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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain was awaiting the arrival of the newest member of its royal family on Saturday as Kate, the wife of Prince William, was admitted to hospital in the early stages of labor.
The Duchess of Cambridge was taken to the private Lindo wing of St Mary's Hospital, West London by car, accompanied by William at 6 a.m. (0500 GMT), the couple's Kensington Palace residence said in a statement.
The new baby, whose sex is not yet known, will be fourth-in-line to the throne, behind brother George, father William and grandfather Prince Charles.
He or she will provide a distraction for many Britons from the country's general election campaign which comes to a head next Thursday - and another rich vein for bookmakers as gamblers bet on the baby's name and sex.
Alice, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Victoria are the favorite girls' names. James and Arthur if the child is a boy.
In keeping with tradition, the official announcement of the birth will be made by placing a notice on an easel at the forecourt of the queen's London home, Buckingham Palace.
William, 32, was born at the same hospital to the late Princess Diana in 1982.
He and Kate, 33, met as students at St Andrews University in Scotland, married in a spectacular ceremony at Westminster Abbey in April 2011 and have since become global stars.
When Kate leaves hospital after giving birth, the couple will initially return to Kensington Palace for a couple of days before heading to Anmer Hall, their country mansion on the queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk, eastern England.
"The duke is working in East Anglia so the duchess may spend some time in Anmer but Kensington Palace will remain their primary residence," a spokeswoman said.
The Centre for Retail Research has predicted that the new baby could give the economy an 80 million pound ($120 million) boost, compared to the 240 million pounds that was predicted for the arrival of George.
"I think the excitement about the birth of Prince George was very intense because he was in direct line to the throne,” royal historian Hugo Vickers told Reuters.
"Maybe (this birth) will be a very healthy and enjoyable diversion from the hot air emerging from our television sets," he added, referring to the frenetic political build-up to the May 7 election.
Writing by Michael Holden and Stephen Addison; Editing by Angus MacSwan