Kate Maternity Leave Starts Today; Middleton Will Retreat From Royal Duties

Kate Middleton is rumored to have started her maternity leave after christening a cruise ship. Middleton is due with the next heir to the British monarchy next month but has been making publicity visits throughout her pregnancy.

"May God bless her and all who sail in her," Middleton said as she broke a $1,600 bottle of champagne against the ship's hull. This makes one of the last royal appearances for the famous royal, who will now be relaxing at home, preparing for the birth of her first child.

"Kate has really enjoyed her job and wanted to work as close to the birth date as possible," a source close to the royal family told The Mirror U.K. "She takes her royal role very seriously and is looking forward to taking up her duties when her maternity leave has finished."

Middleton was initially very ill and laid up with severe morning sickness at the beginning of her pregnancy. She has had to manage that along with her royal duties for the past eight months, as well as oversee construction on her new home.

William, meanwhile, will continue working in the Royal Air Force but take some time away to be with his family. He will then have to decide whether he wants to focus exclusively on royal duties or return to the military. Those close to the royals tend to think that William will change careers in order to be closer to his new son or daughter.

The baby, due next month, has been the focus of much speculation and great excitement throughout the world. He or she will be the next heir to the monarchy after Prince Charles and William. In a stunning break with tradition, Queen Elizabeth declared that even if the child was a girl, she would then have the power to sit on the throne, rather than be passed over for a male heir.

William and Kate have remained mum on the sex of the child, but the whole world will know soon enough whether Europe will have a new prince or princess.