Here's why Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for nearly a century

Photo credit: WPA Pool – Getty Images

Prince Philip sadly passed away in April this year aged 99, and naturally royal fans are wondering what will happen to his life's belongings. Well, it turns out we wont actually get the answer to that question (in our lifetime at least), as his will is to be kept secret for 90 years. But why?

It's all to do with the Queen and Philip's other royal relatives. In order to protect the “dignity and standing” of the Queen, along with the likes of Prince Charles and Prince William, the will is to be sealed from public inspection for at least 90 years. After the 90 years have passed there will be a private process to decide if the will can be unsealed.

In charge of the decision to keep Prince Philip's will sealed is Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division of the High Court. At the hearing into whether the will would be kept sealed, in July of this year, he heard arguments from lawyers representing the Prince's estate and the attorney general, and after weighing up what they had to say, he published his ruling yesterday (16 September).

Photo credit: Tim Graham – Getty Images

Speaking about his ruling, Sir Andrew 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.”

He continued, “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.”

“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,” Sir Andrew added.

Despite ruling on whether or not Prince Philip's will would remain private, Sir Andrew said he himself had not seen the contents, other than the date of the will's execution and the identity of the appointed executor.

Photo credit: Tim Graham – Getty Images

Keeping the Royal Family's wills a secret isn't a new tradition though. In fact, for over a century the courts have sealed the wills of senior royals who have passed away.

As well as Prince Philip's will, Sir Andrew is custodian of a safe that holds more than 30 envelopes, each containing the sealed wills of other Royals who have passed away.

On the topic of whether the wills will ever be made public, Sir Andrew explained that after 90 years, each will would be opened up by the monarch's private solicitor, the keeper of the Royal Archives, the attorney general and by any personal representatives of the Royal who may still be available.

After examining the contents of the will, they will decide whether it can be made public. Although, Sir Andrew says it's possible that some royal wills will never be revealed to the public.

In a break from tradition, Princess Diana's will was published after her tragic death in 1997. The will revealed that she had left the majority of her fortune in a trust for her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

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