Britain's Prince Philip spends Christmas in hospital
Britain's Prince Philip missed the royal family's Christmas Day celebrations for the first time as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II remained in hospital after having heart surgery.
Thousands of wellwishers gathered at the queen's Sandringham estate in eastern England to see the royals attend their traditional church service, with Prince William's new wife Catherine making her debut appearance.
Buckingham Palace said the 90-year-old Philip "remains in good spirits" after spending a second night at Papworth hospital near Cambridge, and family members were set to visit him after lunch on Sunday.
Prince Philip, who is the longest serving royal consort in British history and an outspoken pillar of the House of Windsor, was airlifted on Friday from Sandringham suffering from chest pains.
Tests showed a blocked coronary artery and doctors at Papworth, which boasts Britain's leading cardiac unit, inserted a tube-like device called a stent to restore healthy blood flow.
Palace officials refused to say whether he had had a heart attack but Iqbal Malik, a consultant at Imperial College London, said Philip "probably was having a heart attack" which was successfully aborted.
Around 3,000 people queued at the gates of the St Mary Magdalene Church on the royal estate at Sandringham on Sunday to see the royals walk the few hundred metres (yards) from the main house for the service, police said.
It was the first time that Catherine has attended the service. She wore a brown coat and walked alongside Prince William, whom she married in April, and his younger brother Prince Harry.
The queen and her four children, including heir to the throne Prince Charles and his second wife Camilla, were all present, along with the queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips and her husband, England rugby player Mike Tindall.
The 85-year-old monarch was also seen talking to the vicar at the church before the service, which Prince Philip is missing for the first time.
Lunch is served at 1300 GMT at Sandringham House following the church service and the family will reportedly tuck into a huge turkey reared on the estate.
The family will then gather around the television -- without the queen -- to watch her annual Christmas broadcast, in which this year she is set to stress the importance of family.
It was recorded before Prince Philip was hospitalised.
The prince is also set to miss the traditional Boxing Day shoot which he organises.
In an usual sign of concern from the usually stoic British royals, the queen and her children all visited Philip in hospital on Saturday as he recovered from the operation.
The Greek-born prince Philip married then Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and has become a national institution -- almost as much for his often brusque comments as for his support for the queen.
An active outdoorsman and former Royal Navy captain, he has been in largely good health and joined his wife on an 11-day tour of Australia three months ago.
But he pulled out of a trip to Italy in October nursing a cold.
The next year is a big one for the queen as she celebrates her diamond jubilee marking 60 years on the British throne.
In an interview to mark his 90th birthday in June, Prince Philip said he would scale back his workload.
"I reckon I've done my bit. I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say," he told the BBC.
Thinking of things to say has sometimes landed him in hot water. On a visit to China in 1986, he warned a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed."
© 2011 AFP