Paris - Monaco is expecting a double dose of royal babies - but only one twin will get to be the principality's future ruler.
Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, 36, will be giving birth to twins but the doctor delivering them will have no more than a symbolic hand in deciding the destiny of the Grimaldi dynasty, authorities say.
Charlene checked into the Princess Grace Hospital on Wednesday, according to a Monaco source familiar with the matter but not authorised to speak publicly.
Prince Albert II, the 56-year-old son of the late American actress Princess Grace, had worried some of his subjects with his long bachelorhood and his lack of an heir, since his two previous children were born out of wedlock and not eligible for the throne.
Then prince married Charlene Wittstock, a Zimbabwe-born, South Africa-raised former Olympic swimmer, in 2011.
Now the tiny royal state on the Riviera has two reasons to rejoice.
"This is going to create an immense joy. Immense!" said Monaco resident Isabelle Roux. "They are awaited like the messiah... Everyone is talking only about that."
"Two babies for the price of one. I think it's very good for the image," said Adelaide de Clermont-Tonnerre, editor-in-chief of the celebrity weekly Point de Vue. "With twins, there's always an extra interest."
The babies will be the first twins in the royal household, which dates to the 13th century, but they will not share the throne.
Albert says the first one out will be first in line, unless a boy and a girl emerge. In that case the boy becomes the royal heir, reflecting the male priority of Monaco's laws of succession.
In principle, there's no medical reason a doctor would have an active role in deciding which newborn is delivered first, even in the case of a Caesarean section, an expert said.
"The obstetrician will always deliver first the twin that presents itself first when the uterus is opened at the time of Caesarean section," said Dr Patrick O'Brien, spokesperson for Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. "We don't decide in advance which twin to deliver first."
Albert said he doesn't know the sex of the twins yet.
"It is one of the beautiful surprises that life offers us," he told BFM-TV.
Only one woman has ever reigned over Monaco, Princess Louise-Hippolyte, but she died months after assuming the throne in 1731.
In 2002, with no heirs in sight, Monaco's parliament quietly changed its constitution to allow royal power to pass from a reigning prince with no descendants to his siblings - potentially Albert's two sisters.
That ensured the continuation of the Grimaldi dynasty, one of the oldest royal houses in Europe, even if Albert never produced an heir.
Now the palace has decreed that 42 cannon shots will sound with the announcement of the births, instead of the 21 that would boom for a single baby.
Other dynasties have produced royal twins. The crown prince and crown princess of Denmark became the parents of royal twins in 2011 - a boy and a girl.
The boy, Prince Vincent, is fourth in the line of succession, ahead of sister Princess Josephine, but only because he emerged from the womb first.
24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.
Ciara is expecting her first child with husband Russell Wilson and the newlyweds announced the news on the singer's birthday. Read More »
Ricky Gervais wants to live long enough to trip over his "pendulous testicles". Read More »
10 epic pics.
All the deets.
South AfricaCity Press
Johannesburg CBDResourcing Solutions
HousesR 1 985 000
HousesR 1 200 000
HousesR 6 990 000