I thought long and hard before penning my thoughts and opinion regarding the personal security of Prince Harry and his family, not because I'm breaching protocol, it is simply because many seemingly have such a strong view on the subject, both in the media and within the public domain. I've no problem with anyone disagreeing with my own comments and thoughts, given the publicity that the family have gained as well as what is a very public divide, there will of course be varying opinions offered and expected by many.
Prior to meeting Miss Markle, Prince Harry had spread his wings so to speak and lived somewhat of a wild lifestyle. Given that he had less pressure than his brother, Prince William, regarding order of succession to the throne, Harry made the most of his youth and was becoming somewhat of a black sheep what with his partying, dating, smoking, and drinking. It was known within Royal Protection circles that Harry could be hard to work with given his lively and often erratic lifestyle.
It will of course have been difficult as a teenager for him, and I don't buy into this attitude that he had so much privilege in life therefore few people felt sorry for him. He lost his mother at such a young age and didn't like or appreciate the paparazzi attention he went on to receive, he blamed them in part for his mother’s death. Despite this though, and irrelevant of his lifestyle as a young man, Prince Harry was always someone whom the British public liked. He was living his life the way he wanted to live it and although he bucked the trend of Royal tradition he would still be present for official engagements, and he was very much growing into that role as a valued member of The British Royal Family.
What gained further support from the public was when he joined the Army in April 2006, joining The Blues and Royals, a cavalry regiment that is part of The Household Division, and one that has a great reputation. Harry went on to serve in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, this surprised many, especially as he himself pushed to serve in the war-zone rather than serving somewhere where he'd be less at risk or remaining in the secured comfort zone of gated walls and palatial homes filled with fine decor. He had access to plenty of them after all, but there was something about Harry that just wanted to be different to his family, he chased the risk.
When radical extremists found out that Prince Harry was on the ground in Afghanistan due to a media leak, he was recalled back to London immediately, no doubt on the orders of his father, Prince Charles, as well as Her Majesty the Queen. The young Prince was irritated by this and wanted to go right back and re-join his colleagues on the front line, such was his tenacious spirit and willingness to be part of the brotherhood that he'd experienced.
Notably, Prince Harry was someone who the British public viewed as a charming young man, and one that they could relate to, as best they possibly could, what with his Royal position and willingness to serve his country, and, I might add, because they felt that he was a little rascal. There has been a notable shift in attitude however since Prince Harry met and then married Meghan Markle. The now Duke and Duchess of Sussex have quickly risen to become one of the world's most-watched couples, but also one of the most divisive.
While many around the world tuned into their Royal wedding, 1.9 billion to be precise, in May 2018, they gained much in terms of global support and adulation, but the tide has now turned against them, and with that comes animosity as well as a potential increase in risk.
I'm not focused on what people's opinion of the couple are, this article is about the potential complexities of protecting them, and there are several complexities especially given that they are currently transitioning out of a Royal role and into what many believe to be a celebrity lifestyle. What many don't realize is that Prince Harry has had personal protection since he was a very young boy and all the way through to the present day. He had it when going to school, when he was out with friends, when he was on vacation as well as in a war-zone, and of course, while on official engagements traveling the world. Very few people today have had protection quite like Prince Harry what with the varying levels of coverage based on his social, business, Royal, or military settings.
Someone of Prince Harry's stature knows full well what Close Protection is about because it's been a part of his life for thirty-five years. He may not fully understand the inner workings of the job, but he'll appreciate why we do advance work or why he's been taken through the staff entrance of a hotel instead of the main entrance, he'll for sure know a good close protection officer when he sees one, and he'll expect nothing less for him and his family irrelevant of their present life circumstances.
Those who worked with him to date have been members of Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP), formed following a merger of the Royalty Protection Command (SO14) with the Specialist Protection Command (SO1), within the Metropolitan Police. RaSP provide personal protection for the British Royal Family, the Prime Minister, Government ministers, ambassadors, visiting Heads of State and other individuals deemed to be at risk. RaSP also provide armed security at Royal Residences in London, Windsor, and Scotland.
In short, Prince Harry has had the luxury and fortune to have had some of the most highly trained and respected protection officers available to him, and he'll know better than most that these are officers who take their role seriously. Not only has he been able to see what his own protection officers are about, but he's also watched his brother’s protection officers, his father’s, his grandmothers, those of Queen Elizabeth, as well as other members of the family who warranted it. Not only that, but he's been around other members of international Royalty, world leaders, and notable business figures, most of whom will have had their own protection officers, all with different styles, but all with the same purpose.
Don't think for one minute that Prince Harry, or anyone with full time close protection, doesn't pay attention, they ALL pay attention, irrelevant of how long you've been working for your principle, irrelevant of how new you are, or irrelevant of how much you interact with them.
For many principles nothing slips by them, but when you have the same protection officers working closely with you daily around the world, you'll soon pick up on what they do and how they do it. Many in the field of close protection forget this, they might get into a routine or find themselves in a comfort zone, or they may be so immersed in the job itself, commendable yes, but our principles are always watching. Prince Harry will be no different, so you can be assured that he'll have a lot of input regarding his personal and family security.
This brings me to the question that many are asking and what the media, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, and America, have focused heavily on recently, which is who will provide personal protection for Prince Harry and his family? There is also an important and highly debatable second question, and that is who exactly will pay for it? Although the couple spent several months in Canada when they left the United Kingdom, they still maintained their protection through RaSP, though they were supported by The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), given that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex maintained 'International Protected Persons' status and therefore the RCMP had been intermittently assisting with their personal protection while in Canada.
Recently however, the couple decided to relocate to Los Angeles which could potentially add further complications as the routine that the RaSP and RCMP were adjusting to would be disrupted, so another plan had to be sought for a new environment, a new country, and a whole new level of family protection. There were media reports in the coming days of the news breaking about the move to LA, that the couple were requesting security resources from the US Government, but this was quickly rebuffed by President Trump, expectedly so. It seemed that the 'International Protected Persons' status wouldn't be applying in these circumstances, possibly because they moved for personal reasons and not on official demand, therefore they had no right to the provision of personal security in this case.
All kinds of numbers and options were discussed in the media as to who should and could protect them, with costs ranging from $2.5 million per year to upwards of $25 million. Personally, I've no idea what it will cost to protect the couple and their young son, but it won't be cheap, and $2.5 million is cheap in terms of family security given their profile, status, business interests, as well as size of team required. They’ll require a full rotation of protection officers who will be with them daily, both in Los Angeles and when traveling, everyone will have their opinion as to how many but if they were out as a family then for me that's between three to five protection officers. Often however the couple may be split due to travel, therefore they'll need to have two to three protection officers with each principle, possibly more due to any potential threats the couple may have or the environment or setting they are visiting.
We may also find that Miss. Markle pursues her career as an actress and spends time away on set or while attending a premiere or press junket, she'll need her own team with her, and not be reliant upon security provided by a production company or event location, that simply won't happen because first and foremost, the standards need to be raised when working with a high profile individual or couple, and with all due respect to those working set security, this is levels apart. Personally I think she’ll go in a completely different direction and that’s the political side in time, though I'll leave the how and why to others, I'm simply sharing my personal opinion. There will need to be drivers who are highly trained in tactical and defensive driving, and intelligence specialists gathering information on current and future threats including identifying persons of interest as well as conducting geographic analysis on trips being planned. These are specialized fields that should not be filled by the personal protection officers, they are separate roles that interlink with one another to make up an effective protective program.
There is also the important aspect of sharing and distributing sensitive and confidential information such as movements of them or other members of their family, or even known threats, this may be impacted with an outsourced company, again though, it's an important part of a protective program, and one that will be needed for the high-profile couple. Whether these latter critical roles are contracted out to private sector companies or handled by government or law enforcement agencies though, there will be a significant cost. There will also need to be a training budget for everyone involved in the team, good protection officers are always training, even during their down time, this is what sets them apart where their efficiency is always at a paramount level.
Close protection is its own specialized field and one that could have severe consequences if something goes wrong or someone screws up, that’s why many class it as an art and take it seriously, it's not a game nor is it for show, that's why training matters in such a critical role where you're always countering threats and overcoming scenarios, it prepares you well for the what if, and working with a couple like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that could come at any time. In addition to the couple’s day to day security personnel, they will need 24-hour residential security agents to safeguard them at their residence. The number of people for this is dependent upon the size of the property, but you can be assured that they'll not be living in a two-bedroom condo in downtown LA, relying on a decent home security system and a Ring doorbell. Likely, they’ll be in a multi-million dollar mansion in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, possibly even further afield such as Malibu, Santa Barbara, or Montecito, offering them a little more freedom from the crowds.
Their residential security itself would be its own big operation but combining that with their full rota of protection officers, drivers, intelligence analysts and support vendors, the number of people involved could total over thirty personnel easily, and that’s a significant operation to run. In addition to that, does Miss. Markle's Mother, who also lives in Los Angeles and whom has a close relationship with her daughter, require personal security in any capacity? I wouldn't rule it out at some point. Who should provide the physical security coverage for the family is a question that has grown to become a big debate. RaSP doesn't have the ability to staff such a large operation, and they certainly won't be sending so many of their personnel all the way from London to relocate to Los Angeles, though I’m sure plenty would volunteer to do so. Then of course comes the funding, the British Government won't pay for it, period. Can The Queen order them to do so, no is the answer.
If they were in the UK then the operational responsibility would remain with RaSP, if they were working Royal’s, while the funding would be covered by the British Government and Royal Family but moving out of the country while also giving up or at least slowing down with their Royal commitments, this is now in question and clearly open to debate. I simply cannot see the British Government fulfilling such an in-depth security operation to be staffed and funded while they live in America.
There are some companies who will no doubt say they can get that number of people and the cost down, but in doing so you're rolling the dice and potentially putting your principles in danger by running an ineffective protective program which is understaffed and underfunded. That is how critical mistakes happen and is an unfortunate consequence of some companies bidding on contracts that are way beyond them, it happens. Fortunately, Prince Harry has current RaSP specialists around him who will have been vetting companies if indeed their security will primarily be outsourced to a vendor. There will be or will have been extensive due diligence carried out to ensure the company and people selected to work with the family are of the highest standard, and that’s how it needs to be done to put the right people in place.
I personally think the most effective way to run this is by maintaining a small component of the couples current RaSP personnel to work with the family. They would be supported by a US based company, ideally with folks who have worked high level US Government details. The RaSP could be a small team of just one to two on rotation, but essentially they would have familiarity with the family, and importantly, British Royal tradition. With the support team made up of former US Government folks, the family will be offered a level of protection that would be appropriate for their profile. By maintaining the RaSP with the family, they know Royal protocols inside out, they'll have complete familiarity with the family, their likes and dislikes, current threats, and the varying international procedures for travel.
They'll work with the residential security team to bring them up to speed in safeguarding the family at their residence and they'll have overall control of the protective program with the additional team members involved. Also consider that whoever works with the family in a protective capacity, they'll need to be armed and have the ability to travel as such, for teams such as RaSP that'll be ok, but for a private sector company it will be far more challenging, unless of course it’s a company that has people such as former Government who can carry or gain approval to be armed. Obtaining a firearms license in California especially, is extremely challenging and few approvals are handed out, regardless of how famous or wealthy you are, but it does happen.
By utilizing current RaSP protective staff, the family will continue to have familiarity with a small number of officers whom they are used to having around them, with their funding being paid for by the UK Government. However, as Prince Harry is now sixth in line to the throne, Prince William's children follow their grandfather, Prince Charles and then their father, therefore this would seem unlikely to be justified for the Government to be footing a personal security bill, even partial, and therefore I just cannot see the RaSP being involved at all with the family while in America.
Without doubt, the Harry and his family should have personal security, however to what scale is debated by many. This is a family that decided to leave Royal life as best they can and move thousands of miles away for whatever reasons they chose, this is to be respected as far as I'm concerned, but do they require or need thirty plus security personnel to support them? That's very much dependent upon what it is they are doing as individuals and as a family, and what risks and threats might arise against them, both now and in the future.
At the end of the day, Prince Harry's grandmother is The Queen, his father will one day be King, most likely soon, and his brother will also be King following that. Threats and the potential for an attack or kidnap are very real not just towards Prince Harry but also his wife and child. Therefore, I think there may be some consideration and costs covered by those who have been covering these in the past. This, again, is just my opinion however, but I do believe that the overall family security costs will come from several different sources, pooled into one fund. This would be made up from the couple themselves, as well as funds they receive from the Duchy of Cornwall, a private portfolio of property and financial investments headed by Prince Charles, as well as some funding from the British Government.
This is not a Sheikh from the Middle East staying in Bel Air for a few weeks with his big entourage, these are members of the British Royal Family, one of which could become King, although unlikely.
I mean no disrespect to our distinguished friends from the Middle East or other parts of the world, but I've worked with several leading Royals from the region and there are vast differences in protective protocols, methodology, expectations, as well as standard operating procedures. I've also gained first-hand experience of being around the British Royal Family, just last year I was in China, working in and around Prince Andrew and his security team during an official visit he made on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. Going back further, I served for 10 years as a member of The Coldstream Guards, a British Army Infantry regiment whose job in part was in protecting Royal residences such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
I would often see Prince Harry and Prince William playing in the garden with their mom, Princess Diana, or The Queen out walking her corgis, offering a polite "Good Morning" as she strolled by while I stood on guard. When you're around high-profile people you tend to watch everything that goes on around them, and even as a young solider I'd pay attention to the plain clothes protection officers shadowing their charge, unbeknownst to me at that time that I would one day venture into a similar line of work, with the same levels of responsibility. There is much the public are not aware of when it comes to threats that VIPs receive, and these can come in varying forms. Threatening letters and emails, suspicious packages, stalkers, as well as persons of interest can all be frequent and problematic, and as has been proven in the past, many follow through with getting to their target, one way or another. I've experienced this when working with several high-profile celebrity clients, and although they weren’t physically impacted, the threats that can come in are not pleasant to deal with and can be extremely frightening.
There is simply no use running a protective operation if you don't have the intelligence infrastructure in place to support it, it will fail and your principle will be exposed, and that’s why the most effective program needs to be implemented for the Duke and Duchess, irrelevant of where they decide to reside, irrelevant also of them deciding to take a step back from Royal life. Many can say that it's their own choice and they can now lower their profile, but do you really see them wanting to keep a low profile? Me neither. Low profile or not though, they still need adequate protection, and it's not for any of us to decide to what level that is. They are one of, if not the most high-profile couple, in the world currently, so Prince Harry donning his baseball cap and popping to the local gym won't stand, nor will the Duchess of Sussex heading to a yoga class with her big shades on and trying to be discreet as she gets out of the car, which she drove herself with 10 further cars behind her, the paparazzi.
That’s the nature of the beast having been so exposed to a global audience in recent times, all eyes on them and what they are doing, but whether they like the attention or not, they must have sufficient family security coverage to ensure they always remain safe. The higher the profile, the greater the threat, therefore the greater the coverage required, that’s how it should be, though unfortunately it isn’t always the case. Some may get offended by this, however that is not my intention, but a celebrity bodyguard company in Los Angeles does not have the knowledge or capability to effectively run a protective program for members of the British Royal Family, on a full-time basis, as has been mentioned in the media.
Don't get me wrong, there are a small number of companies in Los Angeles who have the potential to support certain aspects of such a program - Gavin De Becker and Associates and The World Protection Group are two well established companies that have an array of principles from all walks of life, entertainment, corporate, diplomatic and Royalty, but I feel they aren't the right fit for this. For me, it would be down to two companies who have worked within the diplomatic, government, and Royal sectors, and who have the framework in place.
One of these is Control Risks, a London based global risk and strategic consulting firm who specialize in political, security and integrity risk as well as consulting services. They have offices all over the world and can combine all levels of service that will be involved including intelligence gathering, but although they could put a complex program together and run it well, it will take some time for it to be up and running effectively. I'm familiar with the company and have used them in various capacities over the years when working with some of my clients, in fact they approached me a number of years ago to head up a new celebrity close protection division in Los Angeles, but it didn't pan out. Big company, lots of experience globally, and importantly, the leadership and operations folks will understand what working with British Royals will require.
They'll have access to well trained, highly resourceful operators including from the Special Forces and Government which is what this requires, thinking people who can adapt to an array of social and business settings and who can interact globally with law enforcement and government agencies. Although the couple aren’t necessarily conducting Royal business, I feel that their security still needs to be provided by operators who have the experience of working at a very high level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some highly competent people working with and for some of the LA companies and within the celebrity field, but I’m talking about diplomatic and Royal experience, and this is essential.
This is not something that any company can just slot into and expect to run effectively, and it won't be allowed to be that way, both by the family themselves as well as their current protection officers. At the time of the announcement of the couple moving to LA, there will have been hundreds of companies rubbing their hands together at the prospect of bidding on such a lucrative contract, but only a small handful can effectively take it on, again though, only with the right infrastructure, knowledge, experience, and manpower in place.
Any company can staff a large contract by throwing bodies at it, but this needs to be staffed with highly trained, well spoken, physically capable men and women that can work around such a high-profile Royal couple, and very few will have that ability.
Therefore, the people they have around them, both residential security officers as well as protection officers need to be well suited to working in all manner of social and business settings, and familiar with British Royal protocols as I mentioned earlier. It has all the makings of being a security nightmare unless its setup and managed correctly, funded fully, and staffed efficiently with the right caliber of people, not necessarily based on just the right number of people.
Irrelevant of what anyone thinks of Prince Harry and his family, they are a high-profile young couple who should be admired greatly for making decisions for what it is they want to do, but they'll take enormous comfort from having the right protective program and people in place as they venture into a new phase of their lives together. Without the correct amount of personal security coverage delivered by the best people available, they could see their reputations impacted, or at worst and far more severe, their physical well-being harmed. They are not celebrities, although as the Duchess of Sussex is an actress by trade, and seemingly keen to pursue her career in this field according to media reports, it's a sure bet that they'll be attending some of the big red-carpet spectacles such as the Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and other major celebrity and media events.
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