Will of Queen Elizabeth's late husband will be sealed, court decides

FILE PHOTO: The Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip talks to ex-servicemen during a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Malta Branch of the British Legion at Malta's Cenotaph War Memorial
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LONDON (Reuters) - The will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, will be sealed and remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's dignity, a judge at London's High Court has ruled.

Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who had been married to the 95-year-old British monarch for more than seven decades, died at the age of 99 at his wife's Windsor Castle home to the west of London on April 9.

In keeping with a convention dating back to 1910, Andrew McFarlane, the president of the court's Family Division, said he had agreed Philip's will should be sealed up "and that no copy of the will should be made for the record or kept on the court file".

He also ruled in favour of the request "to exclude the value of the estate from the grant of probate".

"The degree of publicity that publication would be likely to attract would be very extensive and wholly contrary to the aim of maintaining the dignity of the Sovereign," McFarlane said in a ruling published on Thursday.

He said the convention was that following the death of a senior royal, an application to seal the will was made to the Family Division president, with such hearings and judgments kept private.

However, he said "as is plain from this judgment" he considered it was a "necessary and proportionate intrusion into the private affairs of Her Majesty and the Royal Family to make public the fact that an application to seal the will of HRH The Prince Philip ... has been made and granted in private, and to explain the underlying reasons".

The judge said 90 years should pass from the granting of probate before the will should be unsealed in private before possible publication, a period he said was "proportionate and sufficient".

He said the first royal whose will was sealed was Prince Francis of Teck, who was the younger brother of George V's wife Queen Mary. He said he was the custodian of a safe containing more than 30 envelopes with the wills of dead royals.

The most recent additions were made in 2002 following the deaths of Queen Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth, and her sister Princess Margaret, he said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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