What does a “stripped down” royal family mean for Harry and Meghan’s safety?
Much was said in the Sussexes interview with Oprah Winfrey about the safety of young Archie. Harry mentioned the subject repeatedly while Meghan seemed to believe that because it was not granted to her son, it was being deprived of a royal privilege that would have been granted to others. It seems possible that Prince Andrew, who sought protection for his daughters, influenced their concerns. She had known Eugenie and Beatrice, who hold royal titles, before meeting Harry; Until 2011, the couple had 24-hour police protection – the source of great consternation at the palace – costing taxpayers £ 500,000 each year, which ended when they were in their early 20s. Prince Andrew worked hard to keep her safety in place, arguing that her status as underage kings was different from that of her cousins because of her HRH titles. But there can be no discussion about someone “granting” Archie a royal title – and the security that goes with it. The rules were set in stone in 1917, and with Prince Charles and William reportedly trying to “downsize” the monarchy, one would never have expected the younger son’s firstborn to match the royal testimonies of the young Cambridge. When George V founded the House of Windsor in 1917, he restricted the scope of the royal family: the title of Royal Highness was reserved for the sons and daughters of the sovereign and the sons and daughters of the sons of the sovereign (but not daughters). It should also be granted to the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (e.g. today Prince George). Therefore, the children of Princess Mary (daughter of George V), Princess Margaret and Princess Anne did not receive titles from their mothers, although some from their fathers – the Earl of Harewood (hereditary) and the Earl of Snowdon (created for him). However, George V did not take into account the possible longevity of the monarchs. In 2012, the Queen expanded the concept so that if the Duchess of Cambridge had a firstborn girl, she would be HRH. Later, the younger siblings Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were born as HRHs. Archie will automatically become HRH when Prince Charles becomes King. Safety for the Sussexes – and not Archie specifically – would have been adequate when Prince Harry was a working king, as young children don’t travel alone. It would be protected, and it is certain that this would have happened if there had been a need for protection later. But what the plan for a stripped-down monarchy doesn’t seem to have addressed is how things would look like for Harry’s children – and how Meghan may have wanted to change things. In the interview, contrary to the couple’s decision not to give Archie a title at all, the fact that their son was not a prince was viewed as a grudge against the royal family, as if the lack of such a title would put him at risk from outside threats. She was clearly unwilling to accept well-established rules, perhaps a more American approach to things than others who get married into the family. Another factor could be that Prince Harry mythologized the idea that his mother’s safety had been removed, which led to her death – while Diana, Princess of Wales, actually decided she didn’t want it. Surely he appeared overly nervous about his family’s safety in the interview, while it seemed foolhardy to say the least, glimpsing walks with Archie on a nearby beach. But Harry has to be realistic about what his current position in the royal framework should allow – and a look back at history may have served him well. When Edward VIII abdicated and became Duke of Windsor, he was never given security by the British government – arguably at a time when he needed it most – and he roamed Europe like him. Of the many grudges the Duke had felt for him, this issue was never addressed on either side. He did not expect security – nor was it offered. It could possibly have been argued that a man who was once Britain’s king might have been given some kind of protection – as is the case with former US presidents and now former prime ministers. Instead, the duke paid for his own safety as it was. In the interview, Prince Harry complained that at some point in Canada he was told that the British taxpayer would no longer pay his security. This was clearly because he was no longer a working member of the royal family. He resigned – or back – as he insists. It would have been shocking if the UK taxpayer had to fund expensive collateral (an estimated £ 1 million a year) for a man who does absolutely nothing for the UK. Now that he’s commercially and independently, does he really expect us to walk, which could mean a pretty sizable bill? Royal safety is ultimately a matter of New Scotland Yard, which has overall control over who is protected, how and when. The whole subject was brought up again after the serious incident at the mall in 1974 when Princess Anne’s car was attacked and she was almost kidnapped at gunpoint. The princess bravely outwitted her attacker by refusing to get out of the car and he had no plan B. She was rescued but her policeman was badly wounded. Protection plans have been revised. Until 1982 (when the Queen’s personal detective had to resign because of his involvement in a male prostitute) the Royalty Protection Group consisted of 43 men from the uniformed branch of the Metropolitan Police, who from then on accompanied members of the royal family on public engagements, but in civilian clothes. And now there is always a second car with spare sergeants in addition to the safety officer in the lead vehicle when they are on public engagements (not on private excursions). The disappearance of British security is one of the many things Prince Harry must grapple with in his self-imposed exile – an unfortunate truth that they must resolve.