The Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge have announced they are expecting a baby, ending weeks of speculation Kate was pregnant.

The announcement comes after the Duchess, 30, was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital in London on Monday afternoon, where she is expected to remain for several days with acute morning sickness, a condition more often experienced by women expecting twins.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a potentially dangerous type of morning sickness which tends to be more common among younger women, in women pregnant for the first time, and in multiple pregnancies.

Mothers-to-be who suffer from the condition are three times more likely to have a multiple birth than other women. The average likelihood of twins in the population is about 3 per cent, though there is a genetic link.

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If the Duchess was expecting multiple babies, the first delivered in the birth would become heir to the throne. But for now the couple isn’t going to share details about the pregnancy itself because Catherine’s pregnancy has not yet reached the 12-week stage.

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Originally planning to share the news during the royal family's annual Christmas holiday in Sandringham, the Duchess's unexpected hospitalisation prompted the couple to make an announcement before news of her arrival at hospital broke. The decision "was very much driven by the Duke and Duchess," said a royal aide. "It's very hard thing to go public at such an early stage, but they wanted to be open with people as much as possible."

The Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, who was contacted in Afghanistan, were all told the news yesterday, before St James's Palace made the formal announcement at 4.01pm. It is believed that Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, became aware of their daughter’s news at the weekend, however.

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The couple have made no secret of their desire to start a family. Prince William said in their joint interview on the day they announced their engagement that he and Catherine would take marriage "one step at a time."

"We'll sort of get over the marriage first and then maybe look at the kids," he told ITN at the time. "But obviously we want a family so we'll have to start thinking about that."

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William's uncle Earl Charles Spencer -- the brother of Diana who won praise for his emotional eulogy at her funeral after she died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 -- said he was "thrilled for them both."

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Similarly, Prime Minister David Cameron, who was handed a note informing him of the pregnancy during an afternoon policy meeting, was among the first to offer his congratulations to the couple, saying, "I'm delighted by the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby. They will make wonderful parents."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also offered her well wishes via Twitter, tweeting her congratulations, while US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, who met the royal couple during a state visit to Britain last year, sent their congratulations on the "welcome news" via the White House.

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Like William's in 1982, the birth will be heralded not just by headlines at home but around the world. Even if William and Catherine's baby is a girl, she can expect to inherit the throne from her father, irrespective of whether any other child the royal couple has is a boy. The baby news comes just over one year since Commonwealth nations agreed to scrap centuries-old laws barring first-born daughters from inheriting the British throne if younger male heirs were available. Royal commentator Kate Williams told BBC TV the child would be "politically and constitutionally important" due to its place as the first possible heir to be born after the change in the succession laws.

Rumours about a royal pregnancy intensified last week, when the couple were given a baby's romper suit during their first official visit to Cambridge, home to their dukedom. "I'll keep that," William shared after accepting the gift. Most recently, however, Catherine stepped out solo, making a visit to her former prep school St. Andrews where she played field hockey in her high heels on Friday.

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