The late Queen Elizabeth II considered it “imperative” that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex kept “effective security” after leaving the working Royal family, court documents have revealed.
Her most senior aide told a Home Office committee that keeping the Sussexes safe was “of paramount importance to Her Majesty and her family” as he put forward a case for their continuing security, a letter has revealed.
Sir Edward Young wrote to Sir Mark Sedwill, the then Cabinet Secretary, after the Sandringham summit of January 2020 to explain what had been decided by the late Queen and her grandson.
The letter, included in newly published court documents, reveals how Sir Edward – writing on behalf of the Palace in his role as the late Queen’s private secretary – made the case for the Sussexes’ continued “effective security” as they left the working Royal family.
It invokes the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and talks of the threats the Sussexes face from “extremists”.
The letter, published as part of a summary judgment on Friday, contradicts the prevailing narrative that the Duke and Duchess were cut off by the Royal family after being “forced” to leave Britain.
It has been submitted to the High Court as part of evidence to reach the truth of whether and when the Duke made an offer to pay for his own security.
He has claimed it was raised during the Sandringham Summit. Ravec, the Home Office committee that rules on security matters, did not receive any such offer at that stage, it is claimed.
‘They would still attract public attention’
Reporting the details of what was agreed at the summit, Sir Edward wrote: “During their time in the UK, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex expect to attend public-facing engagements representing the charities and causes which remain dear to them.
“These engagements would no longer be formally undertaken on behalf of Her Majesty but, given the profile of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, we would expect they would still attract public attention…
“In regard to their Commonwealth patronages, although the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not be formally representing Her Majesty, they will be undertaking work that is closely associated with Her Majesty and which may appear to the public eye to be very similar to now.
“Of course, a number of these patronages have been granted to them by Her Majesty, which they will continue actively to fulfil. Her Majesty may from time to time invite the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to attend national royal occasions in their private capacity, and Her Majesty is likely to invite the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to participate in family events in keeping with other non-working members of the family.”
‘Of paramount importance to Her Majesty’
On the matter of the Duke and Duchess’s ongoing security, he wrote: “You will understand well that ensuring that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain safe is of paramount importance to Her Majesty and her family.
“Given the Duke’s public profile by virtue of being born into the Royal family, his military service, the Duchess’s own independent profile and the well-documented history of targeting of the Sussex family by extremists, it is imperative that the family continues to be provided with effective security.
“And, of course, the family is mindful of tragic incidents of the past. The discussions to date, including with [the former chairman of Ravec], have been useful in making sure that the parameters of the Ravec process are well understood.
“Of course, Her Majesty and her family recognise that these are independent processes and decisions about the provision of publicly funded security are for the UK Government, the government of Canada and any other host government.”
Duke was ‘desperate’ to keep security
The letter goes against the picture Prince Harry has painted of the Palace’s attitude to his security situation.
In interviews and Spare, his autobiography, the Duke spoke of his distress and fear about life without his UK personal protection officers, describing it as the Palace’s “obligation” and “implicit promise” to continue.
He was “desperate” to keep security after leaving the Royal family, he wrote, begging his late grandmother, father, brother and staff to continue armed police protection.
In a scene depicting the institution “wearing me down”, and so hostile that Prince William “looked as if he planned to murder me”, he told them: “Look. Please. Meg and I don’t care about perks, we care about working, serving – and staying alive”.
The leading proposal under discussion called for “total abandonment”, he said. In the event, those present agreed – reluctantly, in his account – to continue a year trial period in which the Sussexes would retain security.
The decision, of course, was not the Royal family’s to make. It falls to Ravec, the independent committee that is now at the heart of the Duke’s latest legal case.
After the summit, the late Queen released one of her more moving statements, in which she said the Duke and Duchess would “always be much loved family members”.
The couple moved to Canada, where they received publicly funded security for a short time before learning it was to be pulled immediately. They called on their new friend Tyler Perry, who offered them refuge, including security, in his Californian home.
‘Oval-faced and fuzzy’
The Duke has not historically been fond of Sir Edward. In his autobiography, he describes him as one of the three Palace “middle-aged white men who’d manage to consolidate power through a series of bold Machiavellian manoeuvres”.
Nicknaming him “The Bee”, he describes him as “oval-faced and fuzzy and tended to glide around with great equanimity and poise, as if he was a boon to all living things”.
In one scene, in which he blames Sir Edward for preventing him from seeing his grandmother to argue the case over his exit in person, he writes: “To hell with The Bee. Who was he to try to block me?”
The Duke only belatedly discovered that Sir Edward was involved in discussions about his security, taking a seat on the Ravec committee. At a court hearing in July last year, it emerged that he, along with the Earl of Rosslyn, the Master of Prince Charles’s household, were on the committee.
Harry has since argued that Sir Edward should not have been involved in the decision because of “significant tensions” between them.
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Home Office, replied that personal tensions between Prince Harry and Royal Household officials were “irrelevant” to his change in status when he stepped back from royal duties.
Endgame, the new royal biography, goes further. Omid Scobie, its author, writes: “Harry’s contention is that Young abused his gatekeeping power, gaslighting him when it came to passing along important messages about his lawsuits against the media, and then prohibiting access to his grandmother when Harry needed her the most, all under the guise of ‘protecting the sovereign’.”
Case set to go to trial next year
The case is expected to go to trial next year. Part of the evidence will discuss whether Prince Harry made a serious offer to pay for his own security, and whether that message was conveyed to the relevant decision-makers.
The judge has already ruled that the Mail on Sunday may argue in court that his team undertook a “masterclass of spinning” to “mislead” the public about his offer to pay for security.
Mr Justice Nicklin said Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, has a “real prospect of demonstrating that an honest person could have held the view” that Prince Harry’s representatives were “spinning” in a statement about his security.
Outside the courts, royal-watchers will recall with sadness the late Queen’s belief that, in 2020, she had found “a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family”.
That hope has so far not come to pass. While the scale of the Duke’s legal battles has at times appeared ever-expanding, those public court cases do have at least one useful outcome. Document by document, evidence after testimony, the truth – rather than “their truth” – will slowly emerge.