The Duchess of Cornwall Employs All-Female Martial Arts Expert Security Team In UAE

Fightland Blog

By Sarah Kurchak

​Image via Instagram

As far as martial arts-supporting matriarchs of the British royal family go, our combat-loving hearts still belong to Jane Percy, the kickboxing and Kali-practicing Duchess of Northumberland who holds MMA tournaments in the gardens of her home at Alnwick Castle (aka Hogwarts), but another royal’s actions last week did not escape our attention.

During a recent Middle Eastern tour to with a focus on promoting religious tolerance and to support women in leadership roles, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Charles spent three days in the United Arab Emirates. Accompanying the Duchess on her visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Al Ain was an all-female security squad. According to Emirates Woman, “the women were handpicked from the UAE’s presidential guard, which counts more than 50 females among its ranks.”

“It is the first time that any member of the British Royal Family has been given an all-women security detail. Aged between 29 and 30, each member of the eight-strong team, a source close to them revealed, was trained in martial arts and close quarters fighting techniques as well as defensive and evasive maneuvers,” The Daily Mail reported. “Despite their picture-perfect make-up and fashionable 'flatform' shoes, the ladies' flowing black hijabs and abayas concealed weapons ready to use at close proximity in case of an attack.”

In a near-perfect marriage of the practical and symbolic, Camilla was able to work under the protection of five highly trained defense experts, and promote some of they key tenants of her visit.

And it’s worked out quite well on all fronts. Camilla remained safe throughout her tour and caused a viral sensation when her royal residence, Clarence House, released an image of the Duchess with her team on their official Instagram account. “Her Royal Highness with her all-female protection team during #RoyalVisitUAE,” the caption of the incredibly well-composed photo—which has already been adopted as a symbol of female empowerment, religious tolerance, and diversity—reads. The caption goes to identify the members of her team as Shaima al Kaabi, Basima al Kaabi, Hannan al Hatawi, Nisreen al Hamawi and Salama al Remeithi. And point out that, in addition to their duties as real life ninjas of a sort, “Shaima, Nisreen and Hannan also achieved the remarkable feat of conquering Mount Everest.”

The Duchess, who dubbed the team her “angels,” raved to the Daily Mail about her guards. “It's fascinating. It is quite extraordinary to have them. I have never had four women looking after me [and] they are the most incredible women. The first one had climbed Everest. I said 'how long did it take?' and she said 16 days! It's quite remarkable.”

Although far less impressive than the contributions that this tour and team have made to Camilla’s campaign for equality, this could also be considered a promising step forward in her own bad assery. A decade ago, her visible nerves at a demonstration of Sikh martial arts (“the Duchess covered her eyes due to the dangerous feats performed in front of her!”) earned a passing mention in The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Now she looks like she should be played by breakthrough action heroine Helen Mirren.

Can a kickboxing lesson with Jane Percy be far behind?


Check out these related stories:

The Aspirational Appeal of Gigi Hadid's Elbow

How Honor Blackman Brought Women's Self Defense to Television

The Martial Arts Legacy of Tura Satana