The will of Queen Elizabeth II’s late husband Prince Philip will remain sealed from the public for 90 years “to protect the dignity and standing” of the monarch, a High Court judge has ruled.
Philip, who was formally known as the Duke of Edinburgh, died on April 9 aged 99, just weeks short of his 100th birthday and after a period of illness.
It is convention for senior members of the royal family to ask that their will remain private.
Judge Andrew McFarlane, head of Family Division of the High Court, ruled on Thursday that the will remain sealed for 90 years, when it will then be opened for historians to use.
There was a “public interest in protecting the private rights of the Sovereign and close members of the Royal Family”, he ruled.
“The answer to the question ‘why should there be an exception for senior members of the Royal Family?’ is, in my view, clear: it is necessary to enhance the protection afforded to the private lives of this unique group of individuals, in order to protect the dignity and standing of the public role of the Sovereign and other close members of Her family,” he added.
The “historical or biographical interest in such wills” also had to be taken into account, but only after an appropriate time, he concluded.
“I consider that a period as long as 125 years is not justified. Equally, a period much less than 80 years would seem to be too short; erring on the side of caution, I consider that an initial period of 90 years is proportionate,” he said.
Lawyers representing Philip’s estate argued that news of the application “might generate wholly unfounded conjecture” about the family.
A professional archivist must conduct the unsealing process to ensure the document and its seals are properly preserved, ruled McFarlane.
Philip’s funeral was held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, west of London, with a scaled-back guest list of mourners of just 30 due to coronavirus restrictions.
He was interred in the royal vault at the historic chapel, with instructions for his remains to be moved to the George VI Memorial Chapel when his wife dies.