Intruder in the Palace: The Morning a Burglar Broke Into the Queen's Bedroom

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Jun. 30 2023, Published 7:46 p.m. ET

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Michael Fagan was sitting in a London pub on July 9, 1982, when he boasted to his pals that he could break into the queen's bedroom at Buckingham Palace. His buddies bet him that he wouldn't get over the palace walls, let alone anywhere near one of the world's most closely guarded public figures.

Hours later, Fagan's face was splashed all over the 10 o'clock news: not only had he sneaked into Elizabeth II's room, but he'd also sat on her four-poster bed and, according to him, asked her for a kiss!

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The unemployed painter and decorator, 33, had taken a taxi from his home in Kilburn, North London, to the palace, where he scaled the 20-foot wall totally undetected. He then climbed a drainpipe, apparently shed his sandals and socks on the roof, and crept to the balcony of a bedroom.

Once inside, Fagan wandered around the palace for 15 minutes, even passing King George V's multimillion-pound stamp collection, and triggered the alarm twice — but, assuming the warnings were errors, the police turned it off! Amazingly, despite the fact that the palace has more than 50 bedrooms, Fagan found his way to the queen's quarters without seeing a single soul.

"I was scareder than I'd ever been in my life," he said later, describing the moment he pulled back the curtains to see Elizabeth staring up at him.

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"Then she speaks, and it's like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: 'Wawrt are you doing here?!"" He reportedly told her: "All I want is a kiss." The monarch discreetly pressed the night alarm bell — but no one came.

Unruffled, she then used her bedside telephone to instruct the palace operator to send police to her bedroom; but when six minutes later they still hadn't arrived, she had to call again.

In the meantime, according to a Scotland Yard report, "Her Majesty attracted the attention of her maid, and together they ushered Fagan into a nearby pantry on the pretext of supplying him with a cigarette."

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The report continued, "They were joined there by the footman, who helped to keep Fagan in the pantry by supplying him with cigarettes until first one and then another police officer arrived and removed him."

Since the intrusion was then considered a civil wrong rather than a criminal offense, Fagan was not charged for trespassing. He spent the next six months in a psychiatric hospital before being released in January 1983. Although the Queen's husband, Prince Philip, was at Buckingham Palace when the incident occurred, he was not in the monarch’s bed chamber at that moment.

The break-in caused a stir at No. 10 Downing Street as well. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was said to be appalled that the nation's head of state potentially could have been the victim of a deranged attack or worse.

The late Sovereign garnered praise for maintaining her composure in what was an unthinkable situation for many. She was also lauded the previous summer when a youth fired what were later discovered to be blanks at her and her horse during the Trooping the Colour ceremony; she didn't even flinch when the shots rang out and continued on with the procession.

The Fagan encounter was later recreated in the fourth season of Netflix's The Crown.

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