Heir to Norway's throne, Crown Prince Haakon, shows off his seven-month-old daughter Princess Ingrid
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Crown Prince Willem-Alexander thinks Catharina-Amalia, nine months, is "the most beautiful baby in the world"
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Now nearly three, Crown Prince Philippe's first-born, Princess Elisabeth, is the future queen of the Belgians
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The arrival of Naruhito of Japan's only child, daughter Aiko, sparked debate on changing the country's male-only law of succession
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27 AUGUST 2004

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Royal circles have experienced a baby boom of sorts in the past few years, with one history-making consequence – a corresponding boom in future queens by birth.

No fewer than three European countries – Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands – have welcomed first-born females since 2001, and Japan's little Princess Aiko may grow up to be the Chrysanthemum Throne's new empress.

Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, born in January to Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit, is the youngest of Europe's future queens, and has a special status as Norway's first ever female heir to the throne.

Proud papa Haakon could not contain his thrill at his baby Ingrid's arrival, calling her "the finest, most beautiful little girl in the world" and dubbing her birth as a "powerful and wonderful experience".

In the Netherlands, males and females have equal rights to accession as well, so when Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima presented their first-born in 2003, the Dutch public was also meeting a tiny tot who would one day be their queen.

"Although many babies are born each day," said Willem of Princess Catharina-Amalia, "we believe this is the most beautiful baby in the world."

A recent Belgian law granted equal inheritance rights to both sexes, meaning Princess Elisabeth, daughter of Crown Prince Philippe and his wife Princess Mathilde, is set to become the first queen to ascend to Belgium's throne in modern history. "I hope my daughter will be a great queen,” said Philippe. “But first of all, a great woman."

Significantly more controversial was the 2001 birth of Japan's Princess Aiko, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Princess Masako, which sparked a debate in Japan over the country’s male-only law of succession.

The couple spent eight years trying for a baby – and suffered one miscarriage – before Aiko's arrival, giving rise to talk that Naruhito would work to change the constitution so that his daughter can become the country's first empress in 250 years. Sources at the strict and male-dominated Imperial Household have expressed concern about such a change.

However, the fact that the crown princess, now 40, is suffering from mental distress in part because of pressure to produce a male heir, has further pushed the issue to the forefront.

And hellomagazine.com readers have made their feelings more than clear.

Our recent poll on this subject showed that 95 per cent of you - 2,853 votes to 136 - feel that the Japanese Constitution should simply be changed, so that one day, Aiko can take her place among the monarchs of the world.