British royals miss Prince Philip on Xmas
December 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM
Britain's Princes William and Harry visited their grandfather Prince Philip in hospital Sunday after the queen's husband missed the royal Christmas celebrations for the first time.

The outspoken Philip -- who at the age of 90 is the longest serving royal consort in British history -- was set to spend a third night in hospital recovering from heart surgery to clear a blocked coronary artery.

Six of his eight grandchildren with Queen Elizabeth II came to the Papworth hospital near Cambridge, after the royal family's Christmas church service and lunch at their Sandringham estate in eastern England.

New wife Catherine did not come with William, 29, who arrived in a Range Rover along with Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, the children of the queen's daughter Princess Anne.

Harry, 27, drove an Audi which also carried Beatrice and Eugenie, the daughters of the queen's second youngest son Prince Andrew. William and Harry are the sons of heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

The queen -- who visited Philip on Saturday with her children -- stressed the importance of family and friendship in her annual pre-recorded Christmas address to the nation which was televised Sunday.

Wearing a red dress, she said the marriage of William and Catherine in April was her personal reminder of the value of loved ones, and that in times of hardship we often "find strength from our families"

The royals earlier told wellwishers who had gathered to see them attend the Christmas morning service in the St Mary Magdalene church at Sandringham that Prince Philip's condition was improving.

William said his grandfather, known for his outspoken and occasionally gruff comments, was "very well, thank you. Getting much better", while Charles added that Philip was "very well".

During the service, the rector of Sandringham, Jonathan Riviere said: "We pray for the queen and the royal family, especially today we pray for Prince Philip and his continued recovery."

Police said 3,000 people gathered at Sandringham.

The service was the first to be attended by Catherine, 29, who wowed the crowds in an aubergine coat and hat and chatted to children who presented her with flowers.

But it was overshadowed by Prince Philip's first absence from church at Christmas. He is also set to miss the Boxing Day shoot he traditionally leads on December 26.

During the service, the rector of Sandringham, Jonathan Riviere said: "We pray for the queen and the royal family, especially today we pray for Prince Philip and his continued recovery."

Buckingham Palace said Prince Philip "remains in good spirits".

He was airlifted to hospital from Sandringham on Friday suffering from chest pains.

Tests showed a blocked coronary artery and doctors at Papworth, which boasts Britain's biggest cardiac unit, inserted a tube-like device called a stent to restore healthy blood flow.

The Greek-born Philip married then Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and has become a national institution -- almost as much for his often brusque comments as for his support for the queen.

An active outdoorsman and former Royal Navy captain, he has been in largely good health and joined his wife on an 11-day tour of Australia three months ago.

But he pulled out of a trip to Italy in October nursing a cold.

The next year is a big one for the queen as she celebrates her diamond jubilee marking 60 years on the British throne.

In an interview to mark his 90th birthday in June, Prince Philip said he would scale back his workload.

"I reckon I've done my bit. I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibility, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say," he told the BBC.

Thinking of things to say has sometimes landed him in hot water.

On a visit to China in 1986, he warned a group of British students: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed."