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December 14, 2022

Michael Fagan, the Man Who Broke Into Queen Elizabeth’s Bedroom in 1982

Michael Fagan was born in Clerkenwell, London, on August 8, 1948, the son of Ivy and Michael Fagan, Sr. His father was a steel erector and a “champion” safe-breaker. In 1955, he attended Compton Street School in Clerkenwell (later St Peter & St Paul RC Primary School). In 1966, he left home at 18 to escape his father, who, Fagan says, was violent. He started working as a painter and decorator. In 1972, he married Christine, with whom he had four children. At some point in the 1970s–1980s, Fagan was a member of a North London branch of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Michael Fagan pictured at The Bat Cave, London, in 1983. (Photo by Erica Echenberg/Redferns)

In early July 1982, Fagan intruded into Buckingham Palace. Fagan stated he shimmied up a drainpipe and startled a housemaid, who called security. He disappeared before guards arrived, who then disbelieved the housemaid's report. Fagan said he then entered the palace through an unlocked window on the roof and wandered around for the next half-hour while eating cheese and crackers. Two alarms were tripped, but the police turned them off believing they were faulty. He viewed royal portraits and sat for some time on a throne. He also spoke of entering the post room. He drank a half bottle of white wine, became tired and left.

At around 7:00 a.m. on July 9, 1982, Fagan scaled Buckingham Palace’s 14-foot-high (4.3 m) perimeter wall, which was topped with revolving spikes and barbed wire, and climbed up a drainpipe. An alarm sensor detected his movements, but police thought the alarm was faulty and silenced it. Fagan wandered the corridors for several minutes before reaching the royal apartments. In an anteroom, Fagan broke a glass ashtray, cutting his hand. He entered the bedroom of Queen Elizabeth II at about 7:15 am carrying a fragment of glass.

An artist impression of the exchange between Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Fagan in 1982. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

The Queen woke when Fagan disturbed a curtain. Initial reports said he had sat on the edge of her bed, however Fagan said in a 2012 interview that the Queen left the room immediately to seek security. The Queen phoned the palace switchboard twice for police, but none arrived, so she used her bedside alarm bell; she also beckoned a housemaid in the corridor, who was quickly dispatched to seek urgent help. The duty footman, Paul Whybrew, who had been walking the Queen’s dogs, arrived, followed by two policemen on palace duty, who removed Fagan. The incident had happened as the armed police officer outside the royal bedroom came off duty before his replacement arrived.

A subsequent police report was critical of the competence of officers on duty, as well as a system of confused and divided command. The Home Secretary who held sole responsibility for the police, William Whitelaw, offered his resignation but it was refused by the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

A picture of Michael Fagan taken in February 1985.

A picture of Michael Fagan taken in February 1985.

Since Fagan’s actions were, at the time, a civil wrong rather than a criminal offense, he was not charged with trespassing in the Queen’s bedroom. He was charged with theft of the wine, but the charges were dropped when he was committed for psychiatric evaluation. In late July, Fagan’s mother said, “He thinks so much of the Queen. I can imagine him just wanting to simply talk and say hello and discuss his problems.” He spent the next three months in a psychiatric hospital before being released on January 21, 1983.

Two years after entering Buckingham Palace, Fagan attacked a policeman at a café in Fishguard, Wales, and was given a three-month suspended sentence. In 1983, Fagan recorded a cover version of the Sex Pistols song “God Save the Queen” with punk band the Bollock Brothers. In 1997, he was imprisoned for four years after he, his wife and their 20-year-old son Arran were charged with conspiring to supply heroin.

Michael Fagan performing with punk band the Bollock Brothers, April 26, 1983. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

After the death of the Queen on September 8, 2022, Fagan told reporters that he had lit a candle in her memory at a local church.


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