Meet the intruder who famously broke into Buckingham Palace
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
An Islington man says he did the Royal Family a favour by breaking into Buckingham Palace twice and strolling in on the snoozing Queen – because it highlighted their “security flaws”.
Michael Fagan, of York Way Court, was 33, and an out of work painter when his partner left him in 1982. He had a “breakdown” and the next thing he knew he was breaking into Buckingham Palace.
Michael, 68, told the Gazette: “There are 700 rooms in the palace and the first one I went in was her bedroom, I was just as shocked as her.
“I was walking bare foot through the palace [he’d lost his shoes on the roof] and there was a woman doing the hoovering. She didn’t say anything. She just looked at me and must have thought I was part of the palace staff.”
Contrary to initial reports, never denied by the palace, Michael says he didn’t actually sit on the Queen’s bed because she woke when he peeled back the curtains around it and fled.
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He continued: “I didn’t know what I wanted to ask her and when I got there I was just shaking and so shocked.
“I didn’t know why I was there. But she’s a human being like anyone else. She’s not accessible, just once a year at Christmas talking about the Commonwealth which doesn’t mean much to most people.
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“She said: ‘Just one minute I will get someone’ and ran out of the room.
“The bedroom was alright. It was quite plain, just the usual blankets and duvets. It was smaller than I thought it would be. The security should have said I was found in the palace and not in the bedroom, it would have saved a lot of embarrassment.”
Then-home secretary Willie Whitelaw offered his resignation to the Queen due to the fiasco, but she refused.
He said: “Someone [a footman] said you look like you need a drink so they took me out of the room into the pantry and poured me whisky form the Queen’s cupboard. It was Famous Grouse, I was shocked.”
Two coppers duly arrived.
“I don’t think they’d arrested anyone for years,” he said. “When one pulled out his notebook the other was so relieved he had it. I think they were just old boys who stood on the gate and let cars in. It was a cushty retirement job.
“I suppose it [breaking in] was hard,” said Michael. “I wasn’t thinking, I was just doing it mechanically.”
He spoke of the ensuing media frenzy, where tabloids in particular wanted to know details like “what nightie was the Queen wearing”.
Michael added: “I tried to keep it sterile and said she was wearing a liberty print nightie down to her knees even though I didn’t notice what it was.”
He appeared at the Old Bailey but wasn’t charged for trespassing, in part because this would have involved the constitutional muddle of the Queen appearing as a witness. But also because it wasn’t then illegal to trespass in the palace. He was charged with stealing a quantity of wine relating to an incident two nights before when he had broken into the palace without being caught. He was found not guilty.
The first time round he climbed the palace’s 14ft perimeter wall, shimmied up a drain pipe and slipped through an unlocked upper floor window.
“I was just walking around and was not challenged two-and-a-half hours,” claimed Michael. “But when I first got in [through the window] I was inches from a maid’s face and she went to get the guards saying: ‘Someone has just come in through the window’.”
When they returned and couldn’t find him, a hidden Michael says he overheard the maid blame his apparition on a séance she’d been to the night before.
“I think they thought they were imagining it,” he said. “So I suppose they missed an opportunity to catch me.”
Asked how he occupied the time, Michael said: “I sat on the thrones like Goldilocks and the three bears.
“I went into the private secretaries room,” he said. “And there was a bottle of wine for Prince Charles.
“I was thirsty so I drank it and it tasted like nectar. I left [undetected] and I couldn’t believe I had been in there.”
But Michael stressed: “I have got a lot of respect for the Queen and the monarchy because it makes money for the national purse. I never had any malicious intentions.”