer camped outside the hospital.
Mark Stewart, a photographer specializing in royals, said the amount of media interest in the couple was extraordinary.
"This really is one of the biggest turnouts I have seen at a royal event with media from all over the world. It just shows what a global phenomenon they have become," he told Reuters.
International TV crews from around the world were broadcasting regular, breathless updates as temperatures in London hit their hottest for the year at 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit), Britain's most prolonged heatwave in seven years.
With no update forthcoming, a handful of union flag-bedecked, royal fans camped outside the hospital were happily giving interviews to TV crews from China to Australia.
"I'm proud to be British and I would just like to say God bless the royal family and particularly now, Katherine," said John Loughrey, 58, a former chef, decked out in Union Jacks.
A Reuters reporter who took his wife for a checkup at the hospital said nurses were complaining that the media had taken all the disabled people's parking spaces and that the hospital cafe was packed out.
People magazine ran a fake baby's first photo shoot with Prince William, Kate and Queen Elizabeth lookalikes passing a baby between them.
Even Britain's left-leaning Guardian newspaper was running a list of articles about the royal birth, although it did give readers an option to press a "republican" button at the top of its home page to filters out news about the royal baby.
"I just had to come back, having tried out the 'republican' button, to offer my thanks. How bloody marvelous of you. I hope it lasts forever," one Guardian reader posted on the website.
(Additional reporting by Li-mei Hoang and Hugh Lawson, Editing by Angus MacSwan)