Duke back in Sandringham after heart operation
Published 27/12/2011 | 12:55
The Duke of Edinburgh is tonight beginning a belated Christmas with his family after being discharged from hospital.
The 90-year-old royal is thought to have arrived at Sandringham by car shortly before midday after spending four nights in hospital following a procedure to clear a blocked artery.
He missed the royals' traditional Christmas Day trip to church, this year attended for the first time by the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Boxing Day shoot, which he normally leads.
It is thought to be the first time he has missed Christmas at Sandringham since the early 1990s.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said no decision had been made on when he will resume public engagements or whether he will attend Church on New Year's Day.
But he was today able to rejoin his family at the Queen's private Norfolk estate where he is said to have been advised by doctors to rest.
He left Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, at 9.25am. Travelling in the front seat of a dark Range Rover, he appeared in good spirits as he smiled and waved at waiting reporters.
Before his departure, he thanked hospital staff who cared for him over the festive period.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "On departure, Prince Philip thanked the staff at Papworth for the excellent care he has received during his stay.
"He is very much looking forward to rejoining his family."
Scores of police officers began combing the hospital's grounds in the early hours of this morning in preparation for the Duke's departure.
The Duke was taken to Papworth near Cambridge on Friday night after he complained of chest pains.
Following tests, doctors discovered a blocked artery and he underwent a "minimally invasive procedure of coronary stenting", which was declared a success.
The Duke was visited in hospital by his grandchildren the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry on Christmas Day.
The brothers drove separate cars to Papworth after enjoying lunch at Sandringham, taking the Duke of York's daughters Beatrice and Eugenie and the Princess Royal's children Zara and Peter with them for a 45-minute visit.
It was the most serious health scare suffered by the Duke, who is known for being robust and active.
Philip's most recent illness was an uncharacteristic cold in October that forced him to pull out of an overnight stay in Italy for the launch of the ARC Green Pilgrimage Network.
At the time he had just completed a busy 11-day official royal tour to Australia with the Queen, 85, that saw them visit Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.
His next formal engagement is a dinner at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge on January 17.