Kate Middleton’s Baby: As the World Fusses, a London Neighborhood Shrugs

A hundred members of the press gathered outside the King Edward VII's Hospital Sister Agnes in central London, hoping to catch a glimpse of a pregnant Kate Middleton. But for most neighbors it was just another Tuesday morning.

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A man wearing a Prince William mask is escorted away by a police officer from the King Edward VII Hospital Sister Agnes on Dec. 4, 2012 in London, England.

Scores of reporters, photographers and camera crews lined the sidewalk outside King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes, the private hospital where Kate Middleton is currently being treated for acute morning sickness due to her recently announced pregnancy.

“Someone’s coming!” a member of the press shouted just before 11:30 am Tuesday morning.  A green Land Rover pulled in front of the hospital’s entrance, prompting TV reporters and photographers to jockey for position.

Prince William stepped out of the SUV wearing a violet sweater, a light blue button-up shirt, dark trousers and a pair of sneakers—red, white and blue Asics Onitsuka Tigers. Without stopping to greet the press, he rushed through the hospital doors held open by two London police officers. The Prince’s entrance took under 30 seconds.

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Opened in 1899, the King Edward VII Hospital was founded by two sisters who turned their home into a care center for wounded military officers returning from the Boer War. Its original Belgravia location was badly damaged by German bombs during World War II, and the hospital was forced to relocate to Beaumont Street, in London’s well-heeled Marylebone neighborhood. Queen Mary herself presided over the facility’s opening in 1948, and since then hospital has seen a slew of Royal visits, including a recent stay by Prince Philip, who was treated for a bladder infection during the Queen’s Jubilee celebration in June.

The Royal Family’s connection King Edward VII Hospital Sister Agnes may come as no surprise. With 200 specialists, a hydrotherapy pool and white-glove service, the hospital’s accommodations appeal to those with a high standard of living, and the fur-coated visitors seen entering and exiting the premises on this unusually sunny yet cold Tuesday morning seemed to fit the mold.

Most passers-by in this quiet street, lined with luxury residences and high-end retailers, walked briskly past the media frenzy outside the hospital. Some stopped to take photos of the press corps and were promptly scolded by the police and encouraged to keep moving.

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Others made brazen attempts to get the attention of the paparazzi. A short man slipped a Prince William mask on as he passed by the hospital entrance and was escorted away from the building among a flurry of shutter clicks. The same man later joined the press, mingling and urging photographers to take his picture, while hopping up to snap some photos of the hospital entrance himself.

The press scrum itself seemed to be of more interest to locals than the possibility of a Royal family sighting. More than 100 journalists had gathered in the cold with notebooks, cameras and satellite vans in tow, hoping to catch a glimpse of Kate or William. A woman peered from a first floor bay window in the hospital building to snap shots of the press with her camera phone.

(MORE: William and Kate: Scenes From a Fairy Tale)

Down the street, however, at Michael Van Clarke—“London’s Most Luxurious Salon”—everything appears business as usual. Van Clarke, who claims to cater to Royal family members and celebrities on his website—declined to comment on the ruckus just a few steps from his salon’s door.

But even further afield, neighbors seemed completely unfazed by the news of the Royal baby. Two blocks down on Marylebone High Street, there’s no sign of a Royal fuss. Known for its upscale boutiques and picturesque storefronts, the street was once dubbed “a haven in the middle of a frantic city” by a BBC Radio 4 poll. On Moxon Street, a man selling Christmas trees said he had no idea what was going on and seemed to care very little.

Even among the street’s high-end children’s apparel boutiques, there’s a decided lack of buzz. At an outlet of the French brand Bonpoint, known for its famous clientele including Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss, news of the royal baby has yet to make waves. Store manager Lytzie Prieur says she hasn’t really heard anyone talking about it.

“It’s good news, but it hasn’t really changed anything,” she said, adding that she expected the company to reach out to the Royals at some point.

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