The High Court has launched a legal challenge to the decision of banning media coverage from the hearing on Prince Philip’s will.

The Guardian newspaper has launched legal action against the attorney general and the Queen’s private lawyers, arguing the High Court should have properly considered whether the press should be allowed to attend the hearing or make representations.

The outlet’s lawyers claim that this failure was so incompatible with open justice principles that it should be heard again.

According to Guardian reports, this decision was reached at a secret hearing held in July. The media weren’t informed about it and were prohibited from attending. 

The Duke of Edinburgh – the nation’s longest-serving consort – died aged 99 on April 9, just two months before he would have turned 100.

Since over 100 years, it is standard practice to apply to seal the will of someone who has died in the line of duty to the President at the Family Division.

At a hearing earlier this year, it was decided Prince Philip's will should remain secret for 90 years to protect the 'dignity' of the Queen (pictured with Prince Philip at Royal Ascot in 2017)

A hearing was held earlier in the year to decide that Prince Philip’s will be kept secret for 90-years to preserve the Queen’s dignity (pictured here with Prince Philip at Royal Ascot 2017).

The wills of high ranking members of the royal family cannot be inspected in the same way as a will.

The current president, Sir Andrew McFarlane, heard legal argument from lawyers representing Philip’s estate and the Attorney General – who represents the public interest in such matters – at the private hearing in July.

In a ruling published in September, Sir Andrew ordered that Philip’s will is to remain sealed for 90 years from the grant of probate – the formal process which confirms the authority of an executor to administer a deceased person’s estate – and may only be opened in private even after that date.

According to the judge, the court ruled that it was appropriate, given the constitutional situation of the Sovereign to establish a special practice regarding royal wills.

“There needs to be more protection for the most private elements of the lives of these individuals to keep the dignity of Sovereign’s family and her dignity.”

The ruling, he stated, was intended to provide as many details as possible without “compromising the traditional privacy afforded communications from the Sovereign”. 

The Royal Family including Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Prince Edward and Princess Anne (left to right) are seen following Philip's coffin in April this year

After Philip’s April coffin was laid in April 2018, the Royal Family (from left to right), which includes Prince William, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry as well Prince Charles and Prince Edward.

Sir Andrew McFarlane (above), heard legal argument from lawyers representing Philip's estate and the Attorney General – who represents the public interest in such matters – at a private hearing in July and both parties persuaded him that the media should be excluded

Prince Philip died in April this year just weeks before he turned 100

Sir Andrew McFarlane (left), heard legal argument from lawyers representing the estate of Philip (right) and the Attorney General – who represents the public interest in such matters – at a private hearing in July and both parties persuaded him that the media should be excluded

Sir Andrew stated that he decided to keep the hearing earlier in private due to the possibility of generating a lot of publicity and conjecture through a series hearings, announcements, and finally a judgement.

This would have been a violation of the rights to dignity and privacy in genuinely private matters, he concluded.

He said, “The publicity would therefore in part defeat the core purpose for the application.”

“I accept the argument that there is no public interest in knowing the entire private affairs of a royal family member.

The media interest in this matter is commercial. Publication would attract a lot of attention, which would go against the goal of maintaining dignity and honor for the Sovereign.

Sir Andrew explained that as the Attorney General was representing the public interest, no other representations from media outlets were allowed.

Sir Andrew said any media interest would be 'commercial' and that there is no 'true public interest' in the publication of Prince Philip's will. Pictured: the high court in London (file photo)

Sir Andrew stated that any media interest in Prince Philip’s will would only be commercial and there was no true public interest. Pictured: The high court of London (file photograph)

Philip’s will was represented by lawyers who argued in the private hearing that information about the hearing and application could’might create wholly unfounded conjecture’ that would be intrusive for the Queen and Royal Family.

Sir Andrew said that, as President of the Family Division of the High Court, he is custodian of a safe which holds 30 envelopes – each containing the sealed will of a deceased member of the royal family.

He stated that the first envelope was labeled as having the will of Prince Francis, Teck and that the most recent additions to the collection are those of Queen Mother and Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister).

Sir Mark Potter (then president of the family division) rejected a request by Robert Andrew Brown to unseal the wills Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in 2007.

He claimed that Mr Brown was the unlegitimate daughter of Princess Margaret.

However, his claim was not accepted by the court and was struck out as ‘vexatious and an abuse of process’ – a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal.