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Why a court battle may be brewing over Prince Philip’s will


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  • Here’s why.

    Five months after Prince Philip passed away, it was ruled in a High Court that his will would be sealed for ninety years.

    Yet in recent news, The Guardian newspaper has announced that it will be taking legal action as they do not believe the media should have been excluded from the hearing.

    It took place in September and saw the president of the High Court’s Family Division, Andrew McFarlane, decide to keep the late Prince’s will sealed.

    Reports show that there was hardly anyone present in the courtroom, bar a lawyer from Farrer & Co who had been hired to represent the Duke’s estate.

    The media were not informed that the hearing was taking place.

    The public interest, it’s thought, was represented by an attorney general.

    A spokesperson for The Guardian said to CNN that the move not to include media in the hearing “is a clear threat to the principles of open justice”.

    “It is also concerning that the court appears to believe that only the attorney general can speak to the public interest,” they added.

    “We are seeking permission to argue that the behaviour of the high court in this instance constitutes a failure of open justice and that the case should be reheard.”

    As per British law, a will should be publically avaiable if a person writes one prior to death – you simply have to obtain a copy from the Probate Registry and pay a fee.

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    However, it’s possible for anyone to request that the court “seal” a will, therefore making it private.

    However, anyone can ask the court to “seal” a will and keep it private.

    “The court must be persuaded that it would be ‘undesirable or otherwise inappropriate’ to make the will public,” lawyers Geoff Kertesz and Judith Swinhoe-Sanden told CNN.

    “Historically, the courts have approved such applications only for senior members of the royal family. It is unclear under what, if any, other circumstances the court might agree to keep a will private,” they continue.

    Wondering what’s in Philip’s will that requires it to be sealed for 90 years? It’s not looking likely that we’ll find out in our lifetimes, however, if The Guardian wins their appeal, we just might.

    One of the only senior Royals in recent history whose will was indeed made public was Princess Diana.

    Judge McFarlane explained their decision by pointing out that it has now “become the convention” to seal a will “following the death of a senior member of the Royal Family“. Further, they said that it “appears that such applications have always been heard in private and have invariably been granted”.

    It’s thought that McFarlane is the custodian of a safe which holds over 30 different envelopes. Each is believed to contain a will of a dead Royal family member from the past. In recent years, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were added in 2002.

    Imagine stumbling across those envelopes, huh…



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