Security for Royal Girlfriends Has Long Been an Issue

Despite intrusive attention from the press and the public, official protection is only provided after the royal wedding.

Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s a royal conundrum: Those who marry into the royal family aren’t afforded security protection until they’re officially wed—yet the suffocating (and sometimes scary) attention sets in on them the moment the public finds out they’re dating a member of the family.

Both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle experienced this; the issue extends as far back as Princess Diana in 1981. (It’s also likely why royal engagements are so short—the engagements of Prince William and Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan, and Prince Charles and Diana all average around just five months.)

Kate Middleton began experiencing the suffocating strain of being a “royal girlfriend” in the early 2000s, to the point where then boyfriend William had a panic button installed in her apartment while they were dating, Tina Brown says in her new book The Palace Papers. The panic button was connected to the local police and was installed because a.) Kate wasn’t entitled to official protection from the Palace until she married William (which didn’t happen until 2011), and b.) the press intrusion was so severe that it apparently warranted it. Though she received no official protection, Brown says that she would sometimes receive assistance from Charles’ former communications director Paddy Harverson, who “would often run interference unofficially,” Brown writes.

“In keeping with her character, Kate’s requests for his intervention were rare and always began with the words ‘I don’t want to make a fuss, but…” Brown writes, per Insider. “William reportedly arranged for a panic button to the local police station to be installed in her apartment to protect her from the constant threats of intrusion.”

Driving home the point, this lack of security—which Harry is still very passionate about today—was the reason, Brown says, why the prince wanted to marry Meghan “as quickly as possible,” per the Mirror. Though famously advised to take it slowly by older brother William, Harry wanted police protection for his girlfriend and “to his brother’s concerns, Harry’s riposte can be summarized as, I am told, ‘Well, actually the best way that I can protect her is to marry her as quickly as possible, because as soon as I marry her, she will then get police protection.’”

(As opposed to William and Kate’s decade-long courtship, Harry and Meghan met and were married inside of two years.)

Now that Harry and Meghan have left the Firm, security concerns continue to dog the Sussexes—but, hopefully, there’s a solution brewing to allow Harry, and hopefully the rest of his family, to attend the Platinum Jubilee next month. 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.