‘I wouldn't be coming out if I wasn't’

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iol tonight dec 26 prince philip REUTERS (File photo) Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip.

Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip celebrates his 91st birthday at home on Sunday, after five days of hospital treatment for a bladder infection sparked concerns about his health.

The outspoken Duke of Edinburgh left London's King Edward VII hospital on Saturday, just in time for his birthday.

He was hospitalised on Monday in the midst of huge diamond jubilee celebrations marking his wife's 60 years on the throne.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said Philip, the longest-serving royal consort in British history and the queen's stalwart companion throughout her reign, would mark his birthday privately “at home”.

His illness came six months after he was treated for a blocked coronary artery after suffering chest pains.

The prince was in good spirits as he walked out of the hospital in central London, shaking hands with staff and smiling.

Asked if he was feeling better, he quipped: “Well, I wouldn't be coming out if I wasn't.”

He was driven to Windsor Castle near London, the BBC reported.

Two gun salutes will be fired in London on Monday to mark his birthday, but a palace spokesman said it was not yet known whether he will be able to carry out his hectic schedule of royal engagements in the coming week.

“He continues to make a good recovery and will continue his convalescence at home,” the spokesman said.

The illness forced Philip to miss the final two days of Britain's jubilee celebrations, including Monday's star-studded pop concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Crowds at the concert cheered and shouted “Philip! Philip!” after heir to the throne Prince Charles suggested; “If we shout loud enough, he might just hear us in hospital.”

The Duke also missed an appearance by the main royals on the palace balcony on Tuesday, when crowds of flag-waving revellers again surrounded the building in a sea of red, white and blue.

He is famous for his off-colour jokes - once telling a British student in China that “If you stay here much longer, you'll go home with slitty eyes” - but family members say he is a key source of support for the 86-year-old queen.

“He is her rock, really, and she is his,” the couple's granddaughter Princess Eugenie told Britain's Sky News in an interview broadcast Saturday.

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times newspaper found that Philip's popularity has risen in the wake of his illness, with 58 percent describing him as an asset to the royal family compared to 47

percent before the jubilee.

Philip's health has generally been good but he said before his 90th birthday he would scale down his engagements.

If well enough, he will host a garden party with the queen at Sandringham House in Norfolk, eastern England, on Tuesday, and both are scheduled to attend a jubilee picnic in nearby Lincolnshire on Wednesday.

Born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, he gave up these titles to marry the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947, and also sacrificed a promising naval career to be her full-time consort when she acceded to the throne in 1952.

He once admitted the curtailment of his career was “disappointing”, but said that “being married to the queen, it seemed to me that my first duty was to serve her in the best way I could”.

Besides their four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, the royal couple have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. - Sapa-AFP

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