Prince PhilipSANDRINGHAM _ Prince Philip missed the royal family’s Christmas Day celebrations for the first time as he remained in hospital after heart surgery.
Nanjing Night Net

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 Prince 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 today.

Prince Philip, who is the longest serving royal consort in British history and an outspoken pillar of the House of Windsor, was airlifted on Saturday from Sandringham suffering 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 Prince Philip “probably was having a heart attack” which was successfully aborted.

Around 3000 people queued at the gates of the St Mary Magdalene Church on the royal estate at Sandringham yesterday to see the royals walk the few hundred metres 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.

At Sandringham House following the church service, the family were reportedly to tuck into a huge turkey reared on the estate.

They were then going to 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.

The Queen and her children all visited Prince Philip in hospital yesterday as he recovered from the operation.

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