Harry and Meghan's bombshell interview with Oprah shone a light on the stresses and strains involved in being a senior royal — and the devastating effect on the couple's mental health.
But for Faye Alexander of Alexander Events and Chris Walls of Events2 Ltd the revelations were no surprise, because they had already had an insight into the couple's lives, when they organised a glittering event attended by the pair.
“It started in 2018 as a special, although straightforward project — to design and execute an event for The Royal Armouries to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War,” says Alexander.
“It soon became an extremely high‐profile, logistical and security‐laden event that would give us a surprising insight into the lives, pressures and regimented security detail and risk that are part of the lives of the senior members of the royal family.”
The pair were contracted onto the project as event management specialists for Alexander’s client The Royal Armouries.
They were asked to design and execute a public concert that would see Sir Karl Jenkins conduct The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, an internationally-acclaimed piece of music commissioned by The Royal Armouries for the Millennium.
The team worked under the Royal Armouries’ then chairman, General The Lord Dannatt, a former Army chief ultimately responsible for Harry in Afghanistan, who had a big vision for the event.
Alexander and Walls soon secured Central Hall Westminster as the venue as well as The Philharmonia Orchestra and Royal Choral Society (a total of 200 performers), while General The Lord Dannatt brought on board three of the UK’s leading military charities as beneficiaries from the event: Help for Heroes, The Royal Foundation and Combat Stress.
Soon, invitations were being sent out to lords, ladies, ministers, mayors, the prime minister and many more high‐profile names.
And then, the game-changer — Alexander received confirmation from Kensington Palace that Harry and Meghan would also be in attendance.
From that moment on Alexander and Walls were to get a glimpse into the reality of what went into a ‘night out’ for Harry and Meghan as senior royals.
The team attended meetings with security teams, communication teams, the Metropolitan Police, counter‐terrorism teams, dog handling teams, Kensington Palace staff, personal protection officers — all under sworn secrecy.
There were countless recces, planning sessions and walkthroughs. The plans took months of investigation and planning to ensure the participants were co-ordinated and everything in place to provide the smooth running of the event.
Alexander says: “It actually broke my heart to witness the work and planning that went into Harry and Meghan’s night at our event and therefore the threat and risk involved at the same time.”
Walls adds: “We were warned and briefed about many situations but for obvious reasons we cannot disclose any of this detail – all I can say is that it was astonishing for us to hear the daily risks and scenarios that the royals encounter – something that we had now become a part of.”
In the 24 hours leading up to the event no stone was left unturned in the building and surrounding area. Even the toilet breaks were planned, as were the highly detailed and well-rehearsed arrival protocols and routines.
As the day unfolded, the threat levels increased to the point of the highest level of security awareness state which, in turn, created continuously arduous and detailed security plans and infrastructure; the number of dogs in the building increased, armed officers were deployed to numerous vantage points and so forth.
The press pack were so eager to catch a glimpse of the royal couple that they arrived for the evening concert hours early — at 9am.
“Despite waiting several hours, when the couple arrived, they shouted like animals locked in cages, screaming ‘Meghan are you pregnant?’ as the couple got out of the car,” says Alexander. “I was six months pregnant at the time of the concert and could not believe how they dared shout this across many fans who were gathered outside.”
“I think if they had simply shouted her name and not thrust personal questions at her in such an aggressive manner, they may have got the pictures and smile they had spent the day waiting for.”
Behind the media circus, Alexander and Walls describe Harry and Meghan as “lovely, genuinely warm, couple.’’
The royal pair took the time to meet about 40 people in the very short interval - including the parents of a serviceman that Harry had fought with when serving in the Army, who had taken his own life.
Alexander says: “The couple flew over to the parents and both hugged and hugged them, giving them a lot of time despite the pressures of returning to the concert. They were just so caring.”
“Working with Harry and Meghan not only gave us an insight into their highly orchestrated, regimented, daily routine but also who they were as a couple.”
“After hosting senior royals and the planning, co‐ordination and second by second programme, we feel we can take on anything that the event world could throw at us,” adds Walls.
“A 4am start, 20-hour day, 25,000 steps, thousands of handshakes and an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the day itself, but it was incredibly satisfying to deliver such a high-profile event for the couple, the Royal Armouries and of course the beneficiaries.”
“The event we organised was for mental health causes. We raised £75,000 (approx. US$105,000) or our three charities,” says Alexander. “The [Oprah] interview highlights that the issue of mental health is so prevalent, even for Meghan and Harry, and we all need to remember to be kind, caring and non‐judgemental.”
This article was first published on M&T magazine.