The Crown series 4: The Buckingham Palace intruder who entered the Queen's bedroom

Naomi Gordon
·6-min read
Photo credit: Lisa Sheridan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Lisa Sheridan - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

The Crown's fourth series is expected to detail the biggest - and arguably, most bizarre - royal security breach of the 20th century, which saw an intruder break into Buckingham Palace and enter the Queen's bedroom while Her Majesty was sleeping.

Michael Fagan, a 34-year-old painter and decorator born in London in 1948, eluded security to enter the palace not once, but twice - and it was during his second break-in that he managed to enter the monarch's chamber unchallenged.

Series 4 of Peter Morgan's royal Netflix drama begins in 1979, as the nation begins to feel the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson).

On the 9 July, 1982, Michael Fagan clambered onto the railings near the gates to the Ambassadors' Entrance of Buckingham Palace at around 6.45am, according to Scotland Yard's report.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

He then made it over the railings, disappeared behind a temporary canvas awning and entered a room on the ground floor through an unlocked window. This room housed King George V's multimillion-pound stamp collection, and his entry triggered an alarm twice - which police turned off, mistaking it for an error.

Fagan then left the room out of the same window he had entered and shimmied up a drainpipe and onto to the flat roof above. After removing his socks and sandals, he got across onto a narrow ledge which gave him access through another unlocked window into an office of the Master of the Household, Vice Adm. Sir Peter Ashmore, which had been opened for the day by a housemaid.

For 15 minutes, he gave himself a one-man tour of the palace - and, despite a member of the domestic staff spotting him, his behaviour was said to be not "sufficiently suspicious to cause her to raise the alarm".

Fagan claims to have found his way to the palace's private apartments by "following the pictures".

He entered an anteroom first, where he broke a glass ashtray into several pieces and entered Her Majesty's bedroom at 7.15am, carrying one piece of the broken ashtray with which he said that he had intended to harm himself in the presence of the Queen.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

He told police he had not planned to do this when he broke into the palace, but the idea formed in his mind when he caught sight of the ashtray.

Recalling the moment he pulled back the curtains and saw Her Majesty looking back at him, he told The Independent in 2012: "She speaks and it's like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: 'Wawrt are you doing here?!'"

He went on to describe the Queen's chambers and the nightwear she was wearing: "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."

Photo credit: Mirrorpix - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mirrorpix - Getty Images

Fagan's trespassing prompted the Queen to press the night alarm bell. The police sergeant in the corridor outside at night had clocked off, so the alarm did not attract anyone's attention.

The Queen then used her bedside phone to instruct the palace telephonist to send police to her bedroom, calling again 10 minutes later when no help arrived.

Reports at the time claimed that the monarch and Fagan engaged in a long conversation, although Fagan later dismissed this: "Nah! She went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor."

Her Majesty eventually took matters into her own hands and ushered Fagan out of her room with the help of her chambermaid, herding him into a nearby pantry on the pretext of supplying him with a cigarette.

The Queen's footman Paul Wybrew returned to the palace after walking Her Majesty's corgis, and found the chambermaid in the pantry with Fagan. Wybrew went on to tell the jury at the Old Bailey during Fagan's trial for burglary (via The Guardian): "The man seemed very tense and I said: 'Would you like a drink?' Immediately he became more affable and replied: 'Yes please, I'll have a scotch.'"

Fagan's first unlawful entry into the palace happened a month earlier in June, during which he broke into Prince Charles' room and drank some of his wine.

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

He also found his way to room 108, where the public's gifts for the baby expected by Princess Diana - Prince William, born on June 21 - were being stored. There he found a bottle of wine in a cabinet and sat down to have a drink, before resting on the Queen's throne.

"I found rooms saying 'Diana's room,' 'Charles's room;' they all had names on them," he told The Independent. "But I couldn't find a door which said 'WC,' All I found were some bins with 'corgi food' written on them. I was breaking my neck to go to the toilet. What do I do? Pee on the carpet? So I had to pee on the corgi food."

He continued: "I got into Charles' room and took the wine off the shelf and drunk it. It was cheap Californian. It was harder to get out than get in. I eventually found a door and walked out into the back gardens, climbed over the wall and walked down the Mall, looking back and thinking 'ooh'.

"I hadn't thought about going in there until that last second when it came into my head to do it, so I was shocked."

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

After his trial at the Old Bailey in September 1982 for stealing a quantity of wine, Fagan was acquitted, but was later sent to Brixton Prison and Park Lane secure mental institution on unrelated offences of theft and assault.

During his 2012 interview with The Independent, he cited drug abuse as a reason for his intrusion.

"I went back because I thought, 'that's naughty, that's naughty that I can walk round there'.... I forgot you're only supposed to take a little handful [of magic mushrooms]. Two years later I was still coming down. I was high on mushrooms for a long, long time."

Following his break-ins, Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw offered his resignation to the Queen over the security breach, but Her Majesty refused.

The incident could be covered in the upcoming series of The Crown.

Written by Peter Morgan, The Crown‘s fourth series stars Olivia Colman as the Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Tobias Menzies as The Duke of Edinburgh, Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles, and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten.

Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson make their anticipated debuts as Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher respectively, while other new additions include Tom Byrne as Prince Andrew, and Angue Imrie as Prince Edward.

The Crown series 4 launches on Netflix on November 15.

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