REPORTING FROM LONDON -– Prince Philip, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, was released from the hospital Tuesday morning following heart surgery four days ago.
The 90 year-old prince suffered chest pains on Christmas Eve while at the Sandringham estate, the royal family's country retreat 120 miles north of London.
He was taken to Papworth Hospital, located 50 miles away near Cambridge, which specializes in heart surgery.
Buckingham Palace released a statement Tuesday saying the prince on his departure "thanked the staff at Papworth for the excellent care he has received during his stay," and that he was "very much looking forward to rejoining his family."
The palace reported that the treatment he received last Friday was a "minimally invasive procedure of coronary stenting," in which a small balloon is inserted into an artery and then expanded in order to unblock it. Patients can normally leave the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure, but the prince stayed four days under observation.
He missed the royal family's traditional Christmas events but received visits from all members of his immediate family.
The queen visited on Christmas Eve accompanied by their sons, Edward and Andrew, and daughter, Anne, and there were Christmas Day visits from their six grandchildren, including the newly married Prince William -- now the Duke of Cambridge since his marriage in July to Catherine Middleton -- and his younger brother, Prince Harry.
Philip left the hospital in a small convoy of cars. The normally energetic prince traveled in the front seat of a Range Rover. Looking rested, he smiled and waved to reporters and photographers around the hospital gates before continuing on the hourlong drive to Sandringham.
During his stay in the hospital, the queen's traditional Christmas Day message to the nation focused on the family and community values. "We've seen that it's in hardship that we often find strength from our families," she said in the prerecorded speech.
Next year, the queen and Philip face a heavy schedule of events and overseas visits in celebration of her diamond jubilee. So far, there is no prediction as to whether the prince will alter his plans due to his latest health scare.
-- Janet Stobart
Photo: Prince Philip smiles and waves as he leaves Papworth Hospital after heart surgery. Credit: Chris Radburn / EPA