Prince Philip funeral: Queen appears to wipe away a tear
Although lawyers currently refer to the Supreme Court Act 1981 to justify it, there is no hard and fast rule. The size of the Queen Mother’s estate remained secret after her death in 2002 but the estate value of her predecessor as consort Queen Mary was made public after her death in 1953 – £406, 407 9s 8d. Princess Diana’s lawyers also chose to make her £21 million will public after her death in 1997.
A review of probate law and the number of royal exemptions was undertaken in 2013 and recommended that the consort, children, and the first and second in line to the throne and their spouses should be exempt from the general requirement to be open to inspection but the outcome has been shelved ever since in favour of Government vagueness.
Philip, who died on April 9 aged 99, may not have been cash rich compared to many of Britain’s wealthiest people, but he built up a private fortune based largely on gifts he received for his impressive collection of art, books, and political and royal cartoons, including several by the legendary Daily Express cartoonist Giles, one of his favourites.
It is likely most of the Duke’s estate will go to the Queen
David McClure, the royal finance expert who chronicled the Duke’s wealth in his book Royal Legacy, said: “Philip’s transformation from penniless prince on marriage to multi-millionaire Duke on death shows how royal gifts have become a major wealth generator.”
He put Philip’s fortune conservatively at £10 million, although one newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, estimated it at £28 million several years ago. If wedding gifts, many of which are likely to be treated as owned by the Crown on behalf of the nation, are taken into account Philip’s fortune might reach the dizzy heights of £50 million, Mr McClure estimated.
Royal insiders predicted that the Duke will have left something to his children and grandchildren but that the bulk of his estate will go to the Queen and thus avoid tax. His art collection could also be handed over to the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity although it is a department of the Royal Household, and be held in perpetuity by reigning monarchs on behalf of the nation.
When the Duke’s engagement to Princess Elizabeth was announced he was earning less than £350 a year
Born a Greek prince, Philip was stripped of his nationality and forced into exile after the monarchy was overthrown. He spent his childhood relying on wealthy relatives around Britain and Europe to house, clothe, feed, and educate him.
When his father Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark died, he inherited all his chattels but this amounted to a few moth-eaten suits, a pair of monogrammed hairbrushes, an ivory-handled shaving brush, books and a few paintings, and the only real item of value, a gold signet ring he wore for the rest of his life.
As a bachelor he did own a stylish black MG sports car but when his engagement to Princess Elizabeth was announced in July 1947, he was earning less than £350 a year as a Royal Navy first lieutenant, he travelled third class by train and wore threadbare suits. His uncle Lord Mountbatten’s butler said his wardrobe was “scantier than that of many a bank clerk”. He often turned up at the Mountbatten’s London residence with nothing more than a razor and the butler would darn his socks and wash and iron his one shirt overnight, Mr McClure wrote.
Philip’s art collection could be handed over to the Royal Collection Trust
Joining the Royal Family inevitably changed his fortunes and it was often via gifts. In 1956 he invited the Norfolk artist Edward Seago to accompany him on a voyage home on the taxpayer-funded Royal Yacht Britannia from Australia via Antarctica and the South Atlantic. Seago, whose work regularly sells for between £40,000 and £60,000 a canvass, taught Philip to paint while producing 60 oil paintings from the expedition which he subseqently gave to the Duke as a private gift.
He became an avid art collector and is estimated to have owned 2,000 works, including 150 contemporary Scottish paintings, Australian Aboriginal works by Albert Namatjira, valuable paintings by William Dobell and Sidney Nolan, and a painting by Paul Nash – Cloud Flora Number One – worth at least £40,000-£50,000.
His pride and joy in his first floor study on the north side of Buckingham Palace were two portraits of his parents – Princess Alice and Prince Andrew – painted in 1907 and 1913 by the Hungarian artist Philip de Laszlo and said to be worth £90,000 each.
The Duke collected 13,000 books, including 900 on birds and 1,200 on fish and animals
He collected 13,000 books, including 900 on birds and 1,200 on fish and animals. Mr McClure estimated his combined collection of books, art, and cartoons was worth several million pounds and when you added in savings from his £359,000 a year Parliamentary annuity, investments and other gifts, put his estate at £10 million.
“Why should the size of Prince Philip’s estate be kept secret, while the value of the estate of all non-royal citizens has to be published?” he asked. “Why is it deemed a state secret?” he asked.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment, arguing it was a private matter.