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Premature baby for UK royals

Edward and Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex

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Great Britain

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- The youngest son of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Edward, Earl of Wessex, has become a father for the first time, with his wife Sophie giving birth to a baby girl by emergency Caesarean section.

The baby was born shortly before midnight on Saturday -- several weeks before it was due, a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

The earl was not present at the birth but was flying home from an official trip to Mauritius. The spokeswoman said Edward was due to arrive in London sometime Sunday evening and would go straight to visit his wife and new daughter.

"She was born at Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey at 11:32 last night by emergency Caesarean section, and is four pounds and nine ounces," the spokeswoman told Reuters.

She said the countess, 38, was still at Frimley Park but the baby had been transferred to a specialist neo-natal clinic at the nearby St. Georges Hospital as a "precautionary measure."

The baby girl was in a stable condition, the spokeswoman said, but gave no further details.

The birth comes just two years after Sophie, then 36, was airlifted to hospital and underwent a 2-1/2 hour operation to end a potentially life threatening ectopic pregnancy, in which the fetus grew outside her womb.

The spokeswoman said it was too early to talk about names for the baby, who is eighth in line to the throne and the queen's seventh grandchild.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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