If everything goes according to plan, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding promises to be a treat for royal fans. We'll be getting a new member of the family, a fresh bridal gown to obsess over and no doubt a ton of adorable pictures of Prince George and Princess Charlotte as they watch their uncle tie the knot.
The highlight of the event will be the two-mile procession the newlyweds have planned through the streets of Windsor so they can wave at well-wishers and give the tens of thousands of gatherers exactly what they have been waiting for.
Namely, a kiss.
It will mark the beginning of Meghan's new life, which promises to be more glamorous than she could have possibly dreamed of—although it won't be all castles and tiaras, because the life of a royal is also fraught with danger.
"History has a habit of repeating itself," says Dai Davies, a former Head of Royal Protection and Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Service. "In the last thousand years there hasn't been a King or Queen that someone hasn't tried to murder."
An alarming thought, to say the least.
It cost $33 million to safeguard Prince William and Kate Middleton at their 2011 wedding—an elaborate undertaking that involved snipers on rooftops, undercover police in the crowd, months of investigations by counter terrorist officers and an extensive search for explosives in any possible hiding place, from lamp posts and traffic lights to sewer drains.
It was one of the most expensive security operations ever and the bill to look after Harry and Meghan on May 19 could be even higher.
Because while over the centuries the royal family has gotten used to being a target, Harry and Meghan's nuptials present a particularly scary opportunity thanks to the unprecedented level of fame and adoration they are currently receiving. Harry, Meghan, William and Kate are quickly becoming known as the Fab Four and are seen as being on the front line in the modernization of the establishment. But with increased celebrity comes increased threat.
And there's another reality at play here. Prince Harry is particularly vulnerable because of his active military service in Afghanistan. And, as the racially charged hate letter and anthrax scare aimed at Meghan last week reminded us she too is at enormous risk.
So as the wedding day draws closer any threats against the couple are not to be taken lightly, especially considering how so many heirs to the throne are going to be in the unusual position of being in the same place at the same time. (Only Kate and Will's third child– due in April—is likely to miss it.)
"Thousands of people will be working on keeping the family and their fans safe," Davies tells E! News. "This is a time to be extremely prudent and sensible. Every precaution needs to be taken.
"Windsor is a much harder area to secure than London, which is so much better prepared. In Windsor, there are shops, buildings, houses, you name it and there is a history of people trying to get into Windsor Castle.
"The greatest risk," Davies continues, "comes from those people that we call 'fixated', i.e., mentally ill people, who could think, for whatever reason, that a white prince shouldn't marry a black woman. Clearly 99 percent of the population are deliriously happy about that but you could get a small right-wing fascist group who may object to it, so that adds to your problem. I don't know how they are going to secure it [Windsor] to the level that I would want, but clearly, much wiser people are now doing the job and I'm sure they'll come up with a plan."
It's been estimated that 40 percent of the most persistent stalkers in the U.K. are fixated on members of the House of Windsor. "Royalty tends to attract people who have strange delusions and are mentally ill," explains Dr. David James, a psychiatrist formerly with the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (a group tasked with handling stalker situations for the royals and other high-profile targets in the U.K.). "Some people think they are related to them, others think they are already married to them or they may think the royal family is responsible for the strange implants in their head. At any one time there can be hundreds of people obsessed with them.
"There are databases of the people who have been aggressive in the past. Before the wedding, certain fixated people will be stopped from traveling to the area where the ceremony is taking place."
Adds Davies, "Most of these people are well known. But there is always the chance that someone unknown wakes up and suddenly says, 'This is my moment. This is my destiny.'"
We know the exact details of how Meghan and Harry will spend the day, the timing of their public carriage ride once they've said their vows has already been released so that fans and the media can prepare (many will camp out along the route to get a front-row view of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex—the likely titles the couple will be gifted). "In my humble opinion, it's better not to publicize exact routes," Davies says. "It definitely adds to the pressures on the day. The more advanced notice you can give someone the more the potential risk and threat there will be."
James, however, believes publicizing the route actually helps. "It means the security planning can be well prepared," he tells E! News. "They can stop certain fixated people traveling to the area, anyone with an old grievance, who is mentally ill and who has shown signs. The security arrangements for Harry and Meghan will be honed by the experience gained from the last two big royal weddings [that of William and Kate in 2011 and Prince Charles and Camilla in Windsor in 2005].
"Preparations will include a detailed security plan. It will be comprehensive and involve the counter terrorism unit, the police, psychologists, background checks and hardening of the route. We now have more sophisticated techniques for an old problem."
"An appropriate policing plan will be put in place," a Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed to E! News. No other details will be forthcoming, understandably.
Aside from lone individuals, terrorist groups are also a concern. Both Prince Harry and Prince George have been on the receiving end of such threats over the past year. The royal family is a symbolic target that would guarantee worldwide publicity. Even a hoax threat could cause huge disruption and ruin Harry and Meghan's big day.
So far, all the measures being put into place seem to be working. Meghan already has 24-hour protection and, while the recent anthrax scare was unnerving, the response was quick considering the family receives around 10,000 correspondences every year.
"This case [against Meghan] is slightly different because it appears to have anti-women and racial undertones," explains James. "This may just be a product of living in the same old world as before, it's just there seems to be more nastiness because of the prevalence of social media. I imagine the investigation into the letter will be looking at individuals who have been known in the past."
Protecting the royals from threats has been a hectic job for centuries. Queen Victoria was subject to no less than five assassination attempts. And there have been countless others in modern history, too. In 1974, a young Princess Anne was the victim of a botched kidnap attempt after a gunman unsuccessfully ambushed her Rolls Royce. Police later found handcuffs and a ransom note in his possession. And in 1979, Prince Charles' great uncle and mentor, Lord Mountbatten, was assassinated when a bomb was attached to his fishing boat.
Come what may, Harry and Meghan will have a huge team working behind the scenes to ensure everyone's safety this spring.
"What's important…" says James, "…is that the security is unobtrusive so as not to detract from the celebratory nature of this occasion."
"You can't turn the palaces into prisons," adds Davies.
"William and Harry have grown up with protection all their lives so they are used to this. And for Meghan, well, she has been going out with Harry for quite a while. She's a very bright and intelligent lady so I have no doubt she is taking to all of this like a duck to water."
For more on the security challenges facing Meghan and Harry's wedding day, watch E! News tonight at 7 and 11 p.m.