Read the room, Prince Harry: you walked away from the UK – why should we pay for your security?

As the Duke of Sussex loses his High Court challenge over the Home Office downgrading his security detail, why are Harry and Meghan so obsessed with their personal safety… and getting taxpayers to stump up for it, asks Paul Clements

Wednesday 28 February 2024 15:55 GMT
Within Prince Harry’s own family, there are much greater causes of concern than the size of his security detail
Within Prince Harry’s own family, there are much greater causes of concern than the size of his security detail (Reuters)

Another day, another ego blow for the supercilious Sussexes.

Prince Harry has lost the legal challenge he brought against the Home Office over its decision to deny him and his family automatic police protection whenever he is in the UK. It would take a heart of stone not to chuckle, or at least give tut and eyeroll. “What was he thinking…?”

This ruling is not just a triumph for common sense, it shows once again quite how out of touch Harry – now fully Californicated – is with the public mood.

It’s nearly four years since Harry and Meghan opted to leave these shores for ones where every Joe Schmoe carries a gun. Perhaps they have been bitten by the personal protection bug?

In all that time, the Duke of Sussex has returned to the country that once loved him but a handful of times... and the duchess only once, for the funeral of Elizabeth II. With Britain in recession and Brexit landing a 5 per cent dent in our GDP, this is no time for over-stretched public funds to be set aside for rainy-day security details, just in case this superannuated couple and their family decide to jet in.

Safe to say, Britain has other priorities right now. Even within Harry’s own family, there are much greater causes of concern.

This year, misfortune has stalked the royals. The 75-year-old King, barely 18 months into a role he has spent his life building up to, is being treated for cancer. The Princess of Wales is said to be “recovering well” from abdominal surgery that will keep her out of circulation until Easter at the earliest. The unexpected return to public life of a beaming Prince Andrew, who lead the royal pack at yesterday’s King Constantine’s memorial service, after the Prince of Wales was called away on a private matter, was definitely not on my bingo card of news events this week.

The next big royal occasion looks likely to be a funeral: Thomas Kingston, the husband of King Charles’ cousin Lady Gabriella, who is 56th in line to the throne, was found dead on Sunday, aged 45.

So, sorry Harry and Meghan... we’re a bit busy at the moment. We just don’t have the bandwidth, as they might say in California. But, look on the bright side; you could always file this High Court judgement with all your other lawsuits and use it to fuel a glowing sense of grievance.

Harry ought to have seen this ruling coming, because getting other people to pay for his lifestyle until they come to their senses has become something of a habit.

When, in January 2020, he and his wife casually dropped on Instagram their bombshell decision to Megxit (yes, it’s now a noun) – initially in the hope of carving out a “progressive new role within this institution” and to split their time between the US and UK, before later “stepping back” as working royals to instead go about “finding freedom” away from Sovereign Grant handouts – they half-expected they would somehow retain the globetrotting security detail. About this, and much else, they were wrong.

Their very public resignations as senior royals effectively terminated their status as IPPs – International Protected Persons, a position that automatically comes with state-appointed security and diplomatic immunity. Without it, you’re on your own, as is right and proper.

I suspect what eats away at Harry is how his late mother, towards the end of her life, dispensed with her royal protection officers, preferring to rely instead upon the private security firm hired by her then boyfriend’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed. With disastrous consequences.

Certainly, the loss of Harry’s detail loomed large in the couple’s infamous Oprah interview. He recalled how they left Britain to live in Mille Fleurs, a lavish waterfront mansion on Vancouver Island, where “the biggest concern was [...] that security was going to be removed… the world knows where we are, it’s not safe, it’s not secure – we probably need to get out of here.”

It wasn’t long before they outstayed their welcome. Thousands of Canadians signed a petition asking why the couple weren’t stumping up for their own security costs, and demanded their government stop providing the couple with protection estimated to be costing a fortune each year. It was later revealed that Charles, presumably out of fatherly love, paid for guards at his own personal cost.

When they shipped out – this time, to California – it was to hole up in billionaire film producer Tyler Perry’s smart Beverly Hills mansion, from where they went househunting for an LA place of their own. As Meghan told Oprah: “We didn’t have a plan, we needed a house – and [Perry] offered his security as well.”

Security was again central to their “near-catastrophic” slow-speed chase through Manhattan traffic last May, when, in a bid to evade photographers, the couple were advised by their private security team to hop into a 67th Street taxi.

And remember when the pair were branded “eco-hypocrites” after taking a succession of private jets to nip around the globe? “But, security…” was one of the justifications. (That William and his clan happily fly commercial seemed to cut little ice.)

If the Sussexes are so fixated upon beefing up their security, perhaps they should follow the lead of cash-strapped Southwark Council, which this week launched a crowdfunding effort to pay for nice little “extras” such as cycle hangars and LED streetlights.

Could someone show the duke how to start a GoFundMe?

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