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mong the dramatic revelations from this week’s Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was that the Royal family had cut them off financially, leaving them responsible for the significant cost of providing for their own security. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s annual security bill could easily reach $2 to $3 million for around-the-clock protection, according to four security experts interviewed by Forbes. A spokesperson for the royal couple declined to comment.
Where does all that money go? For starters they likely use a combination of guards and electronics to secure their Montecito mansion. But as any Hollywood celebrity will attest, the couple’s security needs extend well beyond the grounds of their 7.4-acre estate. They’ll need teams to scout out locations ahead of any planned visit and provide vehicles to escort them safely. Security experts likely monitor social media continuously, and stay in touch with local police, to identify threats, and possibly even employ decoys to throw the paparazzi off their trail.
“He has already gone through losing his mother due to lack of risk assessment in that situation,” said APA Celebrity Protection Group’s D-Teflon, the preferred moniker of the actor and producer who provided security for such celebrities as Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent and Kiefer Sutherland, referring to the paparazzi pursuit of Princess Diana that preceded the fatal car crash in 1997. “So he has to think, ‘OK, Do I want my wife and my kid going through the same fate?”
The Metropolitan Police, which protects the royal family around the globe, stopped providing security when the couple stepped down as working members while in Canada last spring. When Prince Harry and Meghan moved to Los Angeles in April 2020, they initially stayed in a home owned by billionaire movie producer Tyler Perry, who provided for their security. But since they took up residence last summer in Montecito, a seaside community in Santa Barbara county, Prince Harry and Meghan are picking up the tab.
Kent Moyer, chief executive of The World Protection Group, a security firm located in Beverly Hills, said Prince Harry made a rookie mistake purchasing the property in his name — making the family’s address readily available through public records.
“It’d take 10 minutes to roam around to find that property,” said Moyer.
The gate to Meghan and Harry’s Southern California Estate
Whichever firm is safeguarding the family likely took that into account as they performed an initial vulnerability assessment of the property — which takes into consideration earthquakes, wildfires and other natural disasters in addition to the layout of the home and surrounding grounds. Moyer says he likes to deploy drones to patrol the perimeter of celebrity estates to detect intruders, shine a spotlight on the intruder, capture photographs and video and announce that they need to leave the property. Others prefer dogs.
The greatest threats can come from within. Moyer said one of the duke and duchess’ neighbors, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi, has full-time security and sensors all over the property — but their home was burglarized last summer in what has been characterized as an “inside job.”
“I’ve worked for clients where the most dangerous person was either the head of security or a close friend,” said Moyer. “They’d intentionally try to sabotage us. That’s a big concern.”
Even social media posts can leave a high-profile client vulnerable by alerting thieves when a celebrity is out of town, as was the case with a string of burglaries in 2018 in the Hollywood Hills, notes Jason D. Porter of Pinkerton.
Leaving home poses different risks. Security teams inspect the hotel, airport or venue in advance of any planned visit. A caravan of cars, typically a lead vehicle and a trail vehicle, would escort Prince Harry or Meghan to their destination, ensuring that if there’s a traffic stop or a security breach they have multiple ways to escape.
“Every move has to be choreographed. Just a simple trip to a coffee shop, in some instances, needs to be advanced,” said Anthony Davis, whose firm, AD Entertainment, has provided security for The Osbournes, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Idol and Michael Jackson’s Victory . “Are there suspicious characters? Is the street busy? Is there road construction which would limit and make us targets while we’re sitting in traffic? So there are a lot of variables that you have to consider when you are responsible for providing protection for such high-profile families and individuals.”
Paparazzi pose a special risk, as Prince Harry knows from tragic personal experience.
D-Teflon says he once accompanied Morgan Freeman to a restaurant when one of the other patrons shared his location with a friend. As they prepared to leave, they encountered a crush of fans and paparazzi outside the restaurant, a potential volatile situation. He said he likes to hire security guards to pose as paparazzi, and lead the other photographers off the trail, or employ celebrity look-alikes as decoys.
“The paparazzi. They follow noise. They follow clicks,” said D-Teflon. “I can use that as a distraction, for them to go left. Meanwhile we’re going out the opposite direction. If a high speed chase starts happening, they’re chasing the wrong person.”
I’m a Los Angeles-based senior editor for Forbes, writing about the companies and people behind the biggest disruption in entertainment since cable TV: streaming video. I