Prince Philip in hospital as royals mark Christmas

December 25, 2011 - 7:05 AM
Britain Royals

Britain's Prince William, back left, Prince Charles, front left, Kate Duchess of Cambridge, center, and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall arrive to attend a Christmas Service at St Mary's church on the grounds of Sandringham Estate, the Queen's Norfolk retreat, England, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

LONDON (AP) — Britain's royal family gathered Sunday to celebrate Christmas with one notable absence — Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip, who remains hospitalized following a heart procedure.

The 90-year-old prince is recovering from having a coronary stent put in after doctors determined that the heart pains which sent him to the hospital on Friday were caused by a blocked artery.

Buckingham Palace said "he's in good spirits" and family members will visit Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, in the hospital after lunch.

The palace has said the rest of the family's Christmas schedule will go ahead as planned — including a traditional morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the queen's sprawling Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The huge crowds that gathered outside the church got an early peek when the royals made a quick private visit to the church ahead of the services. Less than two hours later, they were back — in different clothes — for the Christmas service.

The Queen arrived first — dressed in a lavender-colored coat and hat — in a royal limousine, leading the way into the church. Her oldest son, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, trailed behind.

Prince Harry walked in with his brother William and new sister-in-law Kate— now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Kate, whose style is closely watched around the world and sends dresses flying off the shelves in Britain, wore an eggplant-colored coat and matching hat.

Among the other royals present was the queen's granddaughter, Zara Philips, who was joined by her new husband Mike Tindall, an English rugby player.

After the service, children lined up to give bouquets of flowers to the queen. Thanking each well-wisher, the queen then handed the bouquets to her granddaughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The royal family then traveled back to the house for lunch, an integral part of their celebration.

Another key part of the royal family's Christmas festivities is the queen's annual message to the nation, which this year will focus on family and community.

The queen has made a prerecorded Christmas broadcast on radio since 1952 and on television since 1957. She writes the speeches herself, and the broadcasts mark the rare occasion on which the queen voices her own opinion without government consultation.

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Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd