How Buckingham Palace intruder Michael Fagan shocked the world, as The Crown revisits infamous royal security scandal

HE made history when he calmly strolled into the Queen's room as she lay in bed more than 30 years ago.

And now Buckingham Palace intruder Michael Fagan's infamous break-in will be re-visited in the new series of Netflix's The Crown.

The 1982 scandal has been called one of the worst – and most embarrassing – royal security breaches in modern history, as Fagan managed to dupe countless staff members, by sneaking in through the palace roof.

From scaling a drainpipe, to forcing his way inside and even smashing a glass ashtray, he claims to have enjoyed long periods of time calmly walking through the private corridors without being stopped.

The incident propelled him into the spotlight, and it's since gone down in history, having shocked people across the globe.

But how exactly did he pull it off, and what was the fall-out afterwards? Here's a look at how the scandal shocked the world…


'I sat on the throne like Goldilocks'

While it was only initially reported that Fagan made it inside the palace once, he actually breached its security another time – just weeks before his run-in with the Queen.

He claimed that late at night a month earlier, he climbed over the railings and wandered around inside, after clambering up a drainpipe and into a maid’s bedroom.

He told The Sun: “I found my way to Prince Charles’s secretary’s room.

“I helped myself to a bottle of red someone had sent in. I drank some and it tasted like nectar."


He claims he ran into a maid on this occasion, but she dismissed what she'd seen at the time as a bizarre apparition.

In fact, he told the Islington Gazette she came “inches” from his face as he climbed through the window, but after reporting it to the guards, he heard her admitting she had been to a séance the night before and probably imagined it.

Fagan said: “I sat on the throne like Goldilocks and the three bears."

He also sensationally claimed he'd found some presents for a then-baby Prince William hidden in the post room, before quietly making his exit.

Fagan was 33 and had recently gone through a difficult break-up at the time.

'I climbed up a drainpipe, past some netting… and on to a flat roof'

The incredible story began at 6.45am on Friday July 9, 1982, when Fagan scaled the 10ft railings near the Ambassador’s Gate – now the entrance used by visitors to Buckingham Palace.

An off-duty policeman saw him climbing over but by the time he had alerted palace guards Fagan, wearing jeans and a grubby T-shirt, could not be found.

By then, he had climbed in through an open window.

He told The Sun: “It was the stamp room, where the Queen’s grandfather’s priceless collection, one of the biggest in the world, is kept.

“The door was locked so I climbed back out of the window.”

Fagan triggered an alarm in the palace police control room but officers are said to have twice turned it off because they believed the system was faulty.

He added: “I have a head for heights so I climbed up a drainpipe, past some netting that keeps the pigeons off, and got on to a flat roof.

"I took off my sandals and socks before climbing in through another window."

Fagan had climbed into the empty office of the master of the household, Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Ashmore.

He recalled: “I walked through a hall where a charlady was vacuuming.

"She looked at me and probably thought I was a builder or something but she can’t have noticed my feet. I had no sandals on.”

Heading towards the Royal Family’s private quarters, he spotted a glass ashtray and smashed it, ­cutting his hand.

He said: “I broke the ashtray so I could have a piece of glass in my back pocket to cut through the pigeon netting on my way back out, but I cut myself.

"People have said I was going to cut my wrists in front of the Queen but that’s nonsense.

“I just kept on walking, following my feet. There are 700 rooms in the palace and I didn’t know where the Queen’s bedroom was. I knew I wanted to see her but it wasn’t my plan to go into her bedroom.”

Most of the royals’ bedroom doors have a brass plate, with a name written on a piece of paper and slotted in.

Fagan swears there was no name on the Queen’s bedroom or he would not have entered.

'There’s the Queen in front of me. I was dumbstruck'

Every night, an armed uniformed police officer sits outside, wearing slippers instead of boots to avoid making a noise.

The policeman’s shift had finished at 6am and a footman had taken over. By the time Fagan arrived at the Queen’s bedroom, the valet had left to walk the corgis.

Fagan said: “I found myself inside a small room, about 12ft by 16ft, with just a double bed and a plain chest of drawers.


“I pulled back the curtains and the woman in bed sits up and says in an accent like the finest glass, ‘What are you doing here?’

“There’s the Queen in front of me. I was dumbstruck. I don’t know anyone else who wouldn’t be.

“They say she must have been frightened. I didn’t frighten her too much but I was quite shocked. She used a phone on the bedside table to call security but when nobody came she got out of bed.

“Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints and it was down to her knees. She said, ‘Just one minute, I’ll get someone’, swept past me and ran out of the room, her little bare feet running across the floor.

“She went out of the door leaving me sat on the bed, but I didn’t drip any blood on it.

"I was sat there for about three minutes and the next thing this tall footman came into the room and, swear to God, said, ‘F*** me, you look like you could do with a drink’.”

Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints and it was down to her knees. She said, ‘Just one minute, I’ll get someone’, swept past me and ran out of the room, her little bare feet running across the floor.

Whybrew poured Fagan a glass of Famous Grouse whisky and they waited in the hall for the police to arrive.

Fagan was taken to Canon Row police station and interrogated by Special Branch detectives.

He was never charged with trespassing on this occasion, because he had got in through an open window, and he believes officials did not want the Queen to give evidence in court.

Life after the shocking scandal

Fagan was eventually charged over the initial break-in, however. The jury in September 1982 took just ten minutes to find him not guilty of stealing the wine.

But in his police interview he had also admitted stealing a car, for which the judge sectioned him.

He was taken to the secure Park Lane Hospital in Liverpool – later renamed Ashworth, where he was held for 19 weeks.

The scandal itself hit headlines across the world and led to a major increase in royal security. According to The New York Times, the encounter ultimately persuaded the family "that additional measures are necessary, even if these reduce their contact with the public".

Newspaper headlines the following day ranged from, "Prowler seized in Palace," to "Queen calms raid man" and "Haunted eyes of the palace intruder".

Meanwhile, follow-up stories slammed the police response, with one headline reading: "The blunder brigade."

The incident led to questions in the Commons, an apology to the Queen from Margaret Thatcher and Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw offering his resignation.

Fagan, however, has no regrets, and said: “People who have done marvellous things get to kneel in front of her to be honoured, but I actually sat on her bed and almost got to talk to her.”

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