What Meghan Markle didn’t tell Oprah about their security being pulled

You stop getting taxpayer-funded royal protection when you don't want to be a royal anymore

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One of the more shocking allegations by Meghan Markle in her Sunday interview with Oprah Winfrey was how the royal family had “pulled security” soon after her and Prince Harry’s move to Canada.

What wasn’t mentioned was how the couple’s decision to step down as royals automatically disqualified them from receiving the taxpayer-funded security extended to working members of the royal family.

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Markle told Winfrey that Buckingham Palace had threatened to remove security protection from her son Archie in response to their 2019 move to Canada and subsequent announcement to pursue lives as private citizens. “If he’s not going to be a prince it’s like ‘OK, well he needs to be safe,’” she said.

As Winfrey described it in a voiceover, “after the move, Harry and Meaghan say security, normally provided by the Royal Family, was cut off.”

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Security costs for the Royal Family are one of the few royal expenses that are wholly taxpayer-funded. Queen Elizabeth II, who personally holds a massive portfolio of British real estate, pays for her car, her dresses and her Scottish summer retreat. But the cost of keeping her safe is funded entirely by the Home Office when she’s in the U.K., and by foreign governments when she’s on state visits.

Two members of Prince Philip’s security detail pictured last month outside King Edward VII’s Hospital in London where he had been admitted.
Two members of Prince Philip’s security detail pictured last month outside King Edward VII’s Hospital in London where he had been admitted. Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

It’s not cheap; protection costs for Queen Elizabeth and her various children and grandchildren costs the U.K. government up to $50 million per year. This sum grows even higher when factoring in the contribution of foreign governments.

As potential heirs to the throne of the United Kingdom, the Queen’s immediate family are what’s known as Internationally Protected Persons (IPP) – a very rare classification usually only extended to heads of state and senior diplomats.

Being an IPP is essentially a free ticket to receive automatic state bodyguards almost anywhere in the world. Any signatory to the United Nations’ Protection of Diplomat’s Convention is duty-bound to prevent “attacks on the person, freedom or dignity” of a visiting Internationally Protected Person. Whenever Justin Trudeau jets down to Florida for a vacation, for instance, the U.S. Secret Service is automatically mobilized to ensure that he remains safe while on U.S. soil.

The moment Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived on Vancouver Island in December, 2019, their status as royals meant they were furnished a taxpayer-funded RCMP detail without even needing to ask. “As the Duke and Duchess are currently recognized as Internationally Protected Persons, Canada has an obligation to provide security assistance on an as needed basis,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said at the time.

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pictured in March, 2020 at one of their last official engagements as working members of the royal family.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pictured in March, 2020 at one of their last official engagements as working members of the royal family. Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP

It was on Jan. 8, 2020 that the couple released a statement announcing they intended to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family” and become “financially independent.” Two weeks later, this prompted a statement from Buckingham Palace wishing the couple well on their new path, but making clear that they “will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties” and “can no longer formally represent The Queen.”

Although the statement noted that the Palace “does not comment on the details of security arrangements,” the new arrangement meant the couple would lose their status as IPPs effective in the “Spring of 2020.”

Speaking to Winfrey, Harry said Buckingham Palace justified the removal of security due to a “a change in status.” The prince said he then “pushed back and said ‘is there a change in risk or threat?’”

There would have been severe diplomatic consequences if Buckingham Palace had insisted on retaining IPP status for people who were no longer working members of the House of Windsor.

The sky-high costs of royal protection are controversial at the best of times, and public pushback rose precipitously once it emerged that Harry and Meghan were still receiving taxpayer-funded protection while actively shunning the duties of royal life.

Queen Elizabeth II during her last official visit to Canada in 2010. Canadians are generally more comfortable with security expenses for the royals when they get some waving in return.
Queen Elizabeth II during her last official visit to Canada in 2010. Canadians are generally more comfortable with security expenses for the royals when they get some waving in return. Photo by Pawel Duwuit/Canadian Press

Over a two-month period from November, 2019 to January, 2020, Canadians paid $56,384 on RCMP protection for Harry and Meghan, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. An Angus Reid Institute poll from January, 2020 found that 73 per cent of Canadians objected to paying Harry and Meghan’s security tab. When the couple moved to the United States it prompted a tweet from then-U.S. president Donald Trump that the U.S. “would not pay for their security protection.”

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Prince Harry cited the withdrawal of security in their decision to leave Canada for the Los Angeles home of actor and producer Tyler Perry. “While we were in Canada at someone else’s house I then got told on short notice that security was going to be removed,” he said.

“Suddenly it dawned on me ‘hang on a second, the borders could be closed, we’re going to have our security removed and who knows how long lockdown is going to be? The world knows where we are, it’s not safe, it’s not secure.”

The “not safe, not secure” Vancouver Island residence of Harry and Meghan.
The “not safe, not secure” Vancouver Island residence of Harry and Meghan. Photo by Mark Goodnow/AFP

The “someone else’s house” he cited was the $14 million Vancouver Island home of music producer David Foster, a Victoria native. Foster’s wife, Katharine McPhee, studied musical theatre with Markle when they were both teenagers in Los Angeles. The home was described by at least one publication as a “Canadian fortress.”

The couple’s brief stay on the Island was notable for a lack of any security incidents, and even saw local businesses banning paparazzi from their premises in order to welcome the couple. The B.C. capital and its surroundings are notable as a clandestine hideaway for any number of the world’s rich and powerful, including Foster, Canada’s richest woman Sherry Brydson, and Shopify co-founder Scott Lake.

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