Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip left hospital Tuesday, four days after being rushed in for emergency heart surgery and missing the royal family’s Christmas celebrations.
The outspoken 90-year-old prince smiled and waved as he was driven away in a dark Range Rover vehicle from Papworth hospitalnear Cambridge, eastern England, an AFP photographer witnessed.
Buckingham Palace said Prince Philip would return to the royal Sandringham estate in Norfolk, where the queen, her children and grandchildren have spent the Christmas holiday.
“His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was discharged from Papworth Hospital this morning. He is returning to Sandringham by car,” the palace said in a statement, referring to Philip by his official title.
“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.”
The prince’s car was followed by two vehicles carrying royal protection officers.
The health scare was the most serious yet for the longest serving royal consort in British history, who has remained active in recent years despite his age.
Philip was airlifted from Sandringham to Papworth hospital, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, on Friday after complaining of chest pains.
He underwent an operation to unblock a coronary artery using a stent, a mesh sleeve fitted over a sausage-shaped balloon which is inserted into the artery and then inflated.
The stent remains fixed in position inside the body when the balloon is removed and opens up the artery to remove the blockage.
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 herself 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 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 has told doctors he felt “fine” and didn’t want to “make a fuss”, adding: “I just want to go home,” according to reports.
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.
He 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.
Papworth is Britain’s largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and the country’s main heart and lung transplant centre.
Next year is a big one for the queen as she celebrates her diamond jubilee to mark 60 years on the British throne with a series of events in June.