UPDATE (Dec. 7): The joy of a royal pregnancy at the beginning of the week was reduced to stunned disbelief four days later, overshadowed by bizarre twists that ended in a tragic death.
The death Friday of nurse Jacintah Saldanha, who answered the
prank call from an Australian radio station on Dec. 4, has left both
colleagues and the royals reeling. Our news story is here. Below is our blog entry in the wake of the Duchess of Cambridge's release from hospital on Thursday:
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave King Edward VII Hospital on Thursday morning. (Getty Images)
The clock is ticking ... and not just on the much-awaited royal heir.
The future path of Prince William & Family is being scrutinized daily as circumstances and the calendar converge on the Duke of Cambridge at year's end.
Kate left hospital on Thursday -- "I'm feeling much better, thank you," she told the media horde outside the front doors of King Edward VII Hospital -- but she is expected to stay close to London and her doctors, living at their Kensington Palace cottage. While her acute morning sickness has abated for the time being, it has been known to stay with moms-to-be through an entire pregnancy, even with medication.
Prince William, meanwhile, is due back at work in Wales next week to keep up the flying hours he needs in his job as an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. With royal duties often breaking his routine, he has only been able to meet minimum flying hours.
By the end of the year, he's expected to make a choice: 1) continue in the RAF search-and-rescue after his stint is up in the summer of 2013, 2) switch to another branch of the Armed Forces that would allow for more royal duties, or, 3) take up royal duties full-time.
This latest medical turn may push William more in the direction of staying close to London, which means giving up his much-loved job at RAF Valley. The Telegraph quotes insiders that he is considering the Household Cavalry, which would keep him based in and around London.
That seems a likely compromise, given that the couple is already deep into shifting their home base from a two-bedroom cottage at Kensington to a more permanent 20-room residence in the palace -- the late Princess Margaret's Apartment 1-A.
To complicate matters, the move, which was expected to be early in the next year, has reportedly been pushed back to October because of asbestos removal and the larger-than-expected laundry list of renovations needed for the apartment.
That means the couple -- and their new arrival -- could have a little shuttle service going on between their rented farmhouse in Wales and their current Kensington rooms.
In the meantime, Prince William will be representing his little family at royal engagements. Kate isn't likely to emerge in the public light until the royals make their annual journey to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day.
The pair had three appearances planned in the next week -- the Winter Whites gala Saturday, the British Military Tournament on Sunday and the premiere of 'The Hobbit' next Wednesday.
As for Kate, she looked a little peaked, but not at all too bad after emerging from her three-day hospital stay. (A trip to her hairdresser on her likely agenda.)
Smiling and holding flowers, she and William posed for the gallery of photographers across the street before climbing into a waiting Jaguar.
GRANDPA-TO-BE CHARLES 'THRILLED'
Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Prince Charles share a joke Thursday at The Coldest Journey launch on board the SA Agulhas, the ship for Fiennes' polar expedition to be the first to cross Antarctica in winter. The expedition is raising funds for Seeing is Believing, the global charitable campaign tackling preventable and treatable blindness. (Getty Images)
Prince Charles, grandfather-to-be, made his first public comments on the pregnancy on Thursday, but couldn't resist referencing the prank call made by a couple of Australian radion hosts to the hospital.
As reporters shot questions at him about Kate's condition, Charles deadpanned: "How do you know I'm not a radio station?"
Quips aside, the Prince of Wales said was "thrilled" by the news. "It's a very nice thought to become a grandfather in my old age."
As for that radio station prank call, Australia's media watchdog has admitted receiving complaints about the stunt on Tuesday night that saw a couple of radio host get through via phone to a nurse on Kate's floor at the hospital, posing as the Queen and Prince Charles.
Despite the terrible impersonations, the DJs pulled off the prank, eliciting some condition information on Kate. The station later apologized and the hospital was left red-faced at its protocol breach. The hosts tried to make light of it on their broadcast Thursday, saying they were stunned that they were able to go as far as they did with the call.