Prince Philip, who was dramatically airlifted to a hospital after suffering chest pains, received a “minimally invasive procedure” to unblock a coronary artery Thursday night.
Papworth Hospital, a cardiac specialty facility in Cambridgeshire, said the procedure was carried out “successfully.” Medical experts said Prince Philip, 90, was almost certainly having a heart attack, and a balloon would have been inflated in the artery to open it up and a stent inserted to keep the artery open and prevent it from clogging again.
Given his age, the duke is unlikely to be released from hospital in time for Christmas Day, to join William and Kate, on her first Christmas at Sandringham, the Windsors’ private estate in Norfolk, in the east of England. As the undisputed head of the family in private, he will be sorely missed at the Christmas table.
Expert decipherers of the royal runes said that the twin facts that the information was released so quickly and that no member of the royal family accompanied the duke to Papworth supported the notion he was not at death’s door.
Still, the prince’s hospitalization will cast a long shadow over Christmas celebrations at Sandringham, not least because the royal family exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve, in accordance with German tradition, and there seems little prospect of Philip being released tomorrow. A media room has been set up at Papworth, and journalists arriving there are steeling themselves for a long haul over the holidays. Philip will be annoyed if he is not able to make it to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day, or to the Boxing Day pheasant shoot that he organizes.
As Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the queen, said on Sky News, “He will be missed today and tomorrow. But he is very fit, very robust, and single-minded. He won’t like all this fuss made about him. He’ll be determined to get back on his feet as soon as possible.”
The emergency will inevitably raise questions about the appropriate extent of his participation in a hectic schedule of nationwide engagements to support the Diamond Jubilee celebrations next summer. Elizabeth and Philip are planning to mark her 60 years on the throne with a series of tours throughout England, culminating with a celebration in London in early June that will include an unprecedented pageant on the River Thames with 1,000 boats taking part, led by the queen aboard the royal barge.
But previous attempts to persuade the duke to cut back on his workload have fallen on deaf ears. This year, he participated in more than 400 engagements.
Many are now questioning whether the duke really should have been accompanying his wife on an 11-day trip to Australia just two months ago. In November, a trip to Italy was canceled when he caught a cold.
Praised and reviled in equal parts for his plain-speaking, no-nonsense manner, Philip has not mellowed with age: Just weeks ago, he told the CEO of an alternative-energy company that wind farms were “absolutely bloody useless” and a “fairytale.”
Born on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921, Philip served in Britain’s Royal Navy before marrying Elizabeth in 1947. They have four children, including the heir to the throne, Charles.
The prince has no clear-cut constitutional role. In private, he is regarded as the unquestioned head of his family, but protocol obliges the man dubbed “the second handshake” to spend his public life one step behind his wife.