Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Visit Northern Ireland
Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Visit Northern Ireland

$39m problem with Meghan’s grand plan

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In early 2011, Princess Beatrice made headlines for two reasons. One, the monstrosity of a Philip Treacy hat that she donned for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding (and then good-humouredly auctioned off on eBay for charity) and secondly, for having her royal protection detail taken away.

Beginning in 2010, the London Metropolitan Police, whose special branch looks after royal security, undertook a sweeping review of how they looked after the Windsors.

At that time, the Mirror reported that 21 members of the Queen's family had around-the-clock armed protection costing an estimated $197 million. The result of the audit was that numerous members of the royal family lost their bodyguards, including Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who at that time were fifth and sixth in line to the throne.

Nearly a decade on, how to protect the current sixth-in-line to the throne looks set to be a far more contentious - and complicated - issue to resolve. That spot on the regal ladder is currently occupied by Prince Harry and his security costs are now under the microscope, with a new report claiming that protecting he and wife Meghan (and their baby son Archie who is seventh) could cost up $39.4 million a year.

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For many years, William and Harry’s relationship with Beatrice and Eugenie was super tight. Picture: Anwar Hussein/WireImage
For many years, William and Harry’s relationship with Beatrice and Eugenie was super tight. Picture: Anwar Hussein/WireImage

The Mirror reports it has seen an internal Scotland Yard report, which "has revealed a staffing crisis within the squad that protects the royals, which is now facing an increasing and ­unprecedented demand from the royal couple".

Dai Davies, who is a former head of the royal protection unit, told the paper: "In their current state the plans are unworkable. Harry and Meghan's situation has called for a complete ripping up of the rule book and they are acting like none of the rules apply to them. There is already a severe lack of trained officers and this is only adding to the Met's woes."

Up until late last year, the Sussexes had six armed around-the-clock officers to keep them out of harm's way, an effort that was estimated to have come with a $2 million price tag. However, since they left the UK to decamp to Canada for what was supposed to be a six-week breather in November, that figure has reportedly gone up given that police officers have to be flown in and out from the UK.

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In January, they announced they were quitting as frontline working members of the royal family and intended to set up another home in North America, at which point estimates pegged their future annual security bill as ranging from $5.5 million to $11 million. Now, the Mirror claims that bill could actually end being as high as $39.4 million (£20 million).

Contributing to this allegedly growing number are a couple of factors. Firstly, their globetrotting new lives mean they will need extra personnel which will also incur travel costs and accommodation. Then there is the fact that the family have, at times, been in separate places - if not countries - of late thus necessitating multiple teams. Given what is known about their future plans, this scenario does not look set to change.

Brits, facing a post-Brexit world, are seeing red over such a whopping potential bill.

A number of politicians have spoken out, arguing the couple, who are predicted to make millions if not billions now they are able to ink lucrative commercial deals, should pick up at least part of the tab themselves.

The question over should foot the security bill for Harry, Meghan and Archie is one of the few unresolved issues about their new lives. Canada, where they are currently living, does not seem particularly inclined, with a poll done in January finding that 77 per cent of Canadians did not think they should be lumped with the cost.

Nor do Harry and Meghan seem keen to end up having to fork out for their own bodyguards. While there was some speculation earlier this year that now they are free agents, who are aiming to become "financially independent," that they would bear this particular expense however that seems unlikely.

 

In a statement put out last weekend they said, among other things: "It is agreed that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to require effective security to protect them and their son. This is based on The Duke's public profile by virtue of being born into The Royal Family, his military service, the Duchess' own independent profile, and the shared threat and risk level documented specifically over the last few years. No further details can be shared as this is classified information for safety reasons."

The translation here seems to be, we're keeping our bodyguards.

While Eugenie and Harry might both have occupied/occupy the same place in the line of succession when questions about their security costs have cropped up, this is certainly a more complicated situation this time around, starting with the fact he has a far higher profile.

Complicating matters further is that it is potentially a very touchy subject. In the wake of her split from Prince Charles Diana elected to give up her armed guards unless she was undertaking official duties. While it was the Princess' choice, if she had retained her official bodyguards the tragic events in that Paris tunnel may never have come to pass.

Ken Wharfe, Diana's former bodyguard, has written: "If any Metropolitan Police protection officer had been with her, Diana would never have got into a car with a drunk driver: not only experience but common sense would not allow it."

Perhaps part of the reason this situation seems to rankle at home in the UK is the seeming expectation on the part of the Sussexes, that having made the choice to leave, the British taxpayer will still have to pay to ensure their safety - even though they might be spending the lion's share of their time on another continent.

Meghan married Harry less than two years ago. Picture: Andrew Parsons
Meghan married Harry less than two years ago. Picture: Andrew Parsons

Given the Sussexes have gone for the nuclear option and walked away from life as working members of the royal family - and even the UK itself - do they deserve the same treatment as those HRHs still toiling away at the hand-shaking and ribbon-cutting business?

That might be something of a moot point for the time being anyway. While Harry and Meghan will most likely earn some serious dough in coming years, for the meantime there is no way the couple actually have enough private income to pay such an astronomic bill.

They might have made their own bed, but Harry and Meghan will, for a while anyway, need other people to watch over them while they lie in it. And someone else to pay for it all.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.



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