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Jul 18, 2006 | 21:48 GMT

3 mins read

The Challenges of Protecting Royal Families

Acting on an anonymous call to Monaco's Embassy in Paris, French police are investigating whether there was a plot to kidnap members of Monaco's royal family during their recent visit to Paris. The caller claimed the children of Princess Caroline, sister of Monaco's ruler Prince Albert II, were in danger of being abducted while the family visited the French capital over the Bastille Day weekend. Protecting members of royal families, particularly European royal families, presents unique security challenges. Not only are they high-profile individuals, they also are royals, and thus their protection becomes a matter of foreign relations in any country they visit. If they are accosted, abducted or worse, a diplomatic incident could result. Many royals are instantly recognizable worldwide, making it difficult for them to maintain a low profile — and even more difficult to protect them. Some, such as Monaco and Britain's royal families, receive a very high level of media attention and almost constantly are sought out by fans and photographers. Because of this, their movements and the places they stay usually are instantly known to anyone reading a tabloid or entertainment magazine. The paparazzi themselves — who often are quite well-informed as to the movements of celebrities, VIPs and royals — represent another challenge to security teams, as the photographers' job is to gain access to the personality. In most cases, the paparazzi do not present a real physical threat, though their actions can lead to altercations or accidents, as seen in the 1997 death of Britain's Princess Diana. Many people harbor an unhealthy obsession with royalty, in some cases going so far as to stalk members of royal families. These people represent perhaps the greatest threat because their actions can often become unpredictable. Members of royal families also make attractive militant targets, as was most notably seen in the 1979 killing of Queen Elizabeth's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, by the Irish Republican Army. Kidnapping or assassinating a royal would meet two important targeting criteria for militant groups. The high profile and fame of A-list royalty means any attack against them is guaranteed to draw major media attention. As members of a country's elite, and in many cases the embodiment of national pride, their value as symbolic targets is significant. There also are difficulties associated with protecting royal children as they get older. Caroline's children range in age from 18 to 22 and live apart from the protective bubble that surrounds their mother. Personal protective details, however, must also keep tabs on the grown children. One of Caroline's daughters, Charlotte, is a runway model — a profession that keeps her in the public eye. Providing security for royalty during the summer months can be especially challenging because, like many people, royals tend to return again and again to their favorite resorts and hotels, making their movements more predictable to those who could do them harm. These security considerations also apply to nonroyals. Children of celebrities, high-profile business figures and other wealthy people tend to make an impression on the local population wherever they go — especially when they are out on the town and dropping large amounts of money. One does not have to be royalty to be a target for exploitation, especially in cities favored by the international jet set.

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