Michael Fagan incident

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Michael Fagan (born 8 August 1948) is a notable Buckingham Palace intruder who broke into the palace and entered the Queen's bedroom in 1982.[1] The incident was one of the 20th-century's worst royal security breaches.[2]



Michael Fagan was born in Clerkenwell, London, on 8 August 1948,[1] the son of Ivy and Michael Fagan, who was a steel erector and a "champion safe-breaker". He had two younger sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth. In 1955, he attended Compton Street School in Clerkenwell (now St. Peter & St. Paul RC Primary School). In 1966, he left home at 16 to escape his father, who, Fagan says, was violent, and started working as a painter and decorator. In 1972, he married Christine, with whom he had four children.[3]


At around 7:00am on Friday morning, 9 July 1982, Fagan who was by then a 33-year-old unemployed decorator whose wife had just left him,[3] scaled Buckingham Palace's 14 ft perimeter wall – topped with revolving spikes and barbed wire[2] – and shinned up a drainpipe before wandering into the Queen's bedroom at about 7:15am.[1] By his own account, it was his second attempt: on his first he shinned up the drainpipe, startling a housemaid, who called security. When guards reached the scene, Fagan had disappeared, leading them to believe the housemaid was mistaken. Fagan entered the palace through an unlocked window on the roof and spent the next half hour eating cheddar cheese and crackers and wandering around. He tripped several alarms, but they were faulty. He viewed the royal portraits and rested on the throne for a while. He then entered the postroom, where Diana, Princess of Wales had hidden presents for her first son, William. Fagan drank half a bottle of white wine before becoming tired and leaving.[3]

On Fagan's second attempt, an alarm sensor detected him. A member of the palace staff thought the alarm was faulty and silenced it. En route to see the Queen, Fagan broke a glass ashtray, cutting his hand.[citation needed]

The Queen woke when he disturbed a curtain, and initial reports said Fagan sat on the edge of her bed. But in a 2012 interview, he clarified that she in fact left the room immediately, seeking security.[3] She phoned twice for police but none came. Fagan then asked for some cigarettes, which were brought by a maid. When the maid did not return to base for some time, footman Paul Whybrew appeared. The incident happened as the armed police officer outside the royal bedroom came off duty before his replacement arrived.[citation needed]


Since it was then a civil wrong rather than a criminal offence, Fagan was not charged for trespassing in the Queen's bedroom.[4] He was charged with theft (of the wine), but the charges were dropped when he was committed for psychiatric evaluation. He spent the next six months in a psychiatric hospital before being released on 21 January 1983. It was not until 2007, when Buckingham Palace became a "designated site" for the purposes of section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, that what he did became criminal.[5] Fagan's mother later said, "He thinks so much of the Queen. I can imagine him just wanting to simply talk and say hello and discuss his problems."[6]

Later life[edit]

In 1984, Fagan attacked a policeman at a café in Fishguard, Wales, and was given a three-month suspended jail sentence. He was found guilty of indecent exposure in 1987 after he was spotted running around wearing no trousers on waste ground in Chingford, London. In 1997, he was imprisoned for four years after he, his wife and their 20-year-old son were charged with conspiring to supply heroin.[7]


In 1983, Michael Fagan recorded a cover version of the Sex Pistols song "God Save The Queen"[8] with British punk band the Bollock Brothers. He made an appearance in Channel 4's The Antics Roadshow,[9] an hour-long 2011 TV documentary directed by the British street artist Banksy charting the history of people behaving oddly in public. The palace intrusion was adapted in 2012 for an episode of Sky Arts' Playhouse Presents series entitled Walking the Dogs,[10][11] a one-off British comedy drama starring Emma Thompson as the monarch.

Other incidents[edit]

Similar incidents of undetected entry to Buckingham Palace have happened before and since, including several spectacular intrusions by "the boy Jones" in the first years of Queen Victoria's reign and a Fathers 4 Justice protester scaling the walls and unveiling a banner, while dressed as Batman, in September 2004.

On Monday, 2 September 2013, a 37-year-old unemployed DJ was arrested in Buckingham Palace after allegedly scaling a fence. He was found in part of the palace normally open to the public during the day. No members of the Royal Family were present at the time. The man appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, 4 March 2014, but denied trespass.[12] A second man arrested outside the palace has been released without charge.[13]

On Monday, 14 October 2013, a 44-year-old mentally ill man was rugby-tackled to the ground by armed police and arrested after he jumped over a vehicle barrier at Buckingham Palace's north centre gate just before 11.30am. When searched, a 6in kitchen knife was found wrapped in a plastic bag in his jacket pocket. In custody, he told the police he 'wanted to see the Queen' after his Incapacity Benefit was stopped. The Queen was not in residence at the time. At Westminster Magistrates' Court the following day, he admitted trespass and possession of a bladed article.[14] He was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, 15 January 2014.[15]


  2. ^ a b "Whitelaw launches Palace inquiry", Martin Linton and Martin Wainwright, The Guardian, 13 July 1982
  3. ^ a b c d "Michael Fagan: 'Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints, down to her knees'", Emily Dugan, The Independent on Sunday, 19 February 2012 Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  4. ^ (Dennis J, Baker, Glanville Williams: Textbook of Criminal Law, London, 2012, Sweet & Maxwell at p. 1256)
  5. ^ "Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Sites under Section 128) Order 2007". Statutelaw.gov.uk. 2011-07-04. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  6. ^ "God Save the Queen, Fast", Spencer Davidson, Time, 26 July 1982, page 33
  7. ^ Dugan, Emily (19 February 2012). "Michael Fagan: 'Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints, down to her knees'". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2014-11-01. 
  8. ^ "God Save The Queen", Michael Fagan & the Bollock Brothers, 1983
  9. ^ The Antics Roadshow (Channel 4, August 2011)
  10. ^ "Emma Thompson to play the Queen in new drama recreating famous Buckingham Palace intruder", Paul Revoir, The Daily Mail, 24 February 2012
  11. ^ "Walking the Dogs" – Sky Arts 1 Comedy Drama – British Comedy Guide, 31 May 2012
  13. ^ "Man charged with Buckingham Palace trespass", BBC News, 19 February 2014
  14. ^ "Paintings of the Palace intruder: Man armed with a knife who 'wanted to see the Queen' painted pictures of members of the Royal Family", Anna Edwards, The Daily Mail, 16 October 2013
  15. ^ "Palace benefits protester jailed", Press Association, MSN News UK, 15 January 2014

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