Britain's Prince Philip Leaves Hospital After Heart Treatment

Chris Radburn/PA/AP Photo

Prince Philip may have missed the royal family's traditional Christmas celebrations, but he will be home in time to ring in the New Year.

The 90-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II was released from Papworth Hospital in Cambridge early  today after spending four nights there to undergo treatment for a blocked coronary artery.

Philip was seen smiling and waving to bystanders as he was driven away from the hospital to begin the hour-long car journey back to the Sandringham House in Norfolk, England, where the royal family had celebrated Christmas and Boxing Day without him.

The normally healthy and robust prince was hospitalized last Friday after experiencing chest pains.  After undergoing precautionary tests, he had minor surgery to open a blocked artery.  The procedure was said to be "minimally invasive" and a stent was put in.

Upon leaving the hospital today, the prince reportedly walked to the exit from his ward, rather than take an elevator.

The last time he was hospitalized, in 2008 for a chest infection, Philip didn't accept any visitors, preferring to catch up with paperwork instead.

This time, however, he was visited by the queen, who traveled with her children, Princess Anne, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, according to the palace.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles also visited, as well as Prince William, Prince Harry and four other grandchildren.

"On departure, Prince Philip thanked the staff at Papworth for the excellent care he has received during his stay," a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.  "He is very much looking forward to rejoining his family."

Philip's hospitalization marked the first time in years he was absent the royal family's traditional Christmas festivities, which included exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve, attending a morning church service, viewing the queen's annual Christmas broadcast, and participating in the family's traditional pheasant hunt on Boxing Day.

As the prince recovers, it remains unclear if or how his health problems may impact his schedule for the next year as the royal family prepares to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee in June, a celebration of 60 years on the throne.

He and the queen, married for more than 60 years, are scheduled to make a series of trips to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the jubiliee festivities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.