The British Royal Family is one of the most protected households in the world.
Security has never been more crucial for the royals: last year saw a break-in attempt at Prince George‘s school, and last month an Islamic State supporter was sentenced to prison for calling for an attack on the five-year-old.
This level of protection comes at a price: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding in May cost an eye-watering £30 million in security, and the royal family’s annual spend on security is thought to reach nine-figure sums.
This bill is picked up by the Metropolitan Police (i.e. the taxpayer), but according to Princess Diana‘s former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, austerity cuts have had a negative effect on these services.
“The structure of protection has changed. Money has changed that,” Wharfe explains to Yahoo UK in episode six of ‘The Royal Box’.
“Protection is not a cheap industry,” Wharfe says. “But what price do you put on protection?”
In 2010, the government embarked on a programme of austerity following the financial crisis of 2008; this lead to spending cuts and tax increases.
One of the services hit hardest by cuts was policing. Since 2011 there has been a reduction of 20% in the amount spent on policing by the Home Office.
Wharfe goes on to talk about how the efficiency of protection has changed, and most crucially, the lack of interpersonal relationship between the protector and the protectee.
“The success of protection depends on the efficiency of the team, and from my experience, the relationship that you have with the person you’re protecting,” he explains.
“It isn’t like that anymore. I’m not suggesting it’s dangerous but I don’t think there is that interpersonal relationship that there was before.”
Again, Wharfe puts this down to “cost-cutting” and “reforming the departments”.
“From what I can see, I don’t think there is that chemistry and personal relationship that there should be.”
Wharfe, a Scotland Yard Protection Officer, guarded the princess and her sons from 1986 to the end of 1993.
“The biggest point of any serious professional protection is in a relationship and the advice you have with the person you’re protecting,” Wharfe says, “because if that’s not there, you might as well give up.”
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