By Maria Puente , USA TODAY
Suddenly, the royal-baby media focus is pivoting to a differenthospital outside London, near Duchess Kate's parents' estate in ruralBerkshire, where she has been staying since last weekend.
There's still a media mob outside St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington but some journalists and photographers are turningup today outside the Royal Berkshire (that's pronounced BARK-shure)Hospital in Reading, very close to the Middleton manse in Bucklebury.
NBC's Today show sent a reporter there to stand outside the hospital today and gab, but with little to report. Ditto for ABC.
"Just been past Royal Berkshire Hospital and foreign TV crews galore as royal baby fever hits new high," tweeted British journalist Joe Campbell today.
But not so fast with the media tape just yet.
"Nomedia mob - NBC and ABC did some filming and have left," reports NicolaWesson, a spokeswoman for the hospital. "We have had some interest fromother internationals but again, they have returned to London. No one iscamped out here in the same way that they are at St. Mary's so we arenot expecting any changes to business as usual.
"We expect the baby to be born in London as the Palace has announced."
Theformer Kate Middleton, 31, and sister Pippa, 29, were born in the RoyalBerkshire, so it's not unfamiliar to the family. And it has always beenin the royal birth contingency plan to take her there in case of apregnancy emergency while she was with her parents.
But thepreferred venue for the birth has always been St. Mary's private LindoWing, where Prince William and Prince Harry were born. The palace planincludes an elaborate ritual for announcing the birth by sending a royalcourier from the hospital to Buckingham Palace, escorted by police andnews helicopters, to post the announcement on an easel at the palacegates.
Not clear what happens to that plan if she instead goes tothe Royal Berkshire, which British press reports suggest has always beenthe Middleton family's preference.
It's a public National HealthService hospital and it's no dump: It just opened, in September, a new$4.8 million midwife-led birth unit. Wesson says about 6,000 babies are born there every year.
"We provide care to around 500,000 people in West Berkshire and specialist care to around 1 million people acrossthe whole of Berkshire and surrounding areas," she says. "We arespecialist providers for heart attacks, stroke care and cancer care."
WhenKate suffered early in her pregnancy last December from acute morningsickness, she was at her parents' house and she was still driven the 50miles into London to be hospitalized and treated there.
Kate hasbeen staying with her parents because she's close to them, and becausethere's a heat wave in London and their $8 million stately home isair-conditioned with a pool. Her London apartment at Kensington Palace,by contrast, is old, small and not air-conditioned.