The question of the Sussexes’ security has been a fraught one since the Duke and Duchess stepped down as senior royals in March, stoking controversy in Canada over costs to the taxpayer and even prompting a tweet from President Donald Trump once the pair settled down in Los Angeles.
Previously, the Sussexes confirmed they would be “privately funding” their own security and had “no plans to ask the US government for security resources.”
It has now been reported by The Times that they are being protected by a commercial security firm called Gavin de Becker and Associates, which is believed to charge up to £7k a day for its services.
Prince Harry and Meghan are currently believed to be staying with Hollywood producer Tyler Perry, who owns an eight-bedroom mansion in Los Angeles.
According to the Times’ source, the GDBA protection forms part of Perry’s “security team that was already employed at the house where they are currently living” though it was noted it is not known if the couple are contributing to costs.
The source also added that the Sussexes “have not yet hired a permanent detail” and were only using the reported GDBA team “temporarily.”
I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen & the United Kingdom. It was reported that Harry and Meghan, who left the Kingdom, would reside permanently in Canada. Now they have left Canada for the U.S. however, the U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)March 29, 2020
According to its website, the company protects ‘over 90 of the world’s most prominent families and at-risk individuals’ with partnerships with the CIA, Department of Justice and other US state departments. Besides providing bodyguards, GDBA also helps train staff to be more security-conscious, consults on existing security plans, provides at-home security, does risk assessment, runs background checks on potential employees and more.
The security firm also offers a number of residential security services which the royal couple may have taken them up on, which include having ‘highly trained, highly screened protectors’ on site.
Prince Harry has previously discussed the importance of keeping his family safe, after the Sussexes received backlash when it emerged they had flown in private jets due to their impact on the environment.
Prince Harry said at the time, “Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe - it's generally as simple as that."
We spoke previously with Intelligent Protection’s CEO Alex Bomberg, whose company specialises in commercial royal protection and includes former royal protection officers amongst its roster.
Bomberg said that as Prince Harry had served in Afghanistan during his time with the military, the couple's security needs were more complex.
He said, “Protecting any royal is complex at the best of times, but a high profile member of the British Royal family (who has served in Afghanistan) is quite another issue.”
Princess Diana’s former bodyguard Ken Wharfe also speculated that there was a very “real risk of kidnap” when it came to the Sussexes’ son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Wharfe also estimated that the Sussexes protection could cost as much as £20 million a year.
Both Bomberg and other security experts had stressed that it seemed unlikely that the Sussexes would be able to solely rely on “commercial close protection” due to the “many legal barriers.” Obstacles would include ensuring their security team had international firearm licenses if the family were to go abroad, for example.
Bomberg suggested that they might be adopting a similar security model to Tony Blair, saying an option “would be to make use of a commercial firm to support the residential security whilst utilising the present security afforded to them by the Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP).”
The Sussexes announced earlier this year that they wanted to have “financial autonomy to work externally” which contributed to their decision to step down as senior royals, but cast doubt over how they would continue to fund their security.
A statement on their official website reads, “The provision of armed security by The Metropolitan Police is mandated by the Home Office, a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s Government, responsible for security and law & order.”
The site also cited a Gov.uk explanation on security costs, which reads, “No breakdown of security costs is available as disclosure of such information could compromise the integrity of these arrangements and affect the security of the individuals protected. It is long established policy not to comment upon the protective security arrangements and their related costs for members of the Royal Family or their residences.”