In January, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stunned the United Kingdom and the rest of the world with the sudden announcement that they would no longer be serving as senior members of the Royal Family. The decision took the Firm by surprise; the couple had been actively working alongside the rest of the family since Meghan and Harry got engaged in 2017.
But for those following the Sussexes’ journey, Meghan and Harry’s departure may have been in the cards all along. From the moment their relationship became public knowledge, the British media went after the former actress relentlessly. She was scrutinized so closely that Harry took the unprecedented measure of releasing a statement telling the press to stop harassing his then-girlfriend. He directly accused the media of making racist, bullying remarks towards Meghan, but they didn’t let up then, nor did they stop after the two married and had a son, Archie. Harry recently filed a lawsuit against the paparazzi for harassing his wife.
The intense public scrutiny, combined with the strict protocol of the Royal Family, led the Sussexes to make a shocking decision: They’re leaving the cocoon of castle life and becoming as close to commoners as they can. In doing so, the couple is surrendering their royal titles, Harry’s military appointments, financial support from British taxpayers, their office in Buckingham Palace, and guaranteed government-supplied security.
March 31 marked their last day as senior members of the royal family. Meghan and Harry are now said to be residing in the United States (in Meghan’s hometown of Los Angeles), where they will have to establish a new way of navigating the world as private citizens. Their new normal will have to be closely monitored and controlled by a team of private security experts who can ensure that the couple’s transition goes smoothly — and safely.
Refinery29 spoke with Russell Stuart, Managing Director of full-service security firm Force Protection Agency, about the necessary (and pricey) security measures that Harry and Meghan will likely have to take now that they’re no longer royals. The risks for the couple, specifically Harry, have increased tenfold. Away from the royal family and its established protocol, they are even bigger targets facing far more potential for danger — even kidnapping.
Harry has been very vocal about how the media and paparazzi led to his mother’s death, and he has said that part of withdrawing from royal life is to protect his family. With 20 years of industry experience leading global security teams for major names including Jennifer Lopez, Linkin Park, Da Baby, and Post Malone, Stuart says that a team of professionals will be tasked with helping the Sussexes quickly and efficiently adjust their ideas of privacy. Their new normal won’t come cheap.
The cost for security services will probably amount to $4 to $5 million annually.
It’s hard to guess exactly what the cost of security for the couple will total, but Stuart speculates that it will likely add up to a cool $5 million per year. That number should cover the individuals hired to guard Meghan and Harry’s home as well as their entourage of bodyguards protecting them on the go. The size of the team would increase when the pair travels internationally with Archie.
“Just for a local team, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, doing everything they need to do including planning...I’d put it at a solid $5 million a year,” Stuart concluded.
Prince Charles is rumored to have volunteered to help foot the hefty bill for his son and daughter-in-law during their year-long trial period away from the Firm. The news of this financial support should come as a relief to British taxpayers; after all, much of the criticism pointed at Meghan and Harry stemmed from citizens’ beliefs that they were funding the couple’s lives.
"Just for a local team, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, doing everything they need to do including planning...I’d put it at a solid $5 million a year”
Different countries require different levels of protection.
The difference between good and excellent security is the ability to provide protection in every type of situation, says Stuart, and that skill set only comes from years of experience in varied circumstances. Thanks to their decision, Meghan and Harry are no longer considered official international protected people, which puts them in a vulnerable position.
“Meghan and Harry should go with a team that has the experience of traveling and working internationally,” Stuart said. “People who only know American security and don’t understand security in the rest of the world won’t understand how Harry feels. Their team should know that the American way isn’t the only way so they can help him physically and mentally navigate this new space.”
Harry's public lifestyle comes with an increased risk of danger in a new setting.
While Meghan may have been born and raised in the United States and has previously enjoyed a life out of the international spotlight, Harry has been under the watchful eye of the world for his entire existence. Now that he’s stepped away from his title , the former royal’s understanding of his mobility will be totally altered. Stuart said that Harry’s team would have to work closely with him to help their client acclimate to his new reality as a private citizen with a very public lifestyle.
“Everything that he does, everywhere that he goes, his level of celebrity can complicate it,” Stuart explained, “That’s why having a team that executes a plan for his every move is key. It’s not just for Harry’s safety, but also for the safety of the space. There’s no room for error because the stakes are so tremendous.”
“Harry may live in L.A., but it’s not like he can just go to Runyon Canyon for a morning run,” the security expert continued. “He doesn’t get to hit the backspace button and delete who he is — he’s still the Queen’s grandson. He’s still Harry.”