When Princess Diana passed away in a tragic 1997 car accident, most people probably imagined that her money and belongings would go to her boys, William and Harry. And her will, written in 1993, seemed pretty short and straightforward. But the story didn’t turn out as you might have expected. At the end of the probate process, some people were left deeply hurt.
It’s amazing that we were able to find out what was in Princess Diana’s will at all, really — that wouldn’t usually be allowed for royals. That’s because the English court is usually requested to seal the will of a deceased highness. It’s been that way for more than 100 years, but Princess Diana was an exception to the rule.
Protecting the Queen
It was the case for Prince Philip, who passed away in 2021, and will likely be the same for Queen Elizabeth. The English High Court determined that the public won't see the contents of Prince Philip's will for just shy of a century. It ruled that the “dignity and standing” of Queen Elizabeth II needs to be upheld. This is uncommon for British wills, which anyone can usually request to see.
The judge who gave the ruling explained why. They said, “I accepted the submission that, whilst there may be public curiosity as to the private arrangements that a member of the Royal Family may choose to make in their will, there is no true public interest in the public knowing this wholly private information.” But the situation was very different for Diana.
In 1998, the public won out, and it was decided that Princess Diana’s will wouldn’t remain a secret. Quite the opposite, in fact. The law firm responsible for her estate said it wouldn’t even ask for the will to be sealed. Lawyer Martyn Gowar of the Lawrence Graham law firm confirmed that he and his colleagues hadn’t taken this step. Why?