Weeks after Prince Philip passed away, the Daily Mail had a curious story about his will. Their sources claimed that Philip had accumulated an estate worth around $42 million, and that he left significant sums to his three main personal aides, while also setting up trusts for his grandchildren, and then leaving the rest to the Queen. Keep in mind that no one even knows how Philip was worth that much – before his marriage to then-Princess Elizabeth, he was known as Pauper Prince, living on his naval salary plus whatever his uncle Lord Mountbatten gave him. Then the story got even more curious when the British High Court ruled that Philip’s will would remain a secret for 99 years, explicitly to protect the “dignity and standing” of the Queen. Even stranger, the High Court made their ruling without allowing any arguments from the media about why Philip’s will should be made public. They hushed it all up really quickly. Well, the Guardian sued. And lost.
The contents of Prince Philip’s will are to remain private due to “exceptional” circumstances. A judge ruled last year that the will of Queen Elizabeth’s late husband would be sealed and kept private for at least 90 years. However, The Guardian challenged the decision to exclude media from a July 2021 hearing that made that ruling.
On Friday, judges rejected the claim, saying there were “exceptional” circumstances for the hearing to be held in private, according to The Telegraph. The three judges — Sir Geoffrey Vos, Dame Victoria Sharp and Lady Justice King — said press could not be alerted to the private hearing “without risking the media storm that was feared.”
“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,” they said in the ruling.
Although wills in the U.K. are usually public record after someone’s death, it has been practice for over a century for the wills of royal family members to be sealed. The judges said, “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.”
“We are not sure that there is a specific public interest in knowing how the assets of the Royal family are distributed,” they added. “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.”
“We are not sure that there is a specific public interest in knowing how the assets of the Royal family are distributed…” LOL. Um, yes there is. There is a public interest in knowing Philip’s net worth at the time of his death AND knowing how his will distributed that wealth. The emphasis on how it was “a hugely sensitive time for the Sovereign and her family” makes it sound like the High Court made their decision just days after Philip’s passing. The hearing was in July 2021, three months after he passed. I remember that the Queen spent much of June and July going to horse shows and doing public appearances and events. Of course she was still grieving, but they’re acting like it would have been the height of insensitivity to have a public conversation about Philip’s estate while the Queen was having a hot girl summer. As for all of this talk about the Queen’s dignity and “exceptional circumstances”… it just makes me think that he gave large sums to his “special friend” Penny Knatchbull.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.