Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, officially resides at Buckingham Palace. She famously has her own security detail, the Queen’s Guard, and the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is a tourist attraction known far and wide. So when a strange, uninvited man appeared in Her Majesty’s bedroom, at the edge of her bed, talking with her, it was, to say the least, surprising.
The year: 1982. The man: Michael Fagan, then 32 years old, an unemployed man wearing blue jeans and a dirty t-shirt. His hand was bleeding — on the way through the Palace to the Queen’s bedroom, he lacerated it on an ash tray. He and the Queen spoke for about ten minutes until a chambermaid arrived who found a foot soldier to arrest Fagan. The conversation was apparently about family (Fagan was smitten by the “coincidence” that both he and the monarch had four children) and, strikingly, was cordial.
The successful intrusion was an act of will and luck — and practice. Fagan scaled a 14 foot wall, replete with barbed wire; set off an alarm (twice!) which was ignored (twice!) as faulty; and arrived at the Queen’s bedroom door during one of the rare times it was left unmanned — the guard who was on duty was walking the Queen’s dogs. But for Fagan, this was not entirely new ground.Fagan’s first successful intrusion into the Palace occurred a month earlier. While he did not make it into the Queen’s bed chamber during his first attempt, he did manage a snack — he brought some cheese with him, which he ate on the palace roof, and later came across a bottle of wine, of which he drank half. That time, he left before he was detected.
Strangely, at the time, it was not a crime to trespass upon the Queen’s bedroom, so Fagan was only charged with theft — of the half bottle of wine he drank. Those charges were dropped when he sought psychiatric help.
Bonus fact: Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne upon her father’s death in 1952, and has been featured on the British penny since the coin’s inception on February 15, 1971. (Before that date, called “Decimal Day,” the British coinage system was not base-10.) The picture of the queen on the penny has been updated a few times over the last four decades, to stay current with her changing image, as seen here.
From the Archives: The Principality of Sealand: A much more hostile approach to the Queen, but just as ridiculous.
Related: A regal wine glass — kind of.