By Maria Puente and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
LONDON - The world's most famous baby prince met the world today, when Prince William and Duchess Kate left St. Mary's Hospital here with their infant, about 24 hours after he was born amid national celebrations and a media frenzy.
It was the first glimpse of the little prince, wrapped in a blanket, and his first pictures of what is likely to be innumerable pictures to come throughout his life.
The couple and the newborn emerged from the door of the hospital Lindo Wing, where the media mob has been waiting since July 1, to overwhelming flashes of light from the cameras, shouts from reporters and cheers from a throng of onlookers who have been waiting for them all day.
PHOTOS: William and Kate present son to the world
Earlier today, the both sets of grandparents visited, Carole and Michael Middleton first, followed by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
"He's absolutely beautiful," Carole Middleton said. "Marvelous!" said Charles.
Royal heirs - this one will be third-in-line to the throne and a future king - typically have at least three names and often four. He will be known as HRH Prince (name) of Cambridge, for his parents' titles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Leaving the hospital so soon came as a bit of a surprise. When William was born in the same hospital in June 1982, his name was not announced for nearly a week.
But he and his parents, Prince Charles and his then-wife Princess Diana left the hospital the day after his birth and posed on the steps of the hospital door with William in arms.
PHOTOS: Middleton family visits royal baby
Kate's quick recovery and exit suggests she had the natural birth she had planned. Details about the birth have not been released, but if she started labor around 7 a.m., then her labor took a little over 10 hours.
William, 31, who is not a fan of the media and has long sought as much privacy as possible for his family, spoke a few words to the army of journalists assembled outside the hospital, some of them since July 1, during a heatwave.
On Monday after the birth, the British media quoted him as saying in a statement, "We could not be happier." Today, the couple issued another statement
About four hours elapsed between the birth and when the palace announced it via a series of tweets and electronic press releases. The couple apparently used that time to spend some time alone with the baby, British media reported, and the news did not leak out of the hospital.
PHOTOS: Royal baby born in London
The palace did immediately say where the couple and the baby would go next. The options include returning to their small apartment at Kensington Palace, which lacks air-conditioning, or returning to the air-conditioned estate of Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, in rural Bucklebury about 50 miles outside London.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom got ready to celebrate with its characteristic pomp and pageantry today. Fountains ran with blue water; the lights atop iconic buildings blazed blue at night. A 62-gun salute from the Tower of London was planned today, along with a 41-gun salute from Green Park near Buckingham Palace.
Palace officials are expected today to announce more planned events, but street parties around the country and the Commonwealth are sure to be included.