LONDON — In London, the royal birth is a tale of two cities — a moment of history unfolding amid the frenzy of daily urban life.
Outside the London hospital where Prince William's wife, Kate, was in labor Monday, Londoners slowed their daily rush on a scorching summer day to take a quick picture and wonder at the vast media throng, then moved on.
Two miles away at Buckingham Palace, the news seemed more momentous, an extra jolt of history to the royal pomp and pageantry that attracts tourists in their thousands each day. They may no longer wield political power, but Britain's royals are unsurpassed as celebrities and cultural icons.
"They're sort of the celebrities of the world," said Anne Frey, a beautician from Madison, Wisconsin, watching the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony with her husband.
Excitement for the imminent royal baby was strong among the crowds lining the black iron gates to watch soldiers in high bearskin hats, sweating stoically under their scarlet tunics, march behind a brass band into the palace grounds.
"We can tell our kids one day that we were here when it happened," said Jill Muencz, a tourist from Cleveland, Ohio.
"It's fantasy," she added. "We don't get to experience all that" as Americans.
The royal labor dominated British news bulletins Monday, as media from around the world provided nonstop comment, color and speculation from outside the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital, around the corner from London's Paddington Station.
Prime Minister David Cameron said "the whole country is excited" — and while that may be politician's hyperbole, there was a sense that the birth of a future monarch was a feel-good event to add to a long spell of hot, sunny weather and British sports successes at Wimbledon, the Tour de France cycling race and in the Ashes cricket competition.
Few Britons were willing to go as far in their royalism as Terry Hutt, a 78-year-old carpenter from Cambridge in eastern England, who has camped outside the hospital for 12 days, sleeping outside the hospital on a bench covered with a Union Jack blanket.
Hutt, who is proud to have met every royal from the late Queen Mother on, said he was doing his bit for Britain by camping outside the hospital in his red, white and blue Union Jack suit, holding flags and congratulatory banners.
"To me, the royal family play a very, very important role," he said. "Visitors from all over the world haven't got a king and queen. It's a plus for us."