The Duke of Edinburgh’s will is to remain sealed to protect the “dignity” of the Queen because of her constitutional role, the High Court has ruled.
Following convention dating back to 1910, the Duke’s will is to remain secret in accordance with the Queen’s wishes.
For more than a century, the death of a senior member of the Royal family has been followed by an application to seal their will, made to the president of the Family Division of the High Court.
It means that the wills of senior members of the Royal family are not open to public inspection in the way a will would ordinarily be.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, the current president, heard legal arguments from lawyers representing the Duke’s estate and the Attorney General, who represents the public interest in such matters, at a private hearing in July.
Seal of the near-century
In a ruling published on Thursday, Sir Andrew ordered that the Duke’s will is to remain sealed for 90 years from the grant of probate and may be opened only in private even after that date.
It will likely be added to a safe in the judge’s office, where more than 30 envelopes containing the wills of deceased members of the Royal family are stored.
The safe holds wills dating back to that of Prince Francis of Teck, the younger brother of Queen Mary. He died in 1910, aged 39, and is said to have bequeathed jewels to a mistress with the details, including talk of an illegitimate child, being suppressed.
Since then, only the will of Diana, Princess of Wales has been made public following her death in 1997.
The wills of the current Queen’s mother and sister were added in 2002, the judge said.
The judge said he had neither seen nor been told anything of the contents of the Duke’s will.
“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,” the judge wrote in his ruling.