Britain's royal baby: a world obsession or media hype?

Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:48pm EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - As the world's media whips itself into a frenzy over Prince William and his wife Kate's baby, some bemused spectators are wondering if Britain's royal family really is that fascinating or just hype.

From breathless reports about the baby's due date to endless speculation about the name and manner of delivery, TV crews from around the world have been delivering almost hourly updates outside the London hospital where Kate is due to give birth.

But do audiences really share their enthusiasm about the birth of a child who will be third in line to the British throne, or are they, like Queen Elizabeth's cousin Margaret Rhodes, struggling to see what all the fuss is about.

"You know everybody has babies, and it's lovely, but I don't get wildly excited about it," Rhodes, 88, told CNN.

Recent opinion polls suggest she is not the only one who has not been transfixed by the daily press barrage or glued to some British newspapers' live web shots of the as-yet unbreached entrance to St Mary's Hospital in west London.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of Americans surveyed last December when Kate's pregnancy was announced were very or fairly closely following the news.

Previous studies of interest in eight British royal stories dating back to 1986 - including William and Kate's sumptuous wedding in April 2011 - found 60 percent did not follow or were not closely following these events.

There was one exception. The 1997 death of William's mother Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris grabbed the attention of 85 percent of U.S. respondents.   Continued...

Women pretending to be pregnant and wearing masks of Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, where the Duchess of Cambridge is expected to give birth, in London July 18, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor