The scene here amounts to a replay of June 22, 1982. Then, another young couple - Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales - stepped out of the same wing of the same hospital with infant William and into what would become a stormy, love-hate relationship with the press (and each other) that would come to define palace politics for decades. Some still blame the media for Diana's 1997 death in a Paris car crash during a chase with rabid paparazzi.
To be sure, the British tabloid press is a different beast today, as is the palace PR machine, with one more tame and self-restraining and the other far more professional and controlling. Nevertheless, the media and inquiring minds on both sides of the Atlantic might be in for a rude awakening as they clamor for a piece of the glamorous couple after baby makes three.
Royal-watchers say that, after brief choreography for the cameras as the couple leave the lavish hospital wing with their newborn, they might disappear for a while, or try. The move to escape the public eye as they set about becoming parents could mark the beginning of what observers describe as an attempt by the couple to build a far more private life than the one constructed by William's parents.
"This will be very different from watching William grow up, and it has a lot to do with the characters this time around," said Roy Greenslade, former editor of the Daily Mirror and now a journalism professor at City University in London. "William hates the press and will show even less accommodation once the baby is born, and Kate, unlike Diana, is clearly very shy of doing anything that would breach palace secrecy."
For the press, any retrenchment by the young couple couldn't come at a worse time. Cover stories and inside montages of Shopping Kate, Official Kate, even Dog-Walking Kate have driven print sales and online hits in a manner not seen since Diana's heyday. The feeding has been no less frenzied in the United States. Since 2011's royal wedding, the duchess has graced the cover of People magazine more times than any other celebrity.
When innocuous and orchestrated, that publicity is just what the doctor ordered for a House of Windsor looking to endear a 21st-century monarchy to the public. But royal coverage has, at least in the palace's eyes, veered dangerously off course on occasion.
Think, for example, Unauthorized Photos of Topless Kate, as seen last year in the gossiping press from Paris to New York.
The challenge domestically to keeping a lid on the helicopter flyovers and bugged baby buggies, said Richard Palmer, royal correspondent for the Daily Express, is the wild card of foreign competition at a time when the couple have reached beyond even Hollywoodesque celebrity.
Limits in Britain on reporting that a woman is pregnant before she reaches her 12th week, for example, meant that U.S. commentators were buzzing about the "royal baby bump" before the domestic press could enter the fray. And in a world where European and American tabloids unbeholden to the palace don't always play by the rules, the British press is fearing the worst.
"We're treading a tightrope all the time with the royal couple, and that's only going to get thinner with the baby," Palmer said. "One of the things we worry about is that we're very unlikely to run snatched pictures of the baby in the coming months, but what happens if the Australians and the Americans do?"
In some ways, William's upbringing might be a model for a modern couple who most view as wanting to follow a path similar to Diana's - she fiercely guarded the privacy of her sons but also wanted them to grow up as normal as possible. While William was at Eton College, the family struck a deal with the tabloid press: They would back off in exchange for periodic updates on his life.
But will those periodic updates be quite as periodic with the baby who will be third in line to the throne? During William's early years, Arthur Edwards, a dean of the royal press corps who works for London's Sun newspaper, recalls press calls by the palace for photo opportunities with William. There was the baptism. The day he took his first steps. His first international trip. But while Will and Kate will need a photo documentary of the life of a child who would be monarch, Edwards and others believe those calls are likely to be fewer.
"I don't think we will get quite that access," he said. "I suspect they will be more private."