The Secrets & Lives of Royal Protection Officers

What’s it like to work as a royal bodyguard? SPYSCAPE spills secrets of Britain’s notoriously private protection officers.


Secrets & Lives of Royal Protection Officers
King Charles with his 24-7 bodyguard team


1. The Royalty Protection Group carry Glock 17 pistols

Scotland Yard’s Royalty Protection Group (S014) officers are discreetly armed with a 9mm Glock 17 pistol, a radio, and a first aid kit. The senior police officers - each with 10-15 years of experience - are trained in firearms and unarmed combat, advanced driving, and emergency first aid as well as basics like walking in formation, venue recce, and overseas work. Formed in 1983, it is thought that there are up to 185 SAS-trained officers (the exact number isn’t revealed for security reasons). Only the most high-profile royals have around-the-clock protection including King Charles, Prince William, and the Cambridge family. Lower-ranking royals are accompanied to events, however. 

The Secrets & Lives of Royal Protection Officers

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What’s it like to work as a royal bodyguard? SPYSCAPE spills secrets of Britain’s notoriously private protection officers.


Secrets & Lives of Royal Protection Officers
King Charles with his 24-7 bodyguard team


1. The Royalty Protection Group carry Glock 17 pistols

Scotland Yard’s Royalty Protection Group (S014) officers are discreetly armed with a 9mm Glock 17 pistol, a radio, and a first aid kit. The senior police officers - each with 10-15 years of experience - are trained in firearms and unarmed combat, advanced driving, and emergency first aid as well as basics like walking in formation, venue recce, and overseas work. Formed in 1983, it is thought that there are up to 185 SAS-trained officers (the exact number isn’t revealed for security reasons). Only the most high-profile royals have around-the-clock protection including King Charles, Prince William, and the Cambridge family. Lower-ranking royals are accompanied to events, however. 

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Secret Lives of Royal Protection Officers
Simon Morgan kept an eye on the Queen

2. Royal walkabouts are S014's biggest headache

Protection officer Simon Morgan, who worked for Britain’s royal family from 2007 to 2013, said Royal ‘walkabouts’ are the riskiest scenario as bodyguards must expect the unexpected. "There's an element of uncertainty despite the control," Morgan told ITV. "You're looking at everyone, wondering why someone is smiling or why someone is not smiling… You breathe a sigh of relief when you get back into the car."

One of the biggest day-to-day challenges for royal protection officers, however, is focusing on security and planning rather than getting caught up in the glamor of yachts, fast cars, and exclusive restaurants. The main role of protection officers is built on planning for events and contingencies should something go wrong - including knowing the location of the nearest hospital.

"It's not about fighting, driving, shooting, or looking good in sunglasses," Morgan said. 


Secret Lives of Royal Protection Officers - HARRY AND MEGHAN
Prince Harry is in a dispute with the UK Home Office over security

3. Prince Harry sued the UK government

While Prince Harry is still a member of the Royal Family, he and his wife Meghan Markle lost their automatic right to taxpayer-funded police bodyguards when they stepped back from duties and moved to California in 2020. Decisions about their UK security are now made by The Royal and VIP Executive Committee, a little-known body thrust into the spotlight when Harry sued the UK over security arrangements.

The 2022 court dispute revealed that Harry offered to pay privately for Scotland Yard to protect his family if they visited the UK - and that he fears returning without that protection. Britain’s Home Office called his offer ‘irrelevant’ as police protection isn’t for sale. The court case hasn’t been resolved.

4. Female bodyguards are common

It’s become more common to see female bodyguards protecting VIPs like the Duchess of Cambridge. Sergeant Emma Probert was assigned to protect the future Queen after Catherine's engagement to Prince William. She was believed to be part of a three-strong armed close protection squad who performed a run-through with the bride-to-be in the wedding carriage before the ceremony.

Lisa Baldwin, a bodyguard who has guarded Middle Eastern royals on holidays, said VIPs have come to realize that women blend into the background more easily during events: "People just assume I'm a nanny or personal assistant.”


5. Royal protection officers risk their lives for VIPs

Royal protection officers have put their lives at risk during several high-profile incidents including the attempted assassination of Prince (now King) Charles in Australia in 1994 by a lone gunman who rushed the stage firing shots from a starting pistol. 

Secrets & Lives of Royal Protection Officers
Young Prince Harry on the balcony

6. Officers have had a few mishaps

Young charges present royal bodyguards with unique challenges. Former protection officer Ken Wharfe recalled young Prince Harry dressing in military fatigues and asking for missions. Wharfe obliged, once lending him a two-way radio. Harry took the instructions to heart, escaping from Kensington Palace without telling anyone and radioed back to tell Wharfe: "Mission accomplished." Wharfe said his feet ‘didn't touch the ground’ as he ran out to locate Harry.

There have been a few other worrying incidents. In 2000, a Royal protection officer accidentally fired two shots from his gun on the Royal Train while the Queen was asleep. No-one was injured but there was damage to the rail car. In 2002, an intruder managed to get inside the Queen’s bedroom and have a chat with the Monarch as she lay in her four-poster bed. Michael Fagan had also broken into Buckingham palace the previous month.

Secret Lives of Royal Protection Officers
Prince Andrew golfing

7. Some officers don't get along with their assigned VIPs

Protection officers don’t always see eye to eye with their VIP clients. Prince Andrew reportedly ordered Royal protection officers to retrieve his stray golf balls while practising in Buckingham Palace. Former Royal protection officer Paul Page, while on trial in 2009 for fraud, backed up the claim that Andrew would use the elite forces -  who were supposed to be protecting him - as golf caddies.

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