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Traditions surrounding a British royal birth

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Prince William (R) and Kate Middleton announce their engagement, at St James???s Palace, in London, on November 16, 2010. William and Catherine may be modern parents but their child is set to be a future king or queen and certain traditions are expected following the birth of a new royal heir. (AFP/File)

William and Catherine may be modern parents but their child is set to be a future king or queen and certain traditions are expected following the birth of a new royal heir.

-- Once, the home secretary would have been expected to witness the birth to ensure the legitimacy of the heir. Fortunately for Catherine this tradition ended with the birth of Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, Princess Alexandra, in 1936.

-- William will not be the first royal father to attend the labour, after queen Victoria's husband Albert, her son king Edward VII, and William's father Prince Charles all witnessed their wives give birth.

-- Queen Elizabeth, senior royals and Catherine's parents, the Middletons, will be first to be informed of the news.

-- It will then be made public in the traditional way, with a proclamation signed by royal doctors displayed on an easel in the Buckingham Palace forecourt -- the same easel used to announce William's birth in 1982.

-- A press release will also be issued around the same time and the news posted on the monarchy's Twitter and Facebook feeds.

-- Cannons will be fired across London in celebration -- 62 shots from the Tower of London and 41 from Green Park -- and the Union Jack flag will be flown from government buildings across Britain.

-- All births in England and Wales, regardless of parentage, must be registered within 42 days of the birth at the hospital or a local register office.

-- Home Secretary Theresa May will notify the Lord Mayor of London, while the queen's private secretary informs governor generals in her other realms, such as Australia and Canada.

-- The baby's name may not be revealed for several days -- William's name was not announced for a week, while the world had to wait one month after his father Charles was born.

-- The new baby will be a prince or a princess of Cambridge, after William's title, and will enjoy the title of his or her royal highness (HRH).

-- The baby will be christened as a member of the Church of England -- which it is set to lead one day -- wearing a replica of the intricate lace and satin gown made for Queen Victoria's eldest daughter in 1841.

-- The original robe, which has a long skirt and elaborate collars and bow, was last used in 2004. To preserve it, a replica was commissioned from the queen's dresser Angela Kelly.

-- William was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace, with water from the River Jordan poured into the traditional silver Lily Font.

-- Royal babies usually have five or six godparents, people who agree to support the child particularly in their faith, and William's brother Prince Harry and Catherine's siblings James and Pippa Middleton are likely contenders.