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The Crown: True Story Behind The 'Palace Prowler' Michael Fagan Who Broke Into Queen's Bedroom

The Crown: True Story Behind The 'Palace Prowler' Michael Fagan Who Broke Into Queen's Bedroom

By now, you've probably watched that episode of The Crown where Michael Fagan breaks into The Queen's bedroom.

In episode five of the Netflix show, Fagan sneaks into the palace not once but *twice* - and the second time he sits on The Queen's bed and wakes her up, before the pair have a chat.

It all seems pretty outlandish, right?

But, believe it or not, this actually happened - albeit not in exactly the same way The Crown depicts...

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Here's the true story of the Buckingham Palace Prowler.

The real life Michael Fagan (Credit: PA)
The real life Michael Fagan (Credit: PA)

Decorator Michael Fagan, who was born in Clerkenwell, London, had been working since the age of 16. He married his wife Christine in 1972, and the pair had four children together.

Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace not once but twice, with the most famed security breach taking place on July 9th 1982, when he came face to face with The Queen himself.

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His first break in happened in June of the same year, after Fagan had been heavily drinking all evening.

Fagan got into the palace by scaling the 14 foot high palace walls and then climbing a drainpipe which led to one of the bedrooms, located just a few feet away from the main palace building.

After taking off his shoes and socks, Fagan then managed to climb into an unlocked window, and gained access to the building.

He then took some time to explore the insides, (30 minutes, he claims), perusing many of the 775 rooms and taking it all in.

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Fagan says he used this opportunity to sit on various thrones.

Fagan sat on the royal thrones (Credit: Netflix)
Fagan sat on the royal thrones (Credit: Netflix)

"I was loving it," he recalled. "It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears; I tried one throne and was like 'this one's too soft'. I was having a laugh to myself because there was one right next to it, so I tried another... I liked the picture and thought I'd look at it till someone comes, but nobody came."

He also looked through a room packed with presents for Prince Charles and Princess Diana, following the birth of Prince William, and flicked through files of paperwork.

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Plus, he recalls he wandered past doors labelled for members of the royal family, including one where he believed Princess Anne was sleeping, while searching for a toilet. When he couldn't find one, he opted to urinate on a bin of corgi food.

"I found rooms saying 'Diana's room', 'Charles's room'; they all had names on them. But I couldn't find a door which said 'WC'. All I found were some bins with 'corgi food' written on them. I was breaking my neck to go to the toilet. What do I do? Pee on the carpet? So I had to pee on the corgi food," he said to The Independent.

It is then that he is said to have browsed King George V's stamp collection, eaten some cheese and crackers and (as we saw in The Crown) drank half a bottle of wine.

During his first visit, a housemaid spotted Fagan and alerted the guards, but by the time they set out to look for him he had fled.

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He later revealed to a court that he initially intended to wait to be captured, but was left alone so long he gave up, and eventually decided to leave.

"I thought, Sod it, and I went out and went home," he said.

Fagan even sat on The Queen's throne (Credit: Shutterstock)
Fagan even sat on The Queen's throne (Credit: Shutterstock)

Given how easily he'd managed to get away with the first break in, it's not surprising, then, that Fagan was back for round two not long afterwards.

It's the second break in that Fagan is really famed for, as it is during this visit that he met Queen Elizabeth II herself and even sat himself down on her bed.

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However, he told The Telegraph that The Crown "used a lot of artistic licence" when depicting how everything went down.

According to accounts, Fagan set off some alarms as he re-entered the palace by once again scaling the walls - this time using the railings near the Ambassadors' Entrance at around 6.45am - but security are said to have thought they were nothing more than a glitch, so turned them off again.

Plus, he was spotted "by a police officer who passed a message via another police officer to the control room inside the palace," according to the New York Times.

However, their slow communication means that nobody came to The Queen's aid in time.

Once inside the building, Fagan says he followed portraits on the wall as he tried to make his way to The Queen's bedroom, where the guard had just knocked off, at 6am.

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Luckily for him, the rest of the palace staff were also nowhere to be seen. The Queen's footman was walking her dogs and her maid was cleaning elsewhere in the palace.

In the process of finding The Queen's room, he broke an ashtray, and then proceeded to carry a shard with him as he entered, at around 7am.

Tom Brooke as Michael Fagan in The Crown (Credit: Netflix)
Tom Brooke as Michael Fagan in The Crown (Credit: Netflix)

While The Crown does not acknowledge this, a Scotland Yard report, shared in the New York Times, states that Fagan told police that he was planning to hurt himself in the Queen's presence, however, he has never discussed this since.

Fagan does confirm, though, that just like in the Netflix series, he woke The Queen by opening her curtains.

"I was scareder than I'd ever been in my life," he said. "Then she speaks and it's like the finest glass you can imagine breaking: 'What are you doing here?!'"

Describing The Queen's nightwear, and bedroom setup, he also reflected: "It was a double bed but a single room, definitely - she was sleeping in there on her own. Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints and it was down to her knees."

Upon realising Fagan was an intruder, The Queen is said to have called for the palace to send police to her bedroom on multiple occasions, but to no avail. She called again after six minutes but, once again, nobody came.

While The Crown suggests they had a brief conversation about the Thatcher government and the state of unemployment in the UK - and previous reports suggest they chatted for as long as 15 minutes before anybody came - Fagan has since admitted this never happened.

Speaking to The Independent, he said: "She went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor."

He later added to The Telegraph that she informed him she'd be "back in a minute" before leaving the room and bringing in the footman, who said: 'You need a drink, mate'.

He then alleges that the footman, Paul Whybrew, offered Fagan some whiskey while they waited for the police to arrive.

However, Scotland Yard have slightly different version of events.

Fagan still lives in London (Credit: Netflix)
Fagan still lives in London (Credit: Netflix)

Theirs state: "Before police officers arrived, Her Majesty attracted the attention of the maid, and together they ushered Fagan into a nearby pantry on the pretext of supplying him with a cigarette.

"They were joined there by the footman, who had returned from exercising the dogs.

"While Her Majesty kept the dogs away as the man was getting agitated, the footman helped to keep Fagan in the pantry by supplying him with cigarettes until first one and then another police officer arrived and removed him."

Following the two intrusions, Fagan was tried for burglary at the Old Bailey in September of 1982, for drinking the palace's wine.

While today he would have been tried for trespassing, as Buckingham Palace is now a 'designated site', he wasn't at the time, as back then it was only a civil offence.

As for why Fagan broke into the palace, his story has changed over the years.

The Palace Prowler has previously blamed Magic Mushrooms for his crimes, suggesting the large amount he'd taken had a long term impact on him that affected his behaviour.

However, as The Crown suggests, the breakup of his marriage no doubt also played a part, as well as his high alcohol consumption.

Perhaps most bizarre, though, is an account from Charlotte Hodgman, editor of BBC History Revealed, which claims Fagan told his wife that he was visiting a girlfriend who lived in SW1 and went by the name of Elizabeth Regina.

He'd allegedly told her that Elizabeth had four children and was older than him.

Perhaps explaining why The Crown went for a political angle, Fagan said during BBC Radio 4 podcast, Famous For Fifteen Minutes: "The Queen, to me, represented all that was keeping me down and [my] lack of voice. I just wanted her to know what it feels like to just be an ordinary chap trying to make ends meet."

Featured Image Credit: The Crown/ Netflix

Topics: Entertainment News, TV & Film, The Crown, Netflix

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Joanna Freedman

Joanna is a journalist at Tyla with a particular interest in highlighting women's issues and telling inspiring first person stories. She's also their resident foodie, and loves covering exciting new beauty launches, too. Contact her at [email protected]