As promised, in today’s especially lengthy post we are diving into the world of royal protection officers. While we are going to focus on Kate, we would be remiss not to talk about the shennanigans that Harry got himself into over the weekend and how his PPO’s fit into that messy situation. Here we go…
On November 16, 2010 when Kate and William announced their engagement, one of the many changes that Kate faced was that from that day on she was assigned personal protection officers, or PPOs, to guard her around the clock. That must have been quite an adjustment and one I don’t envy. Prior to that, she only had protection when she was with William and had to fend for herself when she was on her own, no matter how many paparazzos were following her. Must have been daunting on days like this one:
And nights out like this:
Royal protection is handled by the Royalty Protection Command, which is an operational unit of the Metropolitan Police that is paid for by the tax payer. According to this fascinating article in the December 2008 edition of the Metropolitan Police magazine The Job:
The Command has three distinct functions: Residential Protection, Close and Personal Protection, and the Special Escort Group… The unit also provides personal protection for foreign royal families when they visit the UK, as well as armed motorbike and car escorts for some government ministers and high-risk prisoners.
The article also gives some insight into what the job entails. It reads:
As a PPO, you travel with your principal wherever he or she goes,” says Acting Chief Inspector Nigel Partridge. “You are assigned to an individual, and you often get to know them very well. But we operate in a range of circumstances and we have to be very flexible. For example, we are there to protect members of the royal family whether they are carrying out official duties, or going on private holidays. This presents us with a different range of circumstances.”
That has certainly been the case for Prince Harry’s PPO’s during his holiday in Vegas, which has only just come to an end. Harry certainly lived it up; he raced Ryan Lochte in a swimming pool one night and on another he stripped down to his birthday suit as part of a game the press is calling “strip billiards.” Unfortunately for Harry, at least one of his fellow revellers took pictures of him in the buff and they have been published on TMZ and numerous other websites. Oh, Harry! Lainey Gossip has a good summary of this new scandal for the royal scamp and how it affects his PPO’s. Check out her article here.
In my humble opinion, it shouldn’t be part of the PPO’s job to be disciplinarians and that is a tough line to walk with someone like Harry. Let’s recap what went down. Harry reportedly decided to invite strangers to party with him. Harry decided to play the game. Harry took the risk that some of these strangers would have camera phones that they would use to capture the moment. Assuming the PPO’s were there the whole time, it would have been their responsibility to vet these people and make sure they weren’t dangerous. I can’t see it being their job to confiscate camera phones unless it’s true that this went down in the privacy of Harry’s hotel room, in which case that request could, and should, have been made. Harry wasn’t physically injured, so in that sense they did their job but obviously these pictures of her adult, 27 year old grandson have not made Granny proud. I’m a bit torn as to how much the PPO’s should be keeping Harry, a grown adult and apache helicopter pilot for goodness sakes, in line.
It certainly is a tricky business being a PPO. No doubt there is a thorough review going on right now, especially considering that the three PPO’s that are reported to have been with him were there on the taxpayer’s dime. I’m sure the day the pictures broke was a loooong one for Harry’s principle private secretary and equery Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton and his personal private secretary Helen Asprey.
Back to Kate!
She was reportedly assigned three core officers after the engagement was announced. The first one we’ll take a look at is Emma Probert. She is shown here with Kate at Witton Park shortly before the wedding:
Emma was also with Kate when she had lunch with Pippa, Camilla, and Camilla’s daughter Laura at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge in February of 2011. Emma and another PPO named Karen, who we’ll meet in a moment, sat together at an adjacent table. Here they are heading out afterwards:
Emma was reportedly once a flight attendant, just like Kate’s mom Carole, but she has been a PPO for several years now. Emma previously was assigned to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, whose police detail has been reduced as part of a long term plan to bring down costs and stream line the monarchy. Losing Emma must have been a bit of a blow to the princesses.
Emma has been photographed out and about with Kate all over the place, and she was even with Kate and dad Michael Middleton on their famous wedding day trip from the Goring Hotel to Westminster Abbey. In this four minute Youtube video, you can see Emma in a white and black hat getting into the front seat after one of the official photographers takes lots of pictures of Kate getting in. Side note: how great must all those private candid photos be??? Emma looks very serious and focussed, but she does crack a smile once they get on their way:
More recently, Emma was with William and Kate while they watched some Olympic tennis at Wimbledon. She’s in the blue shirt directly behind Kate and is wearing her IOC issued accreditation around her neck:
“Inspector Karen Llewellyn is one of three female Personal Protection Officers (PPOs). She says: “The physical side of it is challenging, but not impossible. But you get into it and it is the best job in the world.”
Karen’s recent duties include protecting the King of Norway on a visit to Britain, from the start of his day to trips to the theatre in the evening, and ensuring thesecurity of Princess Beatrice at university. “When a principal is out and about, as a PPO, you are always thinking about the next stage. Is your principal moving on? When? Where is the car? Are there paparazzi around? What is the threat, what is the risk? So it is never boring. You are always doing recces, thinking tactically and planning.”