Royal Wills: Privacy versus Transparency

February 15, 2008 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Robert Brown claims to be the unacknowledged “love child” of Queen’s Elizabeth’s late sister, Princess Margaret. In his quest to prove his claim, he has sought access to the secret Royal Wills of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother.

In 2002, shortly before the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, lawyers for the Royal Family, the British Treasury, and the Attorney General met with England’s highest ranking family judge seeking a practice direction to codify the century-long convention that Royal Wills be kept sealed from the public. The Order was passed and the “secret pact” was not made known to the public or Parliament.

Mr. Brown sought to have the Wills unsealed in family court but his case was struck down as vexatious and baseless. Mr. Brown sought leave to appeal and the court of appeal granted Mr. Brown leave and found that he was entitled to a hearing of his claim to have the Wills inspected. Despite calling his claim to be Princess Margaret’s son “irrational and scandalous”, Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips found that the public interest outweighed the Royal family’s right to privacy and called the pact unconstitutional.

News of the “secret pact” resulted in an outcry in the British media and calls for transparency within the Royal family. Mr. Brown’s lawyer submitted that members of the Royal family who receive national assets should have their Wills inspected by the public to ensure those assets are not mixed with personal property.  If Mr. Brown wins, he will overturn the long standing convention that Royal Wills be kept sealed; a convention started in 1911 by Queen Mary to seal the will of her brother, Prince William of Teck and prevent a Royal scandal.

You never know who is going to change the law.

Have a great (long) weekend,

Diane Vieira

 

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