Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace and sat on the Queen’s bed while she slept, before she awoke with an almighty fright and asked him a question before fleeing in her nightie
On a bright summer morning in 1982, Michael Fagan scaled a 14ft wall covered in barbed wire, shimmied up a drainpipe, clambered through an open window and wandered in the Queen’s bedroom while she slept.
The famous Buckingham Palace intrusion was the biggest breach of royal security of the 20th century, and it wasn’t even his first break-in.
Fagan had entered the Palace a month prior in the same fashion, terrifying a maid and wandering around eating cheese and drinking half a bottle of ‘cheap’ wine.
Desperate to find a toilet, Fagan settled for a bin labelled ‘corgi food’ and urinated in it.
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The alarms were tripped, but the police assumed they were just broken and turned them off – and no one believed the maid when she tried to warn them about the intruder.
The second time, the police silenced the alarm again, believing it to be faulty.
Painter and decorator Fagan tip-toed through the Palace’s corridors barefoot, past doors signed ‘Charles’ and ‘Diana’ and gifts including teddies and cups that had been bestowed on then-two-week-old Prince William.
He accidentally shattered a glass ashtray and cut his hand, and he was still holding a fragment of the glass when he walked into the Queen’s bedchamber, which must have made his intrusion all the more startling.
Initial reports stated Fagan sat at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s bed and she spoke to him calmly in a bid to stall him while she summoned help.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
But in 2012 he admitted this wasn’t the case.
Instead, when he pulled back the curtain of her bed, she immediately leapt up and past him to call security.
“I was scareder than I’d ever been in my life,” Fagan told the Independent.
“Then she speaks and it’s like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: ‘Wawrt are you doing here?!'”
He continued: “It was a double bed but a single room, definitely – she was sleeping in there on her own.
“Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints and it was down to her knees.”
The Queen phoned the palace switchboard twice for police, but none had arrived.
An armed officer outside her bedroom had left before his replacement arrived, and the duty footman, Paul Whybrew, had been walking the corgis.
But Whybrew thankfully arrived back quickly with two policemen who removed Fagan.
“The footman came and said, ‘Cor, f**king hell mate, you look like you need a drink’,” he told The Mirror.
“He took me to the Queen’s pantry, across the landing, where I presume she cooks her baked beans and toast and whatever – and takes a bottle of Famous Grouse from the shelf and pours me a glass of whisky.”
“It was very ordinary. I don’t think they spent too much on decoration. Maybe it was due a redec?” Fagan described, adding it was “dusty” with “squeaky floorboards”.
He said the Queen’s bedroom was just “all right” and “quite plain”.
“It was smaller than I thought it would be,” he shrugged.
Fagan’s actions were, at the time, a civil wrong rather than a criminal offence, and so he was not charged with trespassing in the Queen’s bedroom.
He believes the fact he had got in through an open window and that officials didn’t want the Queen to have to give evidence in court also worked in his favour.
Fagan was instead charged with theft of the wine, but the charges were dropped when he was committed for psychiatric evaluation.
He spent the next three months in a psychiatric hospital before being released.
“He thinks so much of the Queen,” his mother explained.
“I can imagine him just wanting to simply talk and say hello and discuss his problems.”
Meanwhile, Fagan was unable to explain his reasoning for breaking in.
“I don’t know why I did it, something just got into my head,” he said.
The scandal sparked an enormous review into the Palace’s security, as then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apologised to the Queen for the incident and Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw offered his resignation.
Lord Chamberlain Charles Maclean, who was head of the Royal Household at the time, also joked: “In a previous century, I would have been taken off to the Tower and hung up by my testicles.”
Now 70, Fagan spoke to The Sun in 2020 and revealed he lives in London and had suffered a heart attack that year as well as battling Covid.
And to this day he has absolutely no regrets about his Palace excursion.
“People who have done marvellous things get to kneel in front of her to be honoured,” he said.
“But I actually sat on her bed and almost got to talk to her.”
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