The Duke of Edinburgh’s will is to remain secret for at least 90 years to protect the “dignity and standing” of the Queen, the High Court has ruled.
Unlike other members of the royal family, Diana, Princess of Wales, had her will published after her death in 1997, revealing that the majority of her fortune was being held in trust for her sons until they reached the age of 25.
For over a century, it has been a convention that, after the death of a senior member of the Royal Family, the courts are asked to seal their wills.
It means that, unlike most wills granted probate, it will not be open to public inspection.
There will be a private process in 90 years to decide if it can be unsealed.
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.
Sir Andrew said that as president of the Family Division of the High Court, he is the custodian of a safe containing more than 30 envelopes, each containing the sealed will of a dead member of the Royal Family.
For the first time in more than 100 years, he set out the process by which those wills could be made public.
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.
“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 said he has 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 held the hearing in private because it would likely 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.
He said there was no legal reason for any representation from media organisations because the public’s interest was represented by the Attorney General.
Lawyers for Prince Philip’s estate argued that news of the hearing and the application “might generate wholly unfounded conjecture” that would be “deeply intrusive” for the Queen and the royal family.