Smiling Prince Philip leaves British hospital after heart op
Britain's Prince Philip was reunited with his wife Queen Elizabeth II and other family members for a late Christmas on Tuesday when he left hospital four days after having heart surgery.
The outspoken 90-year-old smiled and waved from the open window of his Range Rover vehicle as he was driven away from the specialist Papworth hospital near Cambridge, eastern England, an AFP photographer witnessed.
Trailed by police protection officers, he was then driven to the royal Sandringham estate where the queen, the couple's children and their grandchildren have spent the Christmas holiday without him.
The health scare was the most serious yet for Philip, the longest serving royal consort in British history, and comes as the queen prepares to celebrate her diamond jubilee year marking 60 years on the throne.
"On departure, Prince Philip thanked the staff at Papworth for the excellent care he has received during his stay," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
"He is very much looking forward to rejoining his family."
A palace spokesman said no decision had been taken on how soon the prince would resume public engagements or whether he would attend church on Sunday.
Prince Philip had a coronary stent fitted on Friday night after doctors diagnosed a blocked coronary artery.
A stent is a mesh sleeve fitted over a sausage-shaped balloon which is inserted into the artery and then inflated. It remains fixed in position inside the body when the balloon is removed and opens up the artery to remove the blockage.
He was airlifted from Sandringham to Papworth hospital, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, on Friday after complaining of chest pains.
It was the first time Philip, whose royal title is the Duke of Edinburgh, had missed the Christmas Day church service and lunch at Sandringham and the traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot the following day.
The prince was given a festive boost on Sunday with a Christmas Day visit from grandsons Prince William and Harry and four others of his eight grandchildren.
The queen visited her husband of 64 years at the hospital on Sunday after the royal family's Christmas church service.
William's wife Catherine appeared at the Sandringham church service for the first time following their wedding in April, wearing a plum-coloured hat and coat, but she did not visit the hospital.
William, the 29-year-old second in line to the throne, was accompanied on Saturday by Zara Tindall -- who married rugby player Mike Tindall this year -- and Peter Phillips, the children of the queen's daughter Princess Anne.
Prince Harry, William's younger brother, drove to the hospital in a separate car which also carried Beatrice and Eugenie, the daughters of the queen's second youngest son Prince Andrew.
Philip had told doctors he felt "fine" and did not want to "make a fuss", adding: "I just want to go home," according to reports.
Papworth is Britain's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and the country's main heart and lung transplant centre.
The Greek-born Philip has become a national institution -- almost as much for his often off-colour remarks as for his support for the queen over the past six decades.
He has remained active in recent years despite his age but his heart operation is likely to raise questions about his schedule on what promises to be a busy year.
The queen and the prince are scheduled to undertake a tour of the United Kingdom to mark her diamond jubilee but royal aides must now see whether his health allows for the full programme.
Philip announced on his 90th birthday this year that he was reducing his public engagements after years of touring the globe several footsteps behind the British monarch.
He travelled with the 85-year-old queen to Australia in October although he pulled out of a visit to Italy just afterwards because he was nursing a cold.
© 2011 AFP