Queen Elizabeth’s funeral is among the largest security operations conducted in the United Kingdom since WWII, likely surpassing the 2012 Olympics and Platinum Jubilee weekend as London’s single largest policing event. Given its historic scale, security professionals recognize the series of well-attended funeral events as remarkable for what did not occur – namely, any major security incidents. How can we take these lessons learned and apply them to private security?
What Worked Well
The state funeral of Queen Elizabeth was the largest security operation ever conducted by London’s police force. The event attracted hundreds of thousands of people to London and approximately 22.4 million viewers in the UK and 11.4 in the United States, making it potentially the largest single event streamed or watched in history. Concentric’s Global Intelligence analysts interviewed the company’s Executive Chairman, Roderick Jones, a veteran of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch about his unique insights into the security dynamics of the British Royal Family and the successful operations surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. Here are Mr. Jones’ key takeaways:
- Domestic Planning. The Metropolitan Police, emergency and intelligence agencies, the Security Service (MI5), and local authorities coordinated on wide-ranging security concerns. Preparations included deploying specialist search teams, and dispersing plainclothes security personnel to monitor for suspicious behavior. Mr. Jones states, we know historically where threat actors are going to try to exploit vulnerabilities and ”there is just an enormous amount of searching and securing [that] goes on for this kind of ceremony. So it’s a well-practiced and well-rehearsed routine.”
- International Coordination. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral was attended by more than 70 heads of government, including presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens, and high-ranking diplomats. Multiple agencies were involved in ensuring the event went off with minimal concerns. The British foreign intelligence community , coordinated with international counterparts to review terrorist threats and persons of interests (POIs), and a special unit called the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre assessed the risk to high profile figures from potentially dangerous individuals.
- Security Operations. In analyzing the unique characteristics of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, Mr. Jones underscores the efficacy of security operations. “Nothing happened,” Mr. Jones says, “so that was a success.” He went on to explain it was not only the prevention of a major terrorist attack, but also the successful management of smaller incidents like protests that had the potential to cause reputational harm to the British government. British security services thwarted any attack that could have damaged the country’s reputation.
Public, multi-day, multi-location events attended by an unprecedented number of attendees present profound challenges to security teams and intelligence agencies. Security professionals and high-visibility families can take several important lessons away from the effective security operations of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
- Preparation is Key. Known as Operation London Bridge, the original plan for the events following Queen Elizabeth’s death has been in the works since the 1960s. Security agencies are prepared to keep the Royal Family and large crowds safe in an event largely open to the public. According to Mr. Jones, “for large events, [UK intelligence teams] create watchers in the crowds…You try and examine pre-attack behavior, like wearing heavy clothes on a hot day, those kinds of things…But it’s become more sophisticated than that over the years.”
- Protocol Takes Precedence. Tactical operations, authority structures, and risk tolerance are in many ways guided by the Royal Family and its traditions. Mr. Jones explains, “it’s protocol writ large that potentially bleeds into security issues.” During the Queen’s funeral procession, protocol dictated movement of Royal Family members and their interactions with security officials. Mr. Jones observes, there were instances where a greeter would open a door “because it’s the Lord-Lieutenant of the county” as opposed to a member of the security team. Protocol also delayed President Biden’s entry into Westminster Abbey where he stood in a doorway for an extended period of time because he missed his window to enter the church.
- Ensuring Security at all Angles. Scotland Yard’s Royalty Protection Group is staffed by armed officers who must balance the personal security requirements of the Royal Family with their official responsibilities. These officers provide 24-hour security for the highest-ranking Royal Family members. Mr. Jones states, “there’s this real[ly] interesting blend of the private and the public. [Royal Family members] have these massively public roles, but they have their private roles as well.” For example, they wear different uniforms or different formal attire for different events so they can blend into the crowd In terms of tactical expertise, “one of the things that they’re expert on is [the] fixated persons threat…doing [it] before it was trendy,” says Mr. Jones.
- Looking Ahead. Charles III was officially proclaimed King the Saturday following the Queen’s death. As with any succession, this period marks a complex transformation of the threat landscape facing the Royal Family, particularly with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan living outside of the United Kingdom. On this point, Mr. Jones points out a transition from Royal Security to private security can be a significant bridge to cross “It’s the diplomatic support, the support from intelligence services, support from all the embassies around the world, the support from every police force in the United Kingdom with diplomatic engagement [that is lost].”
How Concentric Can Support You
Protecting the Royal Family bears some similarities to Concentric’s protection to executives and their families. Concentric excels at protecting high-net-worth families and well-known executives with diverse security profiles. Our unique capabilities include:
- Intelligence support. Concentric’s dedicated research and analysis team combines top-tier analytical capabilities with state-of-the-art technical tools. We specialize in open-source active monitoring, which surveys surface and deep and dark web content to provocatively monitor for threats and provide clients with actionable intelligence.
- Travel support. Our Global Intelligence team regularly produces tailored travel risk assessments to assist in advanced trip planning and our Executive Security Agents provide high-level protection while maintaining a discreet security presence.
- Diplomacy. Operating around the world in high-level business or government settings requires an exceptional amount of liaison with a multitude of agencies and organizations to ensure both security but also successful engagement.
- Protocol. The successful operations surrounding the Queen’s funeral exemplify how private and family security differ from other types of security. Concentric specializes in understanding the unique security profiles of each client and we balance security requirements with our clients’ professional responsibilities and personal lifestyles.