he Queen Mother and Princess Margaret are among the Royals whose wills are stored secretly in a High Court judge’s safe, it has been revealed during a battle over the privacy of Prince Philip’s last wishes.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s will was sealed and confined to the safe for the next 90 years in July, following a secret hearing in front of the President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Andrew McFarlane.
But in September the judge published a ruling to outline what had happened, revealing for the first time the obscure legal procedure used to keep Royal wills private.
Sir Andrew said more than 30 wills are in the safe, and has now published a list of the Royals involved. The last wishes of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, who both died in 2002, are the last names on the list before Prince Philip.
King Edward VIII – who became the Duke of Windsor after he abdicated the throne in 1936 – is also on the list, along with grandchildren of Queen Victoria and children of George V and Queen Mary.
In his September ruling, Sir Andrew said the special procedure was needed “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”.
But he decided to reveal the existence of the safe in a bid for transparency.
“The principle that there should be a level of transparency as to the fact that a Royal will, in this case that of HRH The Prince Philip, has been sealed has now been established”, he ruled.
“The fact that a number of other wills have been similarly sealed over the past century is known and, in those circumstances, the same level of transparency should now apply to those wills so that the fact that they have been sealed and are currently in the custody of the President of the Family Division should be made public by naming them in a list.”
Sir Andrew added that publishing the list, which happened after no objections were received, was not intended to open the floodgates for transparency requests.
“The publication of the list is, however, in no manner an invitation for any person or agency to apply to open any or all of those wills”, he said.
In the published list, banker Leopold de Rothschild’s name was originally included but then removed by the court. He was Edward VII’s close friend but not a member of the Royal Family, and his inclusion was said to be “in error”.
The Guardian has launched a legal challenge to the decision to exclude the media from the hearing on Prince Philip’s will, arguing it amounted to serious interference in the open justice principle.
The media group is seeking for the case to be reheard.
This is the full list of Royals whose wills are in the judge’s safe:
Prince Francis Joseph Leopold Frederick of Teck – February 1911
Alexander William George, Duke of Fife – May 1912
Prince Morris Victor Donald of Battenberg – May 1917
Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – December 1920
Lord Leopold Louis Mountbatten – June 1922
Helen Frederica Augusta, Duchess of Albany – December 1922
Princess Helena Augusta Victoria, Princess Christian
Princess Frederica Sophia Maria Henrietta Amelia Theresa of Great Britain – May 1927
Princess Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar, Princess Royal – April 1931 & June 1934
Princess Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary – March 1936
Queen Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria of Norway – February 1939
Prince Arthur Frederick Patrick Albert of Connaught – March 1939
Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Duchess of Argyll – February 1940
Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, Duke of Connaught – March 1942
Prince George Edward Alexander Edmund, Duke of Kent – January 1943
Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore of Battenberg – May 1943
Maud Alexandra Victoria Georgina Berth, Countess of Southesk – March 1946
Princess Louise Sophia Augusta Amelia Helena – May 1948
Princess Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Maria Christiane – March 1957
Princess Alexandra Victoria Alberta Edivina Louise, Princess Arthur of Connaught – April 1959
Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, Princess Royal – December 1965
Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent – October 1968
Prince William Henry Andrew Frederick of Gloucester – October 1972
Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, Duke of Windsor – November 1972
Lady Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth Ramsay – April 1974
Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester – September 1974
Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas, Earl Mountbatten of Burma – February 1980
Princess Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline, Countess of Athlone – June 1981
Prince Georg Valdemar Carl Axel of Denmark – May 1987
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon – June 2002
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – April 2002