Kensington Palace announces Kate has gone into labour

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The countdown has begun to the birth of a new Prince or Princess for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton. The Duchess has gone into labour, Kensington Palace has announced.

A tweet from the Palace said: "The Duchess of Cambridge was admitted at 06.00hrs to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London and is in the early stages of labour.

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The Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning

"The Duchess travelled by car from Kensington Palace to the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital with the Duke of Cambridge."

The Palace added: "labour is progressing as normal" for the Duchess, who is thought to be several days overdue.

St. Mary's Hospital also released a statement via Twitter: "St Mary's Hospital has admitted Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge to its Lindo Wing. The [NHS] Trust is extremely proud that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen to have their baby at one of our hospitals. All our staff wish them well during this happy occasion."

The royal baby wait has been in overdrive for days with the news that Kate had passed her anticipated due date of "mid-to-late April". While the world awaited Kate's arrival at St Mary's Hospital, the Duchess continued to go about her normal day-to-day activities, and joined her husband Prince William to take Prince George for swimming lessons at Buckingham Palace.

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Kate was spotted earlier this week driving Prince George to his swimming lessons

William has already been on paternity leave for over a week, after completing initial training for his job as an East Anglian air ambulance pilot as of 21 April. He and his pregnant wife have been residing at their home in Kensington Palace for almost two weeks, following Kate's visit to her parents Carole and Michael at their home in Bucklebury, Berkshire.

The Middletons have been in a state of readiness since the weekend with Pippa and James back from trips abroad. Meanwhile, there is excitement too among the Windsors. Just a few days ago, Prince Charles revealed he is hoping the Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a baby girl this time.

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The royal fans have camped out for weeks

For two weeks now there has been a party atmosphere around the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital where the Duchess is giving birth attended by some of the same medical team that delivered Prince George. Union Jack-themed banners, hats and memorabilia have sprung up around the hospital where the most ardent super-fans have been keeping vigil at a respectful distance.

Many of them were there two years ago for the birth of the couple's bouncing boy and gathered in 2011 for their joyous wedding.

Earlier in the week William and Kate showed their appreciation to their loyal supporters by treating them to a delivery of cakes and pastries to let them know "they were thinking of them", however the news that Kate has gone into labour is sure to delight them even more.

One well-wisher Margaret Tyler told HELLO! Online that she was "very excited, over the moon" to be part of the latest special occasion for William and Kate. Asked about the baby's gender she said: "Everybody is hoping for a girl but I wouldn't be disappointed if it were a boy, we will fall in love just like we did with George."

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William and Kate will soon welcome a baby brother or sister for Prince George

As with the first pregnancy, the Cambridges have reportedly chosen not to find out the sex of their child. In fact, the future King told President Obama on his US tour that he was so excited about George's birth that he forgot to ask whether it was a boy or a girl.

And as with George's birth, the announcement of the new arrival will be posted on an easel outside Buckingham Palace.

While the young couple are following royal protocol in a number of aspects, they will buck tradition in another sense. They will not hire a second nanny to help with the new baby. Just as they did with George, they want to spend time bonding with their infant in the very early days.

"As new parents, the Duke and Duchess wish to enjoy being with their new baby and all that this entails," a royal source told HELLO!. "There are no plans to advertise for a nanny or a maternity nurse."

Of course, they will still have capable Norland-trained nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, who cares for George. But William and Kate will take on bulk of the baby duty when the newest member of the Cambridge family makes his or her debut.

After a brief stay at their London home, 1A Kensington Palace, the family is expected to spend some quiet time in Anmer Hall, their Norfolk residence. William, who is on a mix of paternity leave and unpaid leave, will not return to his job until June 1.