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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Queen Mother's will to be secret
Clarence House housed the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when she was heir to the throne
Prince Charles is expected to move to Clarence House
The Queen intends to keep her mother's will secret.

It had been expected that details of how the fortune would be divided would be announced by Buckingham Palace this week.

We are not dealing with taxpayers' money - it is a matter for the individuals concerned

Palace spokeswoman

But the Queen successfully applied to the High Court to keep her mother's will private, a Palace spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

The decision has angered some Labour MPs who have called for an end to the Queen's exemption from paying inheritance tax.

Under a 1993 agreement with John Major's Conservative government, the Queen will pay no inheritance tax on her mother's estimated 70m fortune.

Normally, people who inherit a large sum must pay 40% above a 250,000 threshold.

The Queen Mother's bequests to other members of the Royal Family, staff and friends will, however, be taxed at the standard rate.

Wills that have gone through probate usually become public documents.

The Queen at her mother's funeral
The Queen will not pay inheritance tax
The monarch can invoke the royal prerogative to keep a will private or apply for the will to be "privileged."

In this case the Queen applied for the will to be "sealed", said the Palace.

The spokeswoman said: "The details are a private matter for the executors and the beneficiaries.

"Here we are not dealing with taxpayers' money. It is a matter for the individuals concerned."

Art collection

The Queen Mother's estate includes paintings, a Faberge egg collection, china, jewellery and successful horses.

The Queen Mother
The Queen Mother's will is sealed
Alan Williams, a Labour member of the Commons public accounts committee, told the Times paper he was appalled by the decision to keep the will private.

"There should be utter transparency.

"The Queen Mother whose family has benefited from the most remarkable deal on taxation in decades should be treated the same as everyone else," he told the paper.

But the Palace spokeswoman said the Queen's financial position was unique.

"The sovereign must have an appropriate degree of independence from the government of the day to be constitutionally impartial and has no opportunity to earn a living through a full-time job," she said.

'Nothing sinister'

Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former press officer, told BBC News Online that the Royal Family was already "transparent" with the publication of its annual report.

There had been no suggestion from the Palace that the will would be made public.

"There is nothing sinister to this. In this case they have chosen not to publish the details.

"When it comes to private income there is no reason why it should not remain private."

"If people had objections they should have raised it in the past nine years," he said.

In 1994, the Queen Mother reportedly put aside two-thirds of her money into a trust fund for her great grandchildren.

Moving homes

The Prince of Wales is expected to move to his grandmother's former London home, Clarence House and to inherit Birkhall, the 18th century house on the River Muick at Balmoral, Scotland.

The 19th century Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, where the Queen Mother died, is expected to become the Duke of York's home.

The Queen Mother's Highland retreat, the Castle of Mey at Caithness, under the control of a charitable trust, is expected to be opened to the public five days a week.

See also:

11 Apr 02 | Scotland
Royal castle to admit public
03 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Parliament returns for royal tributes
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