Duke of Edinburgh misses royals' Christmas Day service

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Media captionThe Royal Family including, for the first time, the Duchess of Cambridge, greeted well-wishers

The Royal Family have attended a Christmas Day service at a church on their Sandringham estate without Prince Philip, who is still in hospital.

Afterwards, the royals - including, for the first time, the Duchess of Cambridge - greeted well-wishers.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 90, had a coronary stent fitted on Friday after suffering chest pains.

The Rev Jonathan Riviere prayed for him during the service. Family members are due to visit the duke after lunch.

Rev Riviere said: "We pray for the Queen and the Royal Family, especially today we pray for Prince Philip and his continued recovery."

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt says family members are set to visit the duke in hospital after their lunch, scheduled for 13:00 GMT.

Our correspondent says Prince Philip is, by all accounts, eager to leave Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire but Buckingham Palace said the Duke remained "in good spirits".

Image caption The Queen wore an ivory hat by Angela Kelly and a lavender dress and coat by Karl Ludwig.

Well-wishers began arriving at Sandringham's St Mary Magdalene Church before 07:00 GMT and police estimated that some 3,000 people were waiting outside by the time the royals arrived for the Christmas Day service.

After the service, family members walked amongst those gathered, accepting flowers and engaging in conversation.

Prince Charles said his father was "very well" when one royal fan asked after Prince Philip's health. Well-wisher Camilla Fitt said that the Prince of Wales had told her the duke was "very determined".

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Duchess of Cambridge was wearing a hat by Jane Corbett and a coat by an independent British dressmaker, whose identity he declined to reveal.

The Queen wore an ivory hat by Angela Kelly and a lavender dress and coat by Karl Ludwig.

It is understood the Queen had a paid a private visit to the church earlier. The Queen's Christmas broadcast this year has as its theme the strength of family, friends and the community working together.

The Queen visited the duke in hospital on Christmas Eve and he remains under observation.

She was accompanied on the 45-minute visit by their sons Edward and Andrew, and daughter, Anne.

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Media captionWatch the Queen's Christmas message in full

They arrived by helicopter for the visit, where they were met by the hospital's chief executive and Professor John Cunningham, chief physician to the Queen.

After they left, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived by car from Highgrove.

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said the fact the Queen had visited her husband so promptly suggested it was a "moment of real anxiety" for the Royal Family, albeit one which appeared to have passed.

'Good spirits'

Speaking outside the hospital, Buckingham Palace spokeswoman Ailsa Anderson said on Saturday: "The Duke of Edinburgh had a good night and is in good spirits but he is eager to leave.

"Sunday's church service is going ahead as planned and we don't anticipate changes to the Royal Family's Christmas celebrations."

The "minimally invasive" coronary stenting procedure he underwent involves pushing a balloon into the artery and inflating it to remove the blockage.

Image caption Prince Philip turned 90 in June

The stent is a mesh sleeve fitted over the balloon, which remains fixed in position inside the body when the balloon is removed.

Prince Philip would have remained conscious during the procedure.

He was flown to the hospital by an RAF helicopter. No other member of the Royal Family travelled with him.

Papworth is the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital and the country's main heart and lung transplant centre, treating more than 22,800 inpatient and day cases and 53,400 outpatients each year.

Senior members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrived at Sandringham on Saturday for Christmas.

The duke was due to be leading Sandringham's Boxing Day shoot.

Prince Philip, who arrived at Sandringham on Monday, is the longest-serving royal consort and celebrated 64 years of marriage to the Queen in November.

He was last in hospital in April 2008, when he spent three days in London with a chest infection. On that occasion, the Queen did not visit him.

Speaking ahead of his 90th birthday, in June, the duke said he wanted to slow down. He stepped down as president or patron of more than a dozen organisations.

Royal biographer Penny Junor said the duke was generally in good health for his age.

"He is an extraordinarily fit man. He takes a lot of exercise, he does an awful lot of work. He's in very good shape generally. So with luck this is a blip and he'll be back fighting fit and back with the family for Christmas."

The Queen's Christmas Day broadcast to the nation will highlight the importance of the family unit. The speech, taped on 9 December, reflects on a year in which her grandson Prince William got married and her husband turned 90.

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