The child is the first heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 41 years

Japan’s Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy on Wednesday, providing the first male heir to the centuries-old Chrysanthemum Throne in almost 41 years – and preventing a possible dilemma regarding succession in the world’s oldest continuous monarchy.

Princess Kiko, 39, is married to Prince Akishino, the second-born son of Japan’s Emperor Akihito. Her baby was born by C-section at 8:27 a.m. Wednesday and weighed 5 lbs., 10 oz. Mother and child are doing well, according to a statement by the Imperial Household Agency.

News of the birth was greeted with elation in Japan, where TV shows switched immediately to coverage of the event. In Mejiro at Gakushuin University, where the Prince and Kiko first met as university students, banners were immediately hung with messages of congratulation and free sake was distributed.

An official ceremony will be conducted later to announce the baby’s name, which will be written in calligraphy characters and displayed to the press and public. Emperor Akihito will also give his fourth grandchild a ceremonial sword.

Prince Akishino joined his wife at Aiiku Hospital in Minato Ward at 7:10 a.m. Wednesday morning in anticipation of the birth. Princess Kiko had been in hospital since Aug. 16 with symptoms of partial placenta previa, a condition in which part of the placenta drops too low in the uterus.

The prince and his formerly middle-class wife wed on June 29, 1990, and have two daughters, Mako, 14, and Kako, 11. The girls – along with Aiko, daughter of the Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Masako – are not eligible to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Prince Akishino was the last male born into the family, in November 1965.

Prior to the announcement of Kiko’s pregnancy, Prime Minister Koizumi had suggested that a change in Japan’s laws be discussed to allow for a female heir should a boy not be born into the Imperial family.

The birth today makes the child next in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito. It could also ease pressure on Crown Princess Masako, a former career diplomat and Harvard graduate who has suffered stress and mental illness trying to adapt to tradition-bound palace life.

Masako, Naruhito and 4-year-old Princess Aiko are currently vacationing in the Netherlands as guests of the Dutch Royal family.