Prince Philip’s will is to remain secret for 90 years to protect the ‘dignity’ of the Queen and ‘close members of her family’, the High Court has ruled.
The Duke of Edinburgh, the nation’s longest-serving consort, died aged 99 on April 9, just two months before he would have turned 100.
It has been convention for over a century that an application to seal their will is made to the President of the Family Division of the High Court. This means the wills of senior members of the royal family are not open to public inspection in the way a will would ordinarily be, Mail Online reports.
The hearing into the application to seal the will was also held in private in July by Sir Andrew McFarlane, the most senior judge in the family courts. He heard arguments from lawyers representing the duke’s estate and the attorney general, the government’s chief legal adviser, and published his ruling on Thursday.
In the ruling, Sir Andrew ordered that Philip’s will is to remain sealed for 90 years from the grant of probate.
The judge said: ‘I have held that, because of the constitutional position of the Sovereign, it is appropriate to have a special practice in relation to royal wills.
‘There is a need to enhance the protection afforded to truly private aspects of the lives of this limited group of individuals in order to maintain the dignity of the Sovereign and close members of her family.’
He said the ruling was to make as much detail as possible public without ‘compromising the conventional privacy afforded to communications from the Sovereign’.
The judge said he had not seen Prince Philip’s will or been told anything of its contents, other than the date of its execution and the identity of the appointed executor.
He said he decided to hold the hearing in private because it would be likely to generate “very significant publicity and conjecture” that would “defeat the purpose of the application”.
“I accepted the submission that, whilst there may be public curiosity as to the private arrangements that a member of the Royal Family may choose to make in their will, there is no true public interest in the public knowing this wholly private information,” he said.
Sir Andrew said that, as the Attorney General was there to represent the public interest at the hearing, there was no legal reason for any further representations by media organisations.
Lawyers representing Philip’s estate had argued at the private hearing that news of that hearing and the application ‘might generate wholly unfounded conjecture’ which would be ‘deeply intrusive’ to the Queen and royal family.
Outlining the history of previous similar decisions, Sir Andrew said the first member of the royal family whose will was sealed on the direction of the court’s president was Prince Francis of Teck.
He was the younger brother of Queen Mary and, following his death in 1910, an application for his will to be sealed and not published was granted.
Sir Andrew said that, as President of the Family Division of the High Court, he is custodian of a safe which holds 30 envelopes each containing the sealed will of a deceased member of the royal family.