The second half of December and first half of January were very quiet on the Sussex front. The only thing that had been circulating about Harry and Meghan was that they were potentially considering moving from their house in Montecito to another house close by, because their current house didn’t feel homey enough. And even that was fully a rumour – there has been no confirmation or proof of any of that being true. It was a nice time to be a royal follower who was also in the process of moving 1000km away to a new city and province for a new job. I silently thanked Harry and Meghan for not stirring up too much trouble as I sliced open moving boxes full of kitchenware with an Exacto knife.
But then this past week happened! Oh, did it happen. Here are the things that the Sussexes did/that came out this week:
- Threatened legal action against the UK Home Office and, by association, the UK government, of which Harry’s grandmother is head; and
- Wrote to the BBC to demand a retraction after a BBC podcast host said that Meghan had admitted to misleading the court during her trial against Associated Newspapers (she wanted the correction to note that she hadn’t misled anyone, but that she had simply forgotten details that were later found to not be true).
The biggest story of the two is that Harry has decided to take legal action against the UK Home Office and that he has, in fact, been trying to get access to his royal security back essentially since he and Meghan announced they were leaving the BRF.
Here is the statement that Harry’s legal representatives/communications people sent out:
The public did not know that Harry and Meghan had been fighting with the Home Office to try to get their Met-provided security protection back for future visits to the UK. The only reason the Sussexes’ lawyers/PR reps released this statement was that it had been discovered by a media outlet and was about to be reported to the public. So, in addition to the entire news of this dispute being new, we also got a lot of fun tidbits from Harry’s statement! Including:
- That Harry feels Meghan and his children are currently not able to return to the UK as he feels the threat level against them, even with a fully staffed private security team, would be “too great a personal risk”;
- That Harry had been trying to undertake private negotiations with the UK’s Home Office about this matter pretty much since he and Meghan left their roles as senior working members of the BRF;
- That, because the private negotiations conversation didn’t progress the way Harry wanted it to, he launched a judicial review (read: stepped up the formality/legal threat of his complaint) in September 2021, and that this judicial review was dismissed;
- That the Sussexes fully agree that receiving taxpayer-funded protection would be inappropriate, but are arguing they should be given the option of receiving top-tier, royal-status protection as long as they are willing to foot the bill for it; and
- That there was a security scare when Harry went to London last July to unveil a statue of his mother, and that this scare convinced him that his privately funded security was insufficient to protect him in the UK.
The issue of royal protection/security is sort of complicated, so I have distilled it down as much as I possibly can with a couple of paragraphs and a lot of help from Microsoft Paint.
First, let’s talk about royal security/protection. This security is heavy duty and is only reserved for the top level of senior working members of the British Royal Family and their families. Who determines who gets this special protection? The UK Home Office, which is a government department focused on security. If the Home Office determines that a member of the BRF requires this level of security, then it is paid for by the UK taxpayer. Security staff at this level are from a special branch of the Metropolitan Police Service focused on royal and senior government security.
Here are some photos of Harry and Meghan being protected by the Home Office-issued security during official engagements on behalf of the BRF.
Before Harry met Meghan, he received the top tier, Home Office-issued royal protection that is funded by the UK taxpayer. This continued while he began to date Meghan – his security staff accompanied him on his visits to see her in Toronto. As far as I know, as is precedent, Meghan did not receive official, Home Office-issued protection until her and Harry’s engagement was announced in late 2017. For meme purposes I’m using a picture from the UK drama “Bodyguard” to represent royal Met protection, and Kevin Costner in the movie “The Bodyguard” to represent paid private security.
From the time Harry and Meghan were engaged/married until the time they officially left their roles as senior members of the BRF, they were both covered by the Home Office-issued Met protection. There was also a bit of time where the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tag-teamed with the Met police to protect the Sussexes when they stayed in British Columbia on holiday from late 2019 until they moved to California in March of 2020.
Since April of 2020, aka since Harry and Meghan gave up their roles as senior working members of the BRF, they have been funding their own security on their own. (They still received some money from Prince Charles in early/mid 2020, but this was not earmarked for security.)
Essentially, Harry’s statement from last week makes the argument that:
- My family and I still deserve the 2018-2020 royal-level protection by the Metropolitan police service because the threat level to me and my family remains high regardless of whether we’re working royals or not; and the Home Office should reverse its decision and give it back to us.
- Even if the Met wants to send us a bill for protecting us in the UK, we would be okay with that; they just need to agree to protect us while we’re there.
- The security we pay for it pretty good, but it’s not as the Met security. Especially in the UK. In the UK, actually, our private American security is not capable of protecting us.
- By inference, if the Home Office isn’t willing to let us have our old Met protection while we visit the UK, then the Home Office and the UK government will be denying us the ability to visit the UK.
- Further to point 4, if we don’t get our way and receive Met security protection while in the UK, it will be the Home Office and UK government’s fault that my family doesn’t attend the historic Platinum Jubilee.
This statement creates the following consequences for those involved:
Harry and Meghan make themselves (and other royals) even more vulnerable to security threats
Side note: let me say that I love Harry’s logic of “Our security threat level is WAY higher in the UK thanv it is in the US”, followed almost immediately by “We have little to no idea of our threat level in the UK compared to in the US because the UK won’t tell us.” Which is it – that your security risk is high, or that you don’t know? Also, the idea that a security risk could be demonstrably higher in the UK, where most people are not allowed guns, than it is in the States, where guns are sold at Walmart, is questionable at best.
I understand this fight between Harry and the Home Office over security was going to be made public by a UK newspaper. So some aspects of this becoming public aren’t Harry’s fault. BUT. If the Sussexes followed the “never complain, never explain” mantra that Buckingham Palace follows, they could have just not commented and made people wonder about what was true and what wasn’t. That course of action would have taken the oxygen out of the story and the Home Office definitely wouldn’t have issued a statement confirming or denying the issue. Instead, the Sussex camp released an official statement confirming details about the situation, and giving additional details that were unnecessary and could pose a further threat to their security.
Harry’s spokesperson states that “During his last visit to the UK in July 2021…his security was compromised due to the absence of police protection, whilst leaving a charity event.”
I’m not someone who wants to cause Harry harm, but if I was, the above statement would be great news to me. He’s just told me that his private security is inadequate, and that it’s especially inadequate whenever he’s in the UK. Why would anyone confirm the story leak with a statement? And why on Earth would anyone on his legal or comms team advocate for putting this security breach story in the statement? It may garner Harry and his family sympathy, but it also makes them even more at risk for future threats.
This isn’t the first time Harry and Meghan have compromised their own and others’ protection. On the sussexroyal.com website (which is still up! How? Why? So many questions!), under the terms of the deal the Sussexes reached with the BRF when they left, they specifically state that, regarding security, “No further details can be shared as this is classified information for safety reasons.”
That is correct. Royals (and other rich/famous/notable people) are supposed to not say anything about their security, as that keeps bad people who might threaten their safety in the dark and unable to make successful bad-person plans.
However, Harry and Meghan contradicted this advice months after leaving the BRF. Here is a passage from Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie’s Finding Freedom, in which Harry and Meghan (or people authorized by Harry and Meghan to speak to Durand and Scobie) provide a point-by-point breakdown of the security threat training that Meghan underwent as a new member of the BRF:
“[Meghan] underwent an intense two-day security course with the SAS, the British Army’s most elite regiment. The training—which all “senior members of the royal family except the Queen have completed at SAS headquarters in Hereford—is preparation for all high-risk security scenarios, including kidnapping, hostage situations, and terrorist attacks. Meghan took part in a staged kidnapping, where she was bundled into the back of a car by a “terrorist,” taken to a different location, and then “saved” by officers firing fake guns (the kind used in Hollywood filming) for realism. During the mock kidnapping, Meghan was even taught to develop a relationship with the enemy. She was also instructed on how to drive a car while in pursuit. A source said it was an “extremely intense and scary” experience for Meghan, but one that she was grateful to have gone through.” – Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie, Finding Freedom
Have you ever heard a member of the BRF talk in detail about the ins and outs of their protection or the security training they have undertaken to protect themselves against threats? Of course you haven’t! Because making that information publicly available decreases the efficacy of such training and increases the risk of future threats! Again, I’m not a bad person, but if I was, I would be thanking Harry and Meghan for giving me a look into the security training I’d need to overcome to successfully complete a bad-person plan against a member of the BRF. I would know that members of the BRF have been trained to try to develop a relationship with their kidnapper, and would adjust my plan accordingly. If I was Charles or Camilla or Will or Kate, I’d be positively furious with Harry and Meghan for leaking this information to a source to be published, because making such information makes everyone less safe, not just Harry and Meghan.
Harry’s argument creates logistical and security problems for the Home Office and the Met
The main issues for the Home Office and the Met are that:
- They now know with certainty that Harry and Meghan are willing to make private security and protection information public if they feel it will benefit them. This is a huge security risk for those offices, as well as for the security of the other individuals they are trying to protect; and
- Harry making this argument opens up the possibility for other rich and famous people to argue that they are just as important as the Sussexes, and should be allowed the opportunity to purchase government/taxpayer-funded police protection if they can afford to pay the bill for it. That possible legal precedent is a HUGE can of worms that Harry has opened up. Such a precedent could have huge negative implications on UK law, UK government and police staffing (the main job of the UK police is to protect people in the UK, not to be privately paid to escort visitors around), public support for the UK police (what happens if there is a terrorist event and police missed it because they were too busy to prevent it because they were protecting Jeff Bezos for a profit?), and future threats to members of the British Royal Family. You can’t capitalize government-funded security, which is what Harry is fighting for. It’s a slippery slope.
This situation creates multiple headaches for Queen Elizabeth
After the Prince Andrew debacle(s), this Harry and Meghan security saga creates even more negative stories for the press to run about the British Royal Family in the lead-up to the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee year on February 6. It also takes the attention off the 70th year of Her Majesty’s reign, which is supposed to be a feel-good event for the UK public after two years of pandemic hell, and turns it into a family drama about whether Harry and Meghan and their children will even make the trip for the festivities in June.
And that’s not even to think of the diplomatic and political ramifications! The BRF is supposed to be fully disengaged from matters of politics. By threatening legal action against a UK government department and, implicitly, the UK government, Harry is breaking that cardinal royal rule. And it seems like he’s doing it without understanding or just plain not caring about the tricky diplomatic situation in which it will place his grandmother. How do you think the Queen’s audience with the Prime Minister would go if he/she (it might not be BoJo for much longer) had to inform the Queen that his/her government is planning to legally defend itself against her grandson? Yikes.
Finally, in purely personal terms, it’ hasn’t even been a year since Her Majesty’s beloved husband died. At 95 years old (almost 96!), it just seems cruel that Harry would put another thing on his grandmother’s list of things to worry about.
This seems like a fabricated reason for M and the kids to not come back to the UK
This whole ploy from the Sussexes seems designed to be an excuse to not back to the United Kingdom in the near future. I think that Meghan in particular would be okay with never coming back to the UK, and this gives her a perfect reason to not have to come back, or to bring the children.
As soon as I read the statement from Team Sussex, I tweeted this:
This was (as close as can be) confirmed by Omid Scobie the following day, when he wrote this in Harper’s Bazaar:
On a final note, I would add that if Harry and family travel to the UK to spend time with his grandmother/father/brother, then his family would be indirectly protected by the Met royal protection service, as all of those people have 24/7 Home Office-provided protection. All they would need to do is stay with family. But that doesn’t seem to be a good enough fix for Harry.
In summary, I think this is another ill-judged move from a family built on ill-judged moves. When deciding to fight the Home Office, and then by putting out this statement, did Harry think about the possible negative consequences that would land on himself, his family members, his grandmother, or the UK government? It looks like the answer to all of those questions is no. In fact, it’s possible that Harry has actually increased the level threat to himself and his family (both his wife and children, and his royal relatives) by embarking on this legal battle. Classic Sussex move: try to do something and actually cause the exact opposite to happen.