The Guardian, a British news outlet, lost a legal challenge to a previous decision barring the media from a court case involving Prince Philip’s will on Friday (July 29). A High Court judge ruled in September 2021 that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of UK Queen Elizabeth, should be sealed for 90 years to protect the queen’s privacy. The media were not permitted to attend the hearing, which was held in private.
The Guardian then filed a lawsuit against the attorney general and the queen’s personal attorneys. It claimed that the media should have been allowed access. The appeal was unsuccessful. Geoffrey Vos and Victoria Sharp, senior judges, ruled that access to the media would have created a publicity storm. ‘The hearing occurred at a highly sensitive time for the sovereign and her family, and those interests would not have been protected if protracted hearings were reported in the press,’ the judges determined.
Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a lawyer for the Guardian, had argued that ‘an entirely private hearing such as this is the most serious interference with open justice’. However, the judges deemed the circumstances of the case to be ‘exceptional’. They also noticed that UK probate rules ‘allow wills and values to be hidden from public view in some cases. True, the law applies equally to the royal family, but that does not mean that the law produces the same results in all situations’.
Wills of the Windsor family, unlike those of ordinary members of the public, are traditionally kept private after their deaths. According to The Guardian, more than 30 UK royals have been able to keep their wills secret since 1910 by applying at private court hearings. Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, died in April last year, just weeks shy of his 100th birthday, after spending more than a month in hospital. He and the Queen had been married for 73 years.