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How the royal family used obscure legal procedures to seal wills of distant relatives


A court document reveals that the royal family has used an ambiguous legal procedure to keep the wills of distant relatives secret over the past century.

By law, wills are expected to be made public by British citizens. However, senior royals are exempt, and the royal family has used this exemption to seal the wills of many distant relatives over the past 100 years.

The wills of more than 30 members of the royal family have been hidden with their identities stamped.

But on Wednesday, a senior judge released the list of names – although the contents of the wills themselves remain confidential and closed.

She revealed that the Royal Probate Seal Convention, which is believed to be used only for senior members, is actually more prevalent and used for more distant relatives.

Among the names that have been revealed is Prince George Waldemar Karl Axel, who died in 1986 and was a cousin of Prince Philip II. The Danish king was born in Denmark and also died there, although his will is sealed in London.

Among the names that have been revealed is Prince George Waldemar Karl Axel, who died in 1986 and was Prince Philip II’s cousin.

Prince William of Gloucester (in 1958), grandson of George V and cousin of Elizabeth II who died at the age of 30 in a plane crash.

Prince William of Gloucester (in 1958), grandson of George V and cousin of Elizabeth II who died at the age of 30 in a plane crash.

The Queen Mother is also on the list.  The wills of more than 30 members of the royal family have been hidden as of Wednesday

The Queen Mother is also on the list. The wills of more than 30 members of the royal family have been hidden as of Wednesday

The first name on the list was Prince Francis Joseph Leopold Frederick of Teck, younger brother of Queen Mary of Teck, wife of George V.

It is said that Mary persuaded a judge to keep her brother’s will sealed to cover up a sex scandal, after he gave Precious family jewels for a mistress.

Others whose will was sealed included the Duke of Windsor, who was King Edward VIII until his abdication in 1936.

Also on the list are several unknown family members, including Queen Victoria’s grandchildren such as Lady Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth Ramsay.

Prince William of Gloucester, grandson of George V and cousin of Elizabeth II who died at the age of 30 in a plane crash is on the list, along with more famous members such as Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.

Oddly enough, a non-royal man also appeared on the original list, the banker Leopold de Rothschild, fried by Edward VII.

The exemption is supposed to apply only to members of the royal family, a court spokesperson later said The inclusion of Rothschild’s name in the original list was a “mistake”. They asserted that Rothschild’s will was never sealed and they are currently trying to determine how the error occurred.

How the jewelry scandal led to Queen Mary sealing her brother’s will

Queen Mary's brother, Prince Francis of Teck

Queen Mary’s brother, Prince Francis of Teck

The practice of sealing royal wills began when Queen Mary’s brother, Prince Francis of Teck, died of pneumonia in 1910 at the age of 39.

He was known to personify women and gambling and left precious family jewels, known as the Cambridge Emeralds, to his mistress, Ellen Constance, Countess of Kilmore.

There was also a suggestion that he had given birth to an illegitimate child.

Fearing a scandal shortly before her coronation, Mary’s bequest was closed.

The jewels were bought from the Countess by Mary, who wore them when her husband, George V, was crowned.

Queen and Princess Diana also wore emerald stones.

The last will to be sealed belongs to Prince Philip, who died at 99 in April of this year.

David McClure, a royal financial expert and author of The Queen’s True Worth, told the Guardian that the list showed the exemption is more widespread than it was supposed to be.

“If you are a member of the royal family in any European royal house,” he said, `you may, if you make enough song and dance about it, seal your will. It makes a little mockery of the whole process that this should be for the senior royals.

Norman Baker, a former Liberal Democrat minister, has suggested that some wills may have been stamped to cover up “how much money they collected from public funds.”

At a secret hearing in July, the head of the family division of the Supreme Court agreed to a request from the Queen’s private attorneys and attorney general to keep Prince Philip’s will secret for at least 90 years.

Sir Andrew MacFarlane said senior members of the royal family should be exempted from the law requiring the publication of wills.

Sir Andrew ordered that Philip’s will remain sealed for the period of 90 years from the granting of a will – the formal process that asserts a trustee’s authority to administer a deceased person’s estate – and may only be opened privately until after that date.

‘I have thought, because of the constitutional status of the king,’ said the judge, ‘it was proper that there should be a private practice in respect of royal wills.’

“There is a need to strengthen the protections afforded to the truly private aspects of the life of this limited group of individuals in order to preserve the dignity of the sovereign and those close to her family.”

He said the decision aims to disseminate as much detail as possible to the public without “compromising the traditional privacy afforded to communications by the Sovereign”.

The judge said it was in the public interest for him to make clear that he had not been seen, and had not been told anything about the contents of Philip’s will, except for the date of its execution and the identity of the appointed executor.

Sir Andrew said he had decided to hold the previous hearing in private because a series of announcements, hearings and then judgment was likely to “generate very important publicity and expectation”.

He concluded that this would be “completely contrary to the necessity to preserve the dignity of the sovereign and to protect the privacy surrounding truly private matters”.

“Thus, the publicity will partially kill the primary purpose of the app,” he added.

The judge said: “I accepted the request that, while there may be public curiosity as to what private arrangements a member of the royal family might choose in his will, there is no real public interest in the public knowing this fully. Information.

“The interest of the media in this regard is commercial. The degree of publicity that such publication is likely to attract would be too broad and diametrically opposed to the objective of preserving the dignity of the Sovereign.

Sir Andrew said that since the attorney general was there to represent the public interest at the hearing, there was no legal reason for any further representations by media organisations.

Princess Margaret is also on the list.  Although the names have been revealed, the contents of the will will remain confidential

Princess Margaret is also on the list. Although the names have been revealed, the contents of the will will remain confidential

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl of Burma, Prince Philip's uncle and second cousin removed from Elizabeth II.

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl of Burma, Prince Philip’s uncle and second cousin removed from Elizabeth II.

Also on the list are several unknown family members, including Queen Victoria's grandchildren such as Lady Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth Ramsay.

Also on the list are several unknown family members, including Queen Victoria’s grandchildren such as Lady Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth Ramsay.

It comes after it was ruled that Prince Philip's will will be kept secret for 90 years to protect

It comes after it was ruled that Prince Philip’s will will be kept secret for 90 years to protect the “dignity” of the Queen and her “close family”.

Lawyers representing Philip’s estate argued at a private hearing that news of that hearing and the application “may generate wholly baseless conjecture” which would be “deeply intrusive” for the Queen and the royal family.

Summarizing the history of previous similar decisions, Sir Andrew said that the first member of the royal family to have his will sealed at the direction of the Chief Justice was Prince Francis of Teck.

He was the younger brother of Queen Mary, and after his death in 1910, a request to have his will sealed and not to be published was approved.

Sir Andrew said that as head of the family division of the High Court, he is the custodian of a safe containing 30 envelopes – each containing a sealed will of a deceased royal.

He said the first envelope was written that it contained the will of Prince Francis of Tek, and that the most recent additions were the wills of the late Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister.

In 2007, Sir Mark Potter, then head of the family department, refused a request by Robert Andrew Brown to reveal the wills of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Mr Brown claimed to be the illegitimate son of Princess Margaret and asserted that he had an interest in the disclosure and search of the wills in order to substantiate this claim.

However, the court did not accept his claim and it was deleted as “malicious and an abuse of procedure” – a decision upheld by the appeals court.



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