- As British royals rarely speak to the media, reporters rely on other sources, says Max Foster
- Top of the current list of questions is if duchess is having a boy or a girl
- The Duchess of Cambridge's 'slip' prompts speculation royal baby is a girl
- Another report claims duchess hinted she's having a boy
British royals rarely speak to the media; the Duchess of Cambridge has done so only once.
As a result, reporters rely on other people who have spoken to her for information. It could be palace sources, or even members of the public who have met Catherine during a walkabout.
And while there are all sorts of questions that the public likes to ask of Prince William's pregnant wife, the top of the list at the moment is whether she's having a boy or a girl.
It's not an entirely trivial matter when you consider the current rush to update ancient British laws in the event the baby turns out to be a girl. At the moment, girls are leapfrogged to the throne by younger brothers -- an outdated and sexist protocol that simply isn't acceptable to this generation. So if Catherine has a daughter, that princess would make history by being the first to grow up assured of her destiny.
This interest in Britain's future head of state has turned into a frantic scramble to jump on any nugget of information that may provide clues as to the baby's gender.
That latest nugget of intelligence may have slipped from the duchess' mouth as she chatted to Sandra Cook, a 67-year-old royal well-wisher Catherine met while on a trip to the town of Grimsby on Tuesday.
Cook told reporters: "The lady next to me gave her a teddy bear and I distinctly heard her say: 'Thank you, I will take that for my d...' Then she stopped herself. I said to her: 'You were going to say daughter weren't you?' She said: 'No, we don't know.' I said: 'Oh I think you do,' to which she said: 'We're not telling.'"
What started as a minor Tuesday visit to northeast England ended as Wednesday's front page news. "Does Kate's slip of the tongue mean her baby's a girl?" asked the headline of the Daily Mail newspaper, a question also splayed across the fronts of Britain's other broadsheet papers. The Mirror event went a step further, declaring "It's a girl!" to readers.
Catherine's slip wasn't just front page news, however -- it caused a betting frenzy that forced two leading bookmakers, William Hill and Paddy Power, to suspend bets on the sex of the royal baby.
Then, out of nowhere, a report in the Grimsby Telegraph newspaper quoted someone else who met the duchess. Katy Forrester said: "I swear she said it was a boy...I asked her if the baby had been kicking. I swear she replied 'Yes he is, very much so' but no one else heard! Either I misunderstood it, or Kate is trying to confuse us all!"
I was confused, so I followed up with a palace source who told me William and Catherine don't know the sex of the baby, and that she said as much during the walkabout. Who knows...