Since becoming engaged to Prince Harry, Meghan Markle has discovered that there's more to becoming a member of the British royal family than learning how to curtsy and to conduct herself in public ceremonies with traditions going back hundreds of years.
Training for the U.S.-born former actress also has included being surrounded by soldiers firing live ammunition, according to the British newspaper The Express.
That's because the 36-year-old Markle has undergone a grueling British army special forces program to prepare for certain worse-case scenarios, the Express said, citing sources in the program.
The "kidnap and rescue" exercises are designed to prepare her for being a global figure who, realistically, could become a target for assassinations, kidnappings and terrorist attacks, the Express report said.
Markle and Harry are set to marry May 19 at St. George's Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle. It was reported by Us Weekly back in the fall that the Los Angeles-reared Markle had received basic training by protection staff in what to do in case she receives threats or is worried someone is following her.
But as her wedding date nears, she reportedly traveled to the Special Air Service (SAS) army base in the English countryside, where she had to endure "a mock kidnapping" by "hostage takers," the Express reported.
The SAS exercise is supposed "to frighten the life out of anyone," according to one officer quoted by the Express. The officer said, "Even though Meghan will have known the enemy was not real, I guarantee that she will have been petrified."
Live ammunition is used to raise that level of fear, "so she knows what real gunfire sounds like should, God forbid, she ever be in a hostile situation," the officer said.
Gerald Moor, a former Army intelligence officer, told the Express that the training is "the toughest, provided by the Army's finest ... who have done everything imaginable during service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland."
The SAS unit is involved in some of the British military's most sensitive work, including counter-terrorism and hostage rescue, Metro said. Markle already is guarded around the clock, and 30 SAS soldiers will provide security at her wedding, the Sun reported.
Nearly every senior royal, apart from Queen Elizabeth, has been put through similar courses. That reportedly included Princess Diana, Harry's late mother, Metro reported. The use of live ammunition became especially frightening when Diana's hair was set alight by mistake by a flashbang grenade, Metro added.
Kate Middleton waited until after her 2011 wedding to Prince William to go through the training, the Express said. But security officials felt some urgency for Markle to have the training before her wedding "because of heightened security issues at this time," according to the Express.
Harry reportedly accompanied his fiancee to the training. Kensington Palace told the outlets that it doesn't comment on security issues.
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