Why Prince Philip's Will Is Set to Be Secret for at Least 90 Years

Prince Philip's will is to remain secret for at least 90 years to maintain the monarchy's "dignity," London's High Court has ruled. Five months after the Duke of Edinburgh's passing at the age of 99, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the UK High Court's most senior family judge, ruled that the late prince's will should remain sealed "and that no copy of the will should be made for the record or kept on the court file." Under the order, made Thursday morning, a private process can be held after the 90-year period to determine if the documents should be unsealed.

The move to seal the late royal's will reportedly began in July when MacFarlane, according to the BBC, held a hearing with lawyers representing the late Duke of Edinburgh's estate and the attorney general. The meeting was held in private, as it would have generated "very significant publicity and conjecture" that would "defeat the purpose of the application." MacFarlane said he "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." After hearing arguments, MacFarlane ultimately decided to accept the submission, with details being revealed in MacFarlane's published ruling on Thursday.

"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," MacFarlane said. "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 published ruling followed Philip's April 9 death. Philip passed away "peacefully" at Windsor Castle as the longest-serving consort to a British sovereign. He was laid to rest in a scaled-back royal funeral held at St. George's Chapel just a week later.


The ruling to have his will sealed for 90 years is not unusual for a member of the British royal family. According to Reuters, McFarlane said the first royal family member to have their will sealed was Prince Francis of Teck, the younger brother of Queen Mary. More recently, Queen Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and sister, Princess Margaret, also have their wills sealed. MacFarlane, who said he has not seen or been told of the contents of Philip's will, added that as the most senior judge in the family courts, he is the custodian of a safe holding more than 30 envelopes, each containing the sealed will of a deceased member of the royal family.