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.
After the death of a senior member of the royal family, 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.
The current president, Sir Andrew McFarlane, heard legal argument from lawyers representing Philip’s estate and the Attorney General – who represents the public interest in such matters – at a private hearing in July.
In a ruling published today, Sir Andrew ordered that Philip’s will is to remain sealed for 90 years from the grant of probate – the formal process which confirms the authority of an executor to administer a deceased person’s estate – and may only be opened in private even after that date.
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 it was in the public interest for him to make clear he had neither seen, nor been told anything of the contents of, Philip’s will, other than the date of its execution and the identity of the appointed executor.