Judges determined that the contents of Prince Philip’s will can remain sealed due to “exceptional” circumstances despite a legal challenge from The Guardian.
Last year, a judge ruled that the will of Queen Elizabeth‘s late husband should be sealed for at least 90 years in order to protect the monarch’s privacy. The Guardian attempted to appeal that court’s decision because it excluded the media from attending the July 2021 hearing during which that ruling was made. But according to The Telegraph, on Friday, judges rejected the newspaper’s challenge as they said there were “exceptional” circumstances that necessitated the hearing to be held in private. Sir Geoffrey Vos, Dame Victoria Sharp and Lady Justice King, the three judges presiding over the case, said that the press could not be invited to the private hearing “without risking the media storm that was feared.”
They wrote in the ruling, “The hearing was at a hugely sensitive time for the Sovereign and her family, and those interests would not have been protected if there had been protracted hearings reported in the press rather than a single occasion on which full reasons for what had been decided were published.”
Wills in the UK are typically a matter of public record following a person’s death, however, the tradition for the last century when it comes to members of the royal family is that their wills remain sealed. “It is true that the law applies equally to the Royal family, but that does not mean that the law produces the same outcomes in all situations. These circumstances are, as we have said, exceptional,” the judges wrote. “We are not sure that there is a specific public interest in knowing how the assets of the Royal family are distributed. A perceived lack of transparency might be a matter of legitimate public debate, but the (Non-Contentious Probate Rules) allow wills and their values to be concealed from the public gaze in some cases. The judge properly applied the statutory test in this case.”
Following Prince Philip’s death last April, The Sun reported that the Duke of Edinburgh wanted to leave something special to three key staff members he was very close with. “Unlike some other royals, Prince Philip will be generous to the three men who looked after him,” an insider told the outlet. “These include his private secretary Brigadier Archie Miller Bakewell, his page William Henderson and valet Stephen Niedojadlo.” All three men played a major role in caring for the 99-year-old royal in his final years, with Bakewell even regularly standing in for Philip at events when he was unable to attend. But the majority of the royal’s estate was likely left to his the queen as she was co-owner of many of his assets.
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