THE wildfire pregnancy rumour mill has finally come to a halt. As Buckingham Palace made the official announcement on behalf of Prince William and Kate Middleton, that they are expecting a baby, the gossip mill quickly switched gears into a frenzy that will no doubt out-tweet and out-blog its former obsession.
Royal 'Bump Watch' has been persistent throughout 2012, and intensified in September when Kate debuted an all-new wardrobe before and during her official tour of South East Asia and the Pacific. Out were fitted dresses and belts – in came prints and pleats, which can be attributed to playing tricks on the eye.
The shocking release of topless and nude photographs of Ms Middleton in the early days of the nine-day trip didn't seem to affect William and Kate. Laughing and joking as they travelled and enthusiastically shook hundreds of hands, there seemed to be a spring in the royal couple's step – which added even more fuel to the fire.
On return, Kate attended a few public engagements, but dropped off the radar for two weeks in mid-November.
According to insiders, a baby announcement was coming in late December. It is reported but unconfirmed that Kate is about 12 weeks pregnant but one could speculate that no announcement would be made before the end of the first trimester.
A case of hyperemesis gravidarum would appear to have resulted in an early press statement. Not unlike morning sickness, this is a horrid pregnancy complication that causes unrelenting nausea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss – and can endure for many months.
The psychological effects of being bedridden under lengthy periods of nausea should not be discounted, so it was a smart decision to hospitalise Ms Middleton – already under the pressure of the world's media and delivering a healthy heir.
This child will be third in line to the throne, after Charles and William, bumping poor old Harry to fourth place. The British media is buzzing with heartfelt messages and excitement about the new addition. The baby even had a fake Twitter account within an hour of the announcement. Good news for Harry, though, the odds for another ginger prince are 8/1.
Enter stage left, 'The Kate Effect: What to Wear When You're Expecting'. On a first pregnancy, especially where the expectant mother is challenged with weight gain, don't expect to see a bump for quite some time. Kate will either go with Diana's traditional loose style – which would be adorable – or go with the modern, fitted silhouette popularised by Victoria Beckham.
One thing is for sure, maternity fashion is about to break the glass ceiling. Watch out for expanded collections on the high street and the rise of designer specialists such as Isabella Oliver.
Here in Ireland, as we face Budget 2013 with winced faces, the pitter-patter of tiny celebu-royal feet is a welcome diversion. After all, like Diana, Kate has become de facto public property not only in Britain but worldwide, and this former colony is no exception.
The combined effect of Ms Middleton's status as a fashion icon (and booster of nude shoe sales at Kildare Village), and Queen Elizabeth's official visit in 2011, has softened the Irish view of the House of Windsor.
Add to that the embarrassment of the publication of those images of Kate and William's private French holiday in the ' Irish Daily Star'. The tabloid's now-resigned editor Michael O'Kane justified his decision to go to print on the grounds that Kate "is just another of the fantastic line of celebrities".
Kate is a celebrity, but not of the Kardashian or Rihanna kind. She works for the public but is a private person. She trades neither on her status nor her lifestyle, insisting on paying for each and every item she wears.
Needless to say, there will be no reality TV cameras in that delivery room.
So the fairytale that the British royal family is delivering to its public with Kate is on track.
After the embarrassing life and times of Diana, and her tragic death, the palace needed a feel-good factor to inject confidence in the monarchy – and the British public was desperately seeking another People's Princess to warm their cockles.
And this tired nation, in the throes of a baby boom and a stoney-cold recession, happily warms its hands on the heart-warming developments in Ms Middleton's womb.