The Real-Life Story Behind The Intruder In The Queen's Bedroom As Shown In 'The Crown'

Olivia Blair
·5-min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From ELLE

The Crown returned to Netflix on Sunday, with the fourth season bringing some of the most eventful tales during the royal family's history to life.

The season chronicles the tumultuous years of Margaret Thatcher's time as Prime Minister - played expertly by Gillian Anderson (seriously, the voice similarity is eery) - the origins of Princess Diana's relationship with Prince Charles, amid Camilla Parker-Bowles' continued presence in the Prince of Wales' life, and the decline of Princess Anne's marriage to Mark Phillips, to name but a few moments.

But, there is another depicted incident which has really grabbed viewer's attention: The Michael-Fagan incident.

Episode five portrays how a London-based painter and decorator managed to scale the gates of Buckingham Palace and enter the Queen's bedroom, where he then spoke to her. Before you ask, yes this actually happened.

As with many events depicted in the award-winning drama, while the premise of an episode might be based on actual events, creative license allows it to stray from the cold, hard facts and embellish or portray certain aspects differently.

So, what do we actually know about the Michael Fagan incident? Allow us to explain this quite unbelievable actuality...

How did Michael Fagan enter Buckingham Palace?

Like in the show, Fagan had said that he had previously entered Buckingham Palace once before the infamous 'Michael Fagan-incident' - where he took and drank a bottle of wine before fleeing when he was spotted by a maid.

On the morning of Friday July 9 1982 at 6.45am, Fagan 'limbed over the railings, jumped down...used the drainpipe to climb to the flat roof... got across onto a narrow ledge which gave him access, through an unlocked window in an office of the Master of the Household which had been opened for the day by a housemaid', according to the Metropolitan police report at the time, reports the New York Times.

Photo credit: R. Brigden - Getty Images
Photo credit: R. Brigden - Getty Images

He then strolled down the corridors of the Palace 'unchallenged', as The Crown depicts, for around 15 minutes.

Fagan - an out of work painter and decorator and father-of-four recently separated from his wife' - then entered the Queen's bedroom at around 7.15am.

Did Michael Fagan speak to the Queen?

So, this is where the version of events from the time of the incident and how it's now portrayed in The Crown differ.

At the time, reports suggested Fagan had spoken to the Queen for 10 minutes. Fagan told The Independent in 2012 they did not talk for several minutes and in fact: 'She went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor.'

Apparently when the Queen woke, no doubt shocked and scared as an unidentified man stood in front of her bed, she questioned: 'What are you doing here?'

According to the police report from the time:

He went across the room and opened curtains close to Her Majesty's bed. Her Majesty pressed the night alarm bell. In accordance with his instructions, the police sergeant who is in the corridor outside at night had gone off duty at about 6 A.M., when members of the domestic staff had come on duty.

The footman, in accordance with the normal day routine, was outside exercising the dogs, and the maid was cleaning in another room with the door closed so that the noise of her work would not disturb Her Majesty. So the night alarm bell, which is connected to the corridor outside the Queen's room and to the pantry, did not attract anyone's attention.

Her Majesty used her bedside telephone to instruct the palace telephonist to send police to her bedroom. The telephonist then telephoned the police lodge, and this call was received there at about 7:18 A.M.

Her Majesty made another telephone call about six minutes later since a police officer had still not arrived. Before police officers arrived, Her Majesty attracted the attention of the maid, and together they ushered Fagan into a nearby pantry on the pretext of supplying him with a cigarette.

In The Crown's episode, things are depicted slightly differently. With Fagan (played by Tom Brooke) asking the Queen for a cigarette and Olivia Colman's character sharply replying no as it's a 'filthy habit'. She then listens to Fagan as he speaks about his unemployment and the challenging times he is facing with some sympathy - which, judging from the police report, is not what happened, IRL.


Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Fagan later told The Independent, the Queen was wearing a a 'Liberty printed' nightie down to her knees.

What happened to Michael Fagan?

Fagan was arrested following the incident and appeared in court 'accused of entering Buckingham Palace on June 7 (the first time) and stealing half a bottle of wine', according to The Guardian. He was later acquitted. He was not charged with trespassing as back then it was a 'civil offence' and not a crime.

Fagan was later sent to Brixton prison and Park Lane psychiatric hospital 'indefinitely' due to an unrelated incident. According to the New York Times, Fagan was released months later in January 1983.

Photo credit: R. Brigden
Photo credit: R. Brigden

The labourer has been in and out of prison since on assault and drugs convictions.

The incident is now a key event in royal history as it is arguably the most severe security lapse in recent memory. Fagan has received ongoing attention for the incident over the years.

Michael Fagan now

With the renewed attention on the incident, Fagan recently spoke to The Telegraph. According to the newspaper, the man is now aged 70, has three great-grandchildren, a partner of 17 years, lives in north London and is recovering from health problems including a heart attack and Covid-19.

Fagan said he still can't explain why he broke into the Palace (like he did to the Independent in 2012), but said he was frustrated by his marital problems and unemployment. He also added that he doesn't regret the incident.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

In need of more inspiration, thoughtful journalism and at-home beauty tips? Subscribe to ELLE's print magazine today! SUBSCRIBE HERE


You Might Also Like