So reports suggest Prince and Princess Harry will soon be spending more than $3.1 million a year on a team of crack security experts who cut their teeth in the FBI, the CIA and the NSA (not the National Sheep Association — that’s something different). This means that wherever they go, the couple will be accompanied by a highly visible squad of men with curliewurlie earpieces, who will keep the sleeves of their expensive suits fully informed about what’s going on at all times. This will make the prince and princess feel very important.
Should there be an incident of some kind, the couple will have been told that one of the team will leap into the path of the oncoming bullet — and they’ll have believed this, of course. They will also have believed the guarantee that a full refund will be paid if the agent decides at the last moment that he’d rather not take the bullet after all.
Plus, they’ll be deeply impressed when Curt — one of them is bound to be called Curt — scans the rooftops for snipers as he holds open the princess’s car door. He isn’t doing any such thing, of course. He’s just looking up because if he looks down, it will appear he’s trying to cop a glimpse of some royal gusset.
Of course, Harry and his wife are close family members of the Queen, but I’ll be honest: I’m not sure they need protection. Because if you wanted to make a terrorist statement of some kind, why would you think, “I know. I’ll go for a woman who once appeared in a television show that no one watched, and the sixth in line to the throne of a country most people in America have never heard of.” They’d be better off targeting Amal Clooney’s florist.
They’ll be deeply impressed when Curt — one of them is bound to be called Curt — scans the rooftops for snipers.
Or Gordon Brown. As a former prime minister, he is entitled to round-the-clock protection from a crack team with sub-machineguns and Roger Moore skills in hand-to-hand combat. And can you imagine what the officers in the protection division say when told they’ve been given Brown to look after? “Oh sir. Can’t we have Sir John Major instead? Nothing will happen to him either, but at least, with him, we’d go to a cricket match once in a while.”
Also, if we look back over the whole of human history, it’s hard to think of a time when a notable person’s life has been saved by his or her security detail. There was that chap who was told to look after Princess Anne while she was driven down the Mall. He had all the training and all the reflexes but, come the moment, he was shot by the assailant and then his gun jammed. And, yes, in case you were wondering, it was a Walther PPK.
Then there was Michael Fagan, who broke into Mrs Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace one morning. And where was her security man? He’d knocked off at 6am at the end of his night shift.
Further down the evolutionary scale we find Tamara Ecclestone, who was using the same company that Harry and Meghan are considering when someone swiped $63 million of jewellery while she was on holiday.
Then there was Kim Kardashian, who is famous and rich for no reason I can see. She was robbed at gunpoint in Paris while her bodyguard was reportedly at a nearby nightclub, protecting her sisters.
Over the whole of human history, it’s hard to think of a time when a notable person’s life has been saved by his or her security detail.
In a past life, when Top Gear did a live show, we were always accompanied by a security man who gave us coded “handles” in case his sleeve-based radio network was hacked. So, after work, it’d be: “Traveller’s just ordered a glass of wine.” Followed a few minutes later by: “Traveller’s just ordered another.” I insisted on being called “Traveller”. James May was “Acebiscuits”. Richard Hammond was “Richard Hammond”.
I have no idea why we used security. There must have been some insurance reason, because no one in the world was going to convene his or her terrorist cell and say, “Right. We could go after the president of the United States. Or Gordon Brown. But instead let’s kidnap those halfwits from that car show.” I can’t tell you the guy’s name as he was in the Special Boat Service but I can tell you what happened in Moscow one night. I think it gives a pretty good insight into what the security industry is all about.
We were dining at one of those places that are wallpapered in actual gold and that use Cristal champagne to flush the lavatory. Only one other table was occupied, and it was the standard Muscovite fare. There were two insolent-looking yobbos with big watches and stupid shoes surrounded by perhaps 12 pneumatic Ukrainian women.
I popped outside for a cigarette at one point, and our Kevin Costner elected to stay inside with Acebiscuits and Richard Hammond. Which was a worry, because in the street the Third World War was raging. Our fleet of Range Rovers was parked right outside the restaurant, which was causing some distress to the drivers of the fleet of blacked-out Cadillac Escalades that obviously belonged to the yobbos inside.
These very angry guys figured they should be in “pole position”, and as they were in full paramilitary uniforms and carrying machineguns, I’d have been inclined to agree. But the growly Russian FSB guy running our squad of drivers was having none of it, so there was much screaming and poking. As it was Russia, it looked like an explosion in a potato factory.
I settled into a doorway to enjoy my Marlboro and watch the scene unfurl, and I remember thinking that this is what it must be like for people who have an idiotically unbalanced world-view: you employ actual, real-life soldiers to have meaningless wars on your behalf. You literally pay them to fight to the death, with guns, over the best parking spot in town.
It’s the kind of thing that attracts attention, which I guess is what these people want. If you don’t want attention, you should just go out by yourself with no security at all. It’ll be interesting to see which way the princess jumps.