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Prince William: How a CBS News Correspondent Came to Announce Royal's Birth to British People

Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown with their son Prince William during a photo session at Kensington Palace in London Dec. 22, 1982.
AP Photo
Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown with their son Prince William during a photo session at Kensington Palace in London Dec. 22, 1982.
AP Photo

The Big Announcement of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton got me thinking back 28 years ago to the Big Announcement the day the prince was born.

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It was June 21, 1982. At the time, I was a correspondent based in the CBS News London Bureau. We learned that Princess Diana had been taken to St. Mary's Hospital in labor early that morning. That in itself was said to be historic because never before had an heir to the British throne been born in a hospital.

Other members of the younger generation of royals had already chosen St. Mary's over a royal palace as the place to have their babies. Both of Princess Anne's children, Peter in 1977 and Zara in 1981, arrived at St. Mary's.

As news spread that Diana was at the hospital in the Paddington District of London, a crowd began gathering outside. I was assigned to cover the story for the "CBS Evening News", and I suggested that I should go with a camera crew to St. Mary's.

The cameraman, Johnny Peters, was a bit of a legend in the London bureau. He was an Englishman well versed in the ways of his people.

"We don't want to go to the hospital," Peters told me. "We want to go to the palace. That's where we will get the news first."

Peters told me the birth of a royal child is traditionally announced by simply hanging a small notice on the gate of Buckingham Palace, so we headed down to the palace, which was a bit more than a mile away from the bureau.

We got to the palace just as a crowd was beginning to gather there. We were early enough that Peters, soundman Dave Fairweather and I got a spot right up against the gate. More people arrived, many carrying Union Jacks. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation.

After a long wait, a man emerged from the palace and walked briskly across the broad courtyard. He was carrying a small frame in his hand. He got to the gate and hung it on the bars. It was a short, typed note. Just two sentences. So small that only someone right up against the gate could read it.

People began to shout. "What does it say?" they asked. Peters turned to me. "You have to read it to them," he said.

I was a little reluctant. After all, my job was a TV reporter, not town crier at Buckingham Palace. Also, it didn't seem right that the birth of a future king of England should be announced to the palace crowd by someone who doesn't have an English accent.

But as the shouts grew, I knew I had to seize the moment. The crowd went silent as I began to read: "Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales was safely delivered of a son at 9:03 p.m. today. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well." As I finished, people cheered and waved their flags.

So that's how a CBS News correspondent came to tell the British people of the birth of an heir to the throne. It strikes me that if Prince William has a sense of history, he might just add me to the guest list for his upcoming wedding. I will be watching my mailbox.

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  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.