A Fascinating Look At The Bodyguards Who Protect The British Royal Family

The British royal family is one of the most prestigious families in the world, so their bodyguards have to be top-notch to ensure their safety. The protection officers are close to the royals for such an extended amount of time, that they are not only trusted but deeply appreciated. Princess Diana was so close to her bodyguards that she was deeply impacted when one of them passed. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, though. There were some frightening security breaches over the years and even a few mishaps by officers. Read on for fascinating facts about the bodyguards protecting one of the world’s most talked-about royal families.

Every Royal Has Their Own Bodyguard

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Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Everyone in the royal family has an individual bodyguard to ensure that they’re protected at all times. They typically have a group of guards that makes sure the royals are safe during large events, but there’s one specific person who follows them constantly.

The bodyguard isn’t always right next to the royal family member, so it may not be immediately obvious that they’re being looked out for. But if a safety measure were ever breached, a guard would pop out in a heartbeat.

It Takes Months Of Training To Get The Greenlight

Richard Pohle – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Richard Pohle – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Getting hired as a bodyguard for the royal family isn’t a walk in the park. Regardless of how much experience the applicants may have, they still need to be put through a thorough evaluation that includes months of training before they can be trusted.

A former member of the Royal Protection Department, Simon Morgan, says that he went through 30 weeks of courses to be sure he could handle the job. That’s seven and a half months of learning about things like combat, driving, and more to the extent that he wouldn’t make a single mistake.

Kate’s Bodyguard Used To Work For Other Princesses

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Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Kate Middleton’s bodyguard is Sgt. Emma Probert, who has been with the Duchess since 2010. Female officers are often assigned to female members of the royal family to help ensure that they can be comfortable. Before working with Kate, Emma was a part of Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie’s detail team.

After proving to be a strong bodyguard for Kate, Emma was able to help train Meghan Markle’s bodyguard. However, Meghan’s initial bodyguard didn’t last long as she decided to leave the force. According to People, the move left Meghan feeling “gutted.”

They Live “One Step Ahead” Of The Royals

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Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The royal bodyguards have to be on the top of their game 100% of the time. They can’t lose focus even for a second, as that could be the single moment when something goes wrong. Plus, they have to constantly evaluate the scenario.

Retired protection officer Colin Tebbutt, who guarded several royals including Princess Diana, said, “You find you live their life one step ahead of them.” A perfect example of this was when Meghan Markle’s personal protection officer pulled her out of a crowded marketplace several minutes ahead of schedule, just to be safe.

Only The Bodyguard Can Close Car Doors

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

News erupted over Meghan Markle’s seemingly harmless move that was strictly against protocol. The former actress mindlessly closed her own limo door as she exited the car. While it seems like something royalty should do out of politeness, it’s actually against the rules.

Only bodyguards and other protection personnel are allowed to close car doors after a royal exits. That’s because they are constantly scanning for danger, so they need to be sure the environment is safe before they shut the door. If there’s any reason for doubt, then the royal can swiftly jump back into the car before the door is shut.

The British Army Guards The Queen

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If you thought that the Princes, Princesses, and Duchesses got a lot of protection, just imagine what it would be like to be the queen! Queen Elizabeth II has an entire team from the British Army who ensures her safety at all times.

These guards are called the Household Cavalry and they consist of two groups: the Lifeguards and the Blues and Royals. Both units are the most senior regiments of the British Army, so it doesn’t get any higher than them. Prince Harry and Prince William both joined the Blues and Royals during their military service.

Queen Elizabeth II Has Been Colonel-In-Chief Since 1952

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Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images
Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II has gotten to know her guards exceptionally well, both as their queen and their Colonel-In-Chief. She assumed the role when her father passed in 1952, acting as Colonel-In-Chief first for The Royal Scots Greys and then the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in 1971.

The role does not consist of operational practices, but rather ceremonial ones. In other words, Queen Elizabeth II is not the one who would issue orders but rather plays a key role in staying informed of the regiment’s activities and linking them to the royal family.

Police Inspector Alexander Usher Became Like Family

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip, police inspector Alexander Usher was the one put in charge of her safety throughout the ceremony. Though he was only 35-years-old at the time, he’d already spent nearly half his life on the force.

Alexander spent six years as an important part of Queen Elizabeth II’s detail, so much so that he was invited to family christenings and teas. He even watched over the royal children at times. In 1953, Alexander received the Royal Victorian Medal for his work under the royal family.

There Are Precautions Taken During Driving Trips

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

When driving the royals, it’s of the utmost importance that the bodyguards are on high alert since they are passing through tons of people. That’s why the police often escort the royals, surrounding their car so that if anything happens, law enforcement is already there.

To top it off, the royal family’s chauffeurs don’t take the same route to places every time. They try to avoid routines so that anyone who may be planning an attack won’t be able to pin down the precise spot they’ll be while en route.

Princess Anne’s Bodyguard Was Once Attacked

Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, Princess Anne, was once face-to-face with danger despite her extensive protection team. In 1974, the Princess and her husband, Mark Phillips, found themselves nearly kidnapped by Ian Ball.

The criminal managed to attack their chauffeur, a journalist, a policeman, and Anne’s personal bodyguard, James Beaton. Princess Anne managed to lock herself in the car long enough for Ian to take off running. James ended up in the hospital but was later rewarded with the George Cross for his act of bravery.

An Intruder Once Made It Into The Queen’s Bedroom

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Given how extensively guarded Buckingham Palace is, you would think it would be impossible for someone to break in. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in 1982 when 31-year-old Michael Fagan scaled a 14-foot wall and snuck through Queen Elizabeth II’s window.

Prince Philip had left the palace only an hour before the intrusion occurred. Michael’s entrance woke the queen up, but she swiftly tricked the man into walking into the arms of security. Michael didn’t seem to have any mal intent, stating he just wanted to “talk” to the queen. He ended up being hospitalized after the event.

There Have Been Multiple Accidental Firings

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Fortunately, there haven’t been many firings at the royals under the watchful eye of their security. On the other hand, their protective team has had a few hiccups when it came to accidental firings. In 1992, the head of the palace’s protective services accidentally fired a plastic bullet at his own leg!

Eight years later, a police constable accidentally discharged a firearm on the royal train. Then in 2010, the queen’s chief bodyguard accidentally set off his firearm while cleaning it. These mishaps, though harmless, go to show that even the best of the best have their off days.

The Bodyguards Do Their Best To Protect Royal Belongings

Richard Pohle – WPA Pool/Getty Images
Richard Pohle – WPA Pool/Getty Images

The royal bodyguards are not only committed to watching over the royal family but also do their best to protect anything belonging to the royals. That’s why when the Windsor Castle caught fire in 1992, Household Cavalry officers rushed to the scene.

In conjunction with police officers and volunteers, the officials rushed in to save all the belongings that they could. These items included artwork and furniture, which you can be sure were of extremely high value.

Princess Diana’s Bodyguard Became Her Shoulder To Cry On

Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Though there are clear boundaries that bodyguards have to follow with the royal family, these lines could sometimes become blurred. Such was the case when Princess Diana’s father passed, leaving her heartbroken and desperate to turn to her bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, for support.

Ken recalled that he “sat on her bed for four hours with her crying in my arms.” Ken wasn’t the only one Diana was close to. When her former bodyguard, Barry Mannakee, passed, she said that the news was “the biggest blow” of her life.

Being A Bodyguard For College-Aged Prince Wasn’t Always Easy

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

When Prince William went to study at Eton, his bodyguards had to remain serious as ever, even around jovial college kids. One of the boys’ peers is said to have looked for another school after positioning a laser pointer towards one of the Prince’s as a joke.

Another time, Prince William was playing golf with some friends and one of them accidentally hit the royal member in the head! His bodyguard immediately called for an ambulance. It’s a good thing that the bodyguard took the accident so seriously because William ended up needing surgery!

William’s Bodyguards Weren’t Always With Him On Campus

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Though Prince William’s bodyguards had to know his whereabouts 24/7 while he attended college, they did their best to let him have a normal college experience. The team would dress like they were students so that it wasn’t too obvious who was looking out for the Prince.

They also would let him walk from one place to another on his own. One security officer would report when Prince William left a location, and another officer would be there waiting at his destination and note when he’d arrived.

William And Kate’s Bodyguard Quit After Five Years

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

William and Kate met in college and began dating in 2003. They briefly split in 2007, but came back together in 2008 and were more serious than ever. Fans eagerly waited for the long-term couple to get engaged, especially once word spread that Kate was being protected by royal bodyguards, too.

Chief Inspector John Hourihan led two teams of four who closely looked after the couple. Though Kate was officially protected by royal security in 2008, it would be another two years before the couple finally became engaged. In 2013, John shocked Kate and William when he left his role for a private security position.

Kate’s Bodyguard Married A Fellow Royal Protection Officer

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Once Kate and William officially became engaged, the soon-to-be Duchess received round-the-clock protection by her very own security team. Sergeant Emma Probert became Kate’s personal protection officer in 2010, just a year after losing her husband in a skiing accident.

As fate would have it, Emma ended up meeting her next husband through the royal family’s security. Officer Colin Childs is a part of Queen Elizabeth II’s protection detail, and he ended up hitting it off with Emma. Though the security couple keeps their relationship details private, it’s sweet to know they met their mate while on the job.

Extending The Protection To Social Media

Stephen Pond/Getty Images
Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Since social media enables people from around the world to freely express their opinions, the royals have to be just as protected virtually as they are in real life. For this reason, the royals are very selective about the accounts they open.

To help protect the royal family via social media, their security came up with guidelines that must be followed by anyone interacting with their accounts. If a rule is broken, the individual’s posts can be deleted and their account blocked.

They Use Nicknames And Initials

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As you may have expected, the royal family’s protection officers are as secretive as possible, even when it comes to names. To prevent giving anything away to the wrong person, the bodyguards use codenames when talking about the royal family members.

One thing that the team does to avoid confusion is come up with nicknames that have the same initials as the royal’s title. For instance, if they are talking about a Duke of Cambridge, the nickname will follow the initials “D.C.” Since there are multiple dukes and duchesses, it’s still secretive enough to not hint at one particular person.