BRITAIN'S Prince Philip was last night beginning a belated Christmas with his family after being discharged from hospital.
The 90-year-old royal arrived at Sandringham by car shortly before midday yesterday 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 Buckingham Palace spokesman said no decision had been made on when he would resume public engagements or whether he would attend church on New Year's Day.
But he was yesterday able to rejoin his family at the queen's private Norfolk estate where he is said to have been advised by doctors to rest.
As he left Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, 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 .
"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 William and Harry on Christmas Day.
It was the most serious health scare suffered by the duke, who is known for being robust and active.