Why did Prince Charles's royal car drive into the London 2010 riots?

Evaluate and discuss what security measures should have been taken to avoid Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles been driven into the London riots in 2010.

Prior to 1997, Britain’s students paid very little in the way of university tuition fees as the majority of cost was covered by the UK tax payer. The Conservative Prime Minister John Major commissioned a report endorsing means tested tuition fees and the cost has risen steadily ever since (Blake, 2010). This came to a climax in 2010 when the Conservative government led by David Cameron announced plans for spending cuts on further education and an increase to the cap on tuition fees which could treble tuition fees up to £9000 per year. All of this coincided with a grave period of economic uncertainty where the UK public where already experiencing austerity and high rates of youth unemployment.

London protest demonstrations, due to the rise in tuition fees, started in November 2010 and involved between 30,000 and 50,000 mainly peaceful protesters. However splinter groups formed and on three occasions in November protests turned violent resulting in clashes with the police and widespread criminal damage.

On the 9th of December 2010 a vote was passed to raise the fees which caused violent protests and demonstrations throughout London. On that day a royal car containing Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles was on route to the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium from Clarence House. The car used was a vintage royal limousine without privacy glass and as it entered the West End of London on Regent Street the car was kicked, hit with projectiles which resulted in a window being smashed and had paint bombs thrown at it by protesters which left the occupants very shaken.

Scotland Yard Chief Sir Paul Stephenson confirmed that:

"Armed protection officers from the Metropolitan Police SO14 Royalty Protection Branch had been guarding the couple at the time and that the route had been recce’d thoroughly in advance, including a couple of minutes before when it was clear." (Sky News, 2010)

CanadianContent (CanadianContent, 2010) documented that:

'The vehicle packet was made up of the royal car, which included a bodyguard, two police motorcycle outriders to the front which were separated from the main party, a personal escort section (PES) in an unmarked police Jaguar behind the royal car and a security advance party vehicle which proved the route minutes before the royal couple drove it '

Issues raised by the incident focus on the planning and preparation phase of the security operation. As the protests in November had turned violent on a number of occasions the team leader should have planned the operation that night with violent protests in the City being a high possibility as it was the day the vote was being passed on raising the tuition fees. This in turn would determine the risk mitigation measures put in place for the journey.

With this in mind the royal car was inappropriate for use as it was an old vintage limousine and wouldn’t have had the manoeuvrability needed to extract easily from such a hostile situation. In addition it lacked privacy and reinforced glass which made identifying the royal couple easy and enabled the protesters to smash the windows with little effort. The motorcycle outriders became separated from the royal car which left them vulnerable to attack from the front as there was no buffer between the royal car and the protesters. The PES car was a Jaguar so it lacked the dominance to control the situation and height to enable the SO14 officers to see exactly what was going on around them. The route used seems to be the quickest available focussing on some of the primary routes that had previously been used by protesters who had smashed shops up in the Regent Street and Oxford Street area during the November 2010 riots.

There are a number of solutions that could have been implemented to reduce the likelihood of the incident happening or mitigate some of the risk. The planning phase should have included thorough intelligence analysis that would have identified that there was a strong possibility of the protest turning violet so appropriate measures should have been put in place for the journey. The car should have had more manoeuvrability, an ability to move protesters out of the way if necessary, privacy glass to ensure those inside weren’t identified and reinforces glass reduce the risks of the windows being broken. The motorcycle outriders were too vulnerable in such a hostile situation which meant they were separated easily so instead a vehicle should have been used to provide support at the front of the royal car. The PES car should have been a model that was able to dominate the situation and offer the officers a better view of everything going on around them. The route used should have stayed away from areas that had seen recent violent protests.

With better planning and preparation it is highly likely that this situation could have been avoided. The mitigation measures put in place were not appropriate for a journey in what had become a hostile environment. It is recommended that if travelling again in a potentially hostile environment that the royal car should be a 4 x 4 with privacy glass and ability to manoeuvre easily and move people out of the way if required. A 4 x 4 vehicle should be used at the front of the royal car to dominate the ground in front of it and also for the PES behind to offer a buffer around the royal car from those with hostile intent if encountered. Plus it would enable those within the support vehicles to have a better all round view of the environment. Routes to be used used should have an advance party conducting a recce and proving it just a minute in advance of the main group and focus on areas that haven't seen recent violent unrest. Alternatively to these recommendations a simple low profile vehicle move could be used with just one 4 x 4 vehicle with privacy glass, the royals, a driver and bodyguard which would dramatically reduce the likelihood of anyone knowing it contained Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles enabling them to complete their journey in a safe and secure manner.


Blake H. (2010) Grants, loans and tuition fees: a timeline of how university funding has eveloved [Online] 10 November 2010. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8057871/Grants-loans-and-tuition-fees-a-timeline-of-how-university-funding-has-evolved.html [Accessed 29 October 2014].

Canadian Content (2010) Royal security questioned after Charles and Camilla's car attacked by rioters [Online] 12 December 2010. Available from: http://forums.canadiancontent.net/news/97553-royal-security-questioned-after-charles.html [Accessed 28 October 2010].

Erskine C and Cole R. (2010) Major Probe Into Students Riots Launched. Sky News [Online]. 11 December 2010. Available from: www.skynews.com/story/824454/major-probe-into-student-riots-launched [Accessed 27 October 2014].

Shipman T and Peev G. (2010) They were lucky not to be shot': Police chief says armed officers showed 'enormous restraint' as mob attacked Charles and Camilla [Online] 10 December 2010. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337088/ROYAL-CAR-ATTACK-Mob-attacking-Charles-Camillas-car-lucky-shot.html [Accessed 28 October 2010].


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