Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Security Protection Was Such a Big Deal


Of the shocking revelations included in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Sunday night interview with Oprah Winfrey, some were easy to understand immediately— the allegations about a racist concern within the palace about the potential tone of Archie’s skin given his mixed-race heritage, or the false tabloid reports about a conflict between Meghan and Kate Middleton. But others revolved around complex details about the life of working royals, including press coverage, titles, and security details, the latter of which appears to have been a major sticking point for Harry and Meghan in their decision to leave. 

Harry made one part of it very plain, however: “My family literally cut me off financially” at the beginning of 2020, he said. That was the period in which he and Meghan were negotiating the terms of their exit as senior royals, and security costs played a major role in the discussions; at the time there were reports that they had struck a deal similar to one arranged by former prime minister Tony Blair, in which they would reimburse some of the costs of their security. To do that, however, they would need to make money. Before he and Meghan signed their lucrative details with Netflix and Spotify, Harry said in the interview, they were relying on the money left to him by Princess Diana—and “without that we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

The debate around security for members of the royal family is an old one, and there are no publicly available rules about who does and doesn’t get it. Until 2011 Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, had received protection at a reported cost of £500,000 per year; since then they have provided their own, and both princesses and their husbands make their own incomes. A police task force, the Royal and VIP Executive Committee, handles a list of essential public figures and royals who have round-the-clock protection funded primarily by the state.

When Harry and Meghan temporarily moved to Vancouver in the fall of 2019, they were accompanied by Metropolitan Police protection officers from London. Around the time they were negotiating their exit Meghan was photographed on a hike accompanied by both a royal protection officer and a Canadian Mountie, which sparked protests from Canadians demanding they not cover the cost of royal protection. By the time they moved to the United States the following spring, even Donald Trump had gotten involved in making a to-do over the cost of protecting them. 

But according to Meghan in the Oprah interview, the debate around their security detail began much earlier. When she was pregnant with Archie in the fall of 2018, she said, she was told by palace officials and family members that Archie should not be given the title of prince—which meant he would not receive a royal security detail either. “There’s no explanation,” she said when Oprah pressed for details. Later in the interview Harry said that there had been a suggestion that Meghan continue her acting career to make money for the family, implying that the royal institution had made efforts to cut their funding in multiple ways. 

It was while they were in Vancouver, Harry said in the interview, that they were told on “short notice” that their royal security detail would be cut off—even as they were still in the process of finalizing their exit, with the intention of continuing to serve the queen. “Their justification was a change in status,” Harry said explaining the change. “To which I pushed back and said, is there a change in threat or risk?” As of a statement in late February they were continuing to receive royal security support, but when their senior royal status officially ended at the end of March, they were on their own. When they moved to Los Angeles in April and stayed in a home owned by Tyler Perry, he provided their security as well, according to Oprah. 

Despite reporting last spring that Prince Charles had stepped in to provide for security for Harry and Meghan, Harry emphasized in the Oprah interview that the financial support from his family had already stopped at that point. It was by signing the deal with Netflix in September of last year that they became fully financially independent, and were able to pay back the cost of renovations on their home at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. 

The royal family has not yet responded to any of the statements Harry and Meghan made in their interview, including to offer clarity on how and why their security detail was removed. Information will be added to this story if it does arrive. 

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