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Posts Tagged ‘Buckingham Palace’

May 6 1985: Princess Diana, Prince Charles and their sons Harry and William on board royal yacht Britannia in Venice.

It’s 1985. Prince Charles and Princess Diana have been married close to five years. He’s 37; she’s 24. They have two young and healthy sons. Charles and Di have everything. They are rich and famous and, by all rights, should be happy. They seem happy in most photos. But they are not. Their marriage is in trouble but it will be another 11 years before it crashes for good.

Princess Diana arrives at the Royal Opera House, London. Dec. 1985

It’s December – Christmastime – and the two of them are out on the town together in London. It’s a special night. They are seated at the Royal Box at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. It’s a VIP evening for “Friends of Covent Garden,” composed of skits and entertainment for special patrons. Silly things happen at this event – dancers sing, singers dance, and, occasionally, a celebrity might turn up on stage unexpectedly and wow the audience. Just the previous year, matter of fact, Charles and Di had done that very thing. They had performed a skit together – as Romeo and Juliet –  and the Prince had sung an ad jingle, “Just One Cornetto.”

Back to December 1985. The show is drawing to a close. Imagine Charles’s surprise when, just two numbers before the end of the show, Diana slips from the Royal Box and, minutes later, emerges on stage. She is going to perform! She wears a slinky white dress and begins dancing seductively to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” 

Princess Diana and Wayne Sleep dance to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" at Covent Garden, December 1985.

Uptown Girl

She’s been living in her uptown world

I bet she’s never had a backstreet guy

I bet her mama never told her why

Diana – at 5’10” – towers over her dance partner, Wayne Sleep. At 5’2″, Sleep is the shortest dancer ever admitted into the Royal Ballet School. He recalled his pas de deux with the princess that night

The Prince nearly fell out of his chair, especially when [Diana] did the kicks over my head….I was worried she’d fall apart under the spotlight, but she totally carried it off. Not many people could handle being under such scrutiny in front of an insiderly audience on that huge Covent Garden stage. She showed natural star quality.” (1)

Everyone – except Charles – is thrilled by Diana’s performance. She receives a standing ovation and eight curtain calls. At a reception afterwards, Sleep recalled that Charles was aloof, making it embarrassingly clear that he disapproved of Diana’s performance (or was he just plain jealous because he wasn’t asked to participate?). Diana had rehearsed for weeks in secret and was performing just to please Charles. Again, her efforts fall short. Of course, we know now why she couldn’t please him. He didn’t need her. He had Camilla.

Where did Diana get the personal courage to perform a seductive dance in front of 2,600 people?  Well, thank Nancy Reagan for giving Di the opportunity to shine at something she was good at. Just a month before, Diana had danced with John Travolta (at Nancy’s request) at a gala White House dinner given by the Reagans, dazzling Washington and the world with her youthful beauty, dancing grace, and sex appeal.

John Travolta and Princess Diana dance in the East Room of the White House, November 1986. Standing up to welcome Prince Charles and Princess Diana, President Reagan, in after-dinner remarks, flubbed the princess's name. Standing up in welcome, the president offered a toast to Prince Charles and "his lovely lady, Princess David."

By the time she returned to London, everyone was abuzz with Diana’s splashy American visit:

The Princess of Wales had become a walking monument – British opinion polls said she was the country’s greatest tourist attraction….One national survey calculated that from 1983-1985, she had generated $66.6 million in revenue from magazines, books, and tourists.” (2)

“Shy Di looking up through the eyelashes” had gone off to America but Confident Di had returned in her place. She made Buckingham Palace nervous – and with good reason. It could no longer control her.

(1) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

(2) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1997.

Readers: For more on Princess Diana and the British Royal Family, click here.

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British royal Prince William of Wales and his girlfriend Kate Middleton at the 2009 Audi Polo Match

Is Prince William of Wales finally going to propose to his girlfriend of nine years, Kate Middleton? Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast, says so. She predicts the engagement will be announced by Buckingham Palace on June 3 or 4 of this year.

Kate Middleton – known as “Waity Katie”  in the British press – has dated Prince William since they met in 2001 at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland. They have been together almost continuously, even living together. (1)

Woolworth's High Street Store in Great Britain anticipated a 2007 royal wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William of Wales. They were so sure a ceremony was imminent that they unveiled designs for mugs, thimbles, mouse mats, and even sweets bearing a picture of the Prince and his sweetheart in 2006. Unfortunately, Kate and William broke up shortly after this announcement and Woolworth's was forced to scrap this line of merchandise. It is unlikely the product line will be revived as William no longer resembles the 2006 photo. He no longer sports a boyish look as his hairline has receded considerably since then.

Tina Brown’s column has caused a surge in speculation, Brown, the famous ex-Vanity Fair and ex-New Yorker editor and best-selling biographer of William’s mother, Princess Diana, is known to have excellent sources in Buckingham Palace, although the Palace has denied her prediction. Nevertheless, British tabloids like The Daily Mail went nuts thinking about a royal wedding in the future with headlines like,

“She’ll Wear Diana’s Tiara!”

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), wears her Cambridge Love Knot Tiara

Americans got feverishly excited, too. People magazine put William and Kate on the cover last month under the headline, “The Next Princess!” Inside, was a report that William was overheard calling Kate’s father “Dad” while they were all on a ski holiday in the French Alps in March 2010. (2)

(2) “A Date for William & Kate?” USA TODAY, May 13, 2010.

Readers: You might also enjoy “Princess Diana’s Wedding Tiara.”  For more posts on the British Royal Monarchy, scroll down the right sidebar to “Categories”/”Royalty.”

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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1854. They had been married 14 years and are both about 34 years old. This is the first time Victoria had been photographed. Queen Victoria reigned as Queen Regnant of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837-1901 and as the first Empress of India of the British Raj from 1876 -1901. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and 7 months, longer than that of any other British monarch before or since, and her reign is the longest of any female monarch in history. The time of her reign is known as the Victorian Era, a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military progress within the United Kingdom.

Throughout their 21-year marriage, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria delighted in showering each other with gifts of art. A new major exhibition of the Royal Collection (March 19-October 31, 2010) at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, is the first ever to focus on the royal couple’s shared enthusiasm for art. “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love” showcases over 400 paintings, drawings, photographs, jewelry, and sculpture from the years of their courtship (1836-1839) and marriage (1840) until Albert’s untimely death of typhoid (1861).

Gold, enamel, and tooth brooch belonging to Queen Victoria (1847, probably commissioned by Prince Albert)

Many trinkets exchanged between the royal couple were sentimental in nature, marking special occasions in the royal household, such as this gold and enamel brooch, seen for the first time ever. This unusual and tiny brooch in the form of a thistle has, as its flower, the first milk tooth lost by the firstborn of their nine children, Princess Victoria (1840-1901). An inscription on the reverse states the tooth was pulled by Prince Albert at Ardverikie (Loch Laggan), on September 13, 1847. (To see more of Victoria’s jewelry made with teeth, click here.)

Princess Victoria was the subject of many art commissions; her parents were overjoyed at her birth because she almost wasn’t born. When the Queen was four months pregnant, she had been the target of a failed assassination attempt. Edward Oxford fired two shots at her as she and Prince Albert rode up Constitution Hill in a carriage in June of 1840. Fortunately, neither the queen, prince, or the unborn Princess Royal was harmed.

An attempt is made to assassinate Queen Victoria by Edward Oxford, June 10. 1840, as the Queen rides up Constitution Hill with Prince Albert. Oxford was arrested for high treason, tried, and acquitted by reason of insanity.

Prince Albert was a man of many talents. He designed many of Queen Victoria’s jewels, including this 1842 brooch featuring a miniature of Princess Victoria as a bejewelled angel.

Queen Victoria's enamel, gold, and jewel brooch, 1842, with a miniature of Princess Victoria as an angel, Prince Albert, designer; William Essex, after William Ross, miniaturist

The queen appreciated Albert’s talent in jewelry design. She wrote:

“Albert has such taste & arranges everything for me about my jewels.”

In addition to designing the queen’s personal jewelry, Prince Albert designed many pieces of her state jewelry. He designed most of her tiaras, including the Oriental Circlet, also a part of this year’s special exhibition.

Queen Victoria's State Jewelry: "The Oriental Circlet," 1853. Diamonds, rubies, gold. The inspiration for the design of this tiara, which includes ‘Moghul’ arches framing lotus flowers, came from Prince Albert who had been greatly impressed by the Indian jewels presented to the Queen by the East India Company.

Readers, you might also enjoy: “Queen Victoria in the Blue Room with a Bust.”

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Rose Kennedy, wife of newly-appointed American ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, is shown at center with two of her daughters, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy (l) and Rosemary, at their 1938 presentation at Buckingham Palace. Kathleen's 1944 marriage to Billy Harrington, the Marquess of Hartington, an Anglican, infuriated the intensely Catholic Rose Kennedy, who refused to attend the wedding. Widowed just four months later, Kathleen fell in love with a very married man, Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, and became his mistress. Rose was further incensed - because he, like Billy, wasn't a Catholic. Over her mother's objections, Kathleen and Peter planned to wed after his divorce. Instead, in a 1948 trip to the south of France, they both died in a plane crash. No one but Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, attended her funeral in Devonshire, England, in the Cavendish family plot. It has been said that Rose Kennedy discouraged Kathleen's eight surviving siblings from attending the service of their sister.

Rose Kennedy, wife of newly-appointed American ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, is shown at center with two of her daughters, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy (l) and Rosemary Kennedy, at their 1938 presentation at Buckingham Palace. Kathleen's lively personality made her a great hit among the British social set. In 1944, Kathleen made what many considered a brilliant marriage to William "Billy" Harrington, the Marquess of Hartington, the heir to the 10th Duke of Devonshire. Kathleen became the Marchioness of Harrington. Her mother, however, was incensed that Kathleen would marry an Anglican and refused to attend the wedding ceremony. Only Kathleen's eldest brother, Joe Kennedy, Jr., attended. Then, four months later, Billy was killed in the war and Kathleen became a widow. It wasn't long before Kathleen was back in the social whirl of London parties and country estate weekends, and with a new man - a married man. He was Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, 8th Earl Fitzwilliam. Kathleen fell madly for him and publicly became his mistress. Rose was furious - but not why you think. She was incensed because Peter - like Kathleen's first husband, Billy - was an Anglican and not a Catholic. Nevertheless, over her mother's objections, Kathleen planned to wed Peter after his divorce, Catholic or not. Their wedding never came about. In a 1948 trip to the south of France, both Peter and Kathleen died in an airplane crash. Still furious with Kathleen, Rose Kennedy did not attend her daughter's funeral and discouraged Kathleen's eight surviving siblings from attending. Only Kathleen's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, attended her funeral service. Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish was buried in the Cavendish family plot in Devonshire, England. There her body remains today.

Factbox: Kennedy Political Dynasty Marked By Tragedy

By REUTERS
Published: August 26, 2009

(Compiled from Web sites by the World Desk Americas)

The lives of Kennedy family members, noted for their extraordinary accomplishments, have also been marked by tragedy, including the assassinations of President John Kennedy and of Senator Robert Kennedy.

Following is a chronology of some of the tragedies that befell the storied U.S. political dynasty:

1941: Rosemary Kennedy, (pictured here), the oldest daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, who was mentally disabled, was institutionalized for the rest of her life after a lobotomy reduced her abilities. She died in 2005.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (c) with 2 of his 4 sons: Joe Kennedy, Jr. (l) and John F. Kennedy

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (c) with 2 of his 4 sons: Joe Kennedy, Jr. (l) and John F. Kennedy

1944: Joseph Kennedy Jr., the oldest of the nine Kennedy children, died at age 29 in a plane crash over the English Channel during World War Two while flying a mission.

1948: Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish, the fourth of the Kennedy children, was killed in a plane crash in France at age 28.

1963: President John Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 while riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife in Dallas, Texas, at age 46.

1964: Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest in the family, narrowly escaped death in a plane crash that killed an aide.

1968: Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 5 in Los Angeles at age 42, just after he won California’s Democratic presidential primary election.

1969: Edward Kennedy drove off a bridge on his way home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. An aide in the car with him, Mary Jo Kopechne, died in the accident.

1984: David Kennedy, a son of Robert, died of a drug overdose at age 28.

1997: Another of Robert Kennedy’s sons, Michael, died in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado, at age 39.

1999: John Kennedy Jr. along with his wife and sister-in-law were killed when the plane he was flying crashed in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

For more on the Kennedys, scroll down the right sidebar in “Categories – People – the Kennedys.”

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photo of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, March 28, 2007, by Annie Leibovitz
photo of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, March 28, 2007, by Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz photographed Queen Elizabeth. Here’s what she had to say about that experience.
Excerpted from Annie Leibovitz at Work, by Annie Leibovitz, published by Random House © 2008

The Queen

In 2007, a few weeks before Queen Elizabeth visited the United States for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, I was asked to take her portrait. I was the first American to be asked by the Palace to make an official portrait of the Queen, which was very flattering. I felt honored. I also felt that because I was an American I had an advantage over every other photographer or painter who had made a portrait of her. It was O.K. for me to be reverent. The British are conflicted about what they think of the monarch. If a British portraitist is reverent, he’s perceived to be doting. I could do something traditional.

It’s ironic that the sitting with the Queen became controversial. I’m rather proud of having been in control of a complicated shoot. The controversy arose about two months after the pictures were published, when the BBC claimed that the Queen had walked out while we were shooting. This was completely untrue, and although they retracted the claim and issued an apology to the Queen and to me almost immediately, the scandal had a life of its own. The story, which came to be referred to as Queengate, wouldn’t die. Eventually the head of BBC One resigned over it.

When I was preparing for the shoot, I thought about using the landscape around Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. I brought this up in the very first conference call with the Palace. I said that Americans thought of the Queen as an outdoorswoman. I had been influenced by Helen Mirren’s performance in The Queen and I couldn’t help mentioning how much I liked her character in that film. There was a long silence on the other end of the line.

The second idea I had, after Balmoral, was to photograph the Queen on horseback. I asked where she rode and they said she went riding every Saturday at Windsor Castle. I said that I would love to see her in her riding clothes, and in a later conversation I asked if she could stop during her weekend ride and get off her horse and mount it again. That is, could I do a portrait of her in the trees. They said, No, it was not possible. She just rode the horse and came back, and, anyway, she didn’t wear riding clothes anymore. A few days later they said it was going to be Buckingham Palace and no horses.

I realized that I was going to need some time on the ground for this. When we arrived in London, we went straight to the palace and were shown all the rooms, including the throne room—everywhere except the private quarters. And then we scouted the back. There was a wintery sky and the trees didn’t have leaves. It was an appropriate mood for this moment in the Queen’s life. There was no way, however, that she was going to stand outside in formal attire.

For a sitting like this you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You try to have as many options as possible. I kept thinking that somehow I would get the Queen outside, but I began choosing formal outfits. I narrowed the robes down to a very handsome Order of the Garter cape, but then we were told that she could wear only a white dress under it. We were lobbying for a gold dress. I was also hoping for a dress with more body to it. The Queen wears very streamlined dresses now that she’s older, and I wanted her in something with more volume. But she didn’t have anything like that. Finally everyone agreed that she could wear a gold-and-white dress under the Order of the Garter robe. The Queen was 80 years old. She was sturdy, but putting on and taking off a lot of heavy clothes is tiring, and she had to be dressed in layers to expedite things. The gold-white dress became the base.

I was still upset that I couldn’t get her outside. It was so beautiful out there. And it wasn’t cold or raining or anything. I began thinking about what Cecil Beaton had done. He brought in flowered backdrops. Beaton was big on backdrops. He made very stagy portraits. Perhaps because the pictures were made in black and white you don’t notice the backdrops. They sort of go out of focus. I realized that I could do something similar digitally. I decided to photograph the garden and the trees for a backdrop.

The Palace had given us 25 minutes with the Queen, so there had to be a battle plan. I chose a grand reception room, the White Drawing Room, as the principal setting because of the light from the tall windows. Supplementary lights had been pre-set so that when the Queen moved from one spot to another all we needed to do was switch them on. We had constructed a gray canvas backdrop in an anteroom, and she was to come in there wearing the Order of the Garter robe and the dress, but no tiara. The first shot was to be made on a balcony, with the sky behind her. That sky could be digitally exchanged later for the pictures I had taken in the gardens the day before. I didn’t want her to be wearing a tiara in the gardens.

The morning of the shoot, the Queen came walking down the hall very purposefully. She was definitely a force. This was all being taped by the BBC for a documentary. I would never have agreed to their being there if I felt I had any choice, but they had been following her around for months. Their microphone picked up her saying, “I’ve had enough of dressing like this, thank you very much,” as she marched down the hall. Later, when segments of footage for the BBC were edited for a promotional film, it appeared as if the Queen were stomping out of the photo session rather than going into it. Thus the brouhaha.

The Queen was about 20 minutes late, which we thought was a little strange. When that happens, you never know if it can be made up on the other end. My five-year-old daughter, Sarah, had come with us, and she curtsied and offered the Queen flowers, and I introduced my team. At this point I was in shock. The Queen had the tiara on. That was not the plan. It was supposed to be added later. The dresser knew that. The Queen started saying, “I don’t have much time. I don’t have much time,” and I took her to the first setup and showed her the pictures of the gardens. I think she understood what we had in mind. Then I walked her into the drawing room, probably sooner than I would have if things had been going well. She composed herself when I took some pictures.

I knew how tight everything was, especially with the loss of 20 minutes, and I asked the Queen if she would remove the tiara. (I used the word “crown,” which was a faux pas.) I suggested that a less dressy look might be better. And she said, “Less dressy! What do you think this is?” I thought she was being funny. English humor. But I noticed that the dresser and everyone else who had been working with her were staying about 20 feet away from her.

We removed the big robe, and I took the picture of the Queen looking out the window, and then I said, Listen, I was a little thrown when you first came in, and I have one more picture I’d like to try, with an admiral’s boat cloak. I was thinking of one of Cecil Beaton’s last pictures of the Queen. A very stark and simple and strong portrait in which she’s wearing a boat cloak. We went back into the anteroom, where the gray canvas backdrop had been set up, and she took off the tiara and put on the cloak. That’s the shot we digitally imposed on pictures of the garden.

Right after we finished, I went up to the press secretary and said how much I loved the Queen. How feisty she was. Later I mentioned to a couple of friends that she had been a bit cranky, but it was nothing unusual. What was remarkable about the shoot, and I wrote the Queen a note about this later, was something the BBC missed: her resolve, her devotion to duty. She stayed until I said it was over. Until I said, “Thank you.” We were finished a little before our allotted 25 minutes were up.

 

Readers, for more on this episode, read my post, “The Queen is Mad.”

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the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II

the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II

Here is a typical weekday morning for Queen Elizabeth II while in residence at  Buckingham Palace  in London:

7:30  The maid enters her bedroom with a tray of  morning tea: 2 silver pots of Earl Grey, milk, and a few biscuits. The cup and saucer are bone china. The linen napkin bears the royal cypher “EIIR” (Elizabeth II Regent). The maid sets down the tray on a bedside table and crosses the room to open the bedroom curtains. She then turns on the radio which is tuned to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The Queen listens to the day’s news as she sips her tea. Outside her window the traffic on Constitution Hill is building and people are strolling through Green Park. The maid draws a bath.

While the Queen is bathing, the maid lays out the first of perhaps many outfits the Queen will wear that day, depending upon the royal schedule. Once the Queen is dressed, the Queen’s hairdresser styles her hair.

8:30  The Queen joins her husband Prince Philip for breakfast which is served in the first floor dining room that overlooks the Palace garden. Prince Philip has had a shower and coffee. During their breakfast together, the Prince may place little morsels of food on the bird feeder outside the window. A tailcoated footman brings the breakfast – wholewheat toast with marmalade and more tea and coffee. The Queen reads her papers: The Daily Telegraph and The Racing Post.

9:00  The Piper to the Sovereign – referred to as the “Queen’s Piper” – steps into the Palace garden. He is wearing a  kilt of Royal Stewart tartan and two eagle feathers in his headwear.  The Queen and Prince Philip listen as he tunes his bagpipes. For the next fifteen minutes, the Queen’s Piper plays a selection of bagpipe tunes below the dining room window.

9:30  The Queen is seated at her Chippendale desk in her office to begin reviewing her correspondence. A footman comes in with her corgis, who have just had their morning walk in the garden. She works all morning. After lunch, she may take the dogs for a walk herself.

This 1994 People magazine photograph shows Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral, her Scottish Highland hideaway every August. Whether at Balmoral, Windsor Castle, or Buckingham Palace, the Queen's weekdays start with a fifteen-minute bagpipe serenade. When at Balmoral, the pipers wear the Balmoral tartan.

Above, a 1994 People magazine photograph shows Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral, her Scottish Highland hideaway she retreats to every August. Whether at Balmoral, Windsor Castle, or Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s weekdays start with a fifteen-minute bagpipe serenade at 9 a.m. When at Balmoral, though, the pipers wear the Balmoral tartan.

For more on Queen Elizabeth II, look in the left column “Categories-People-Queen Elizabeth II.” I’ve written many posts on the Queen; I hope you enjoy them!

 

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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

He wasn’t the first person to scale the garden wall of Buckingham Palace. The year before, three German tourists had done it. While there had been others who’d breached Palace security, Michael Fagan was to become one of the most infamous.

1982 Buckingham Palace Intruder Michael Fagan

1982 Buckingham Palace Intruder Michael Fagan

It was 7:15 a.m. on July 9, 1982. Michael Fagan, 31, had been up all night, drinking whisky, and wandering London’s dark streets, brooding. He had just been released from the psychiatric ward at Brixton Prison. The judge had sent him there after he slashed his wrists with a broken bottle during his court hearing on charges that he stabbed his teenage stepson in the neck with a screwdriver. (1)

Fagan was discouraged. He was broke and faced a mountain of debt. His wife was unfaithful. There were problems with his kids and even his mum. The voices in his head told him to go and tell the Queen how unhappy he was and she would help. The voices told him he could do it. These were the same voices that before had talked him into climbing the towers of the bridges across the Thames River and to strip off his clothes and dive into the Grand Union Canal.

A guard at Buckingham Palace

A guard at Buckingham Palace

It was 7:15 on the morning of July 9, 1982 when Fagan, unshaven and dressed in jeans and a dirty t-shirt, gathered up his courage, climbed over the black iron fence of Buckingham Palace, and dropped down on the grounds of the royal residence. No guards noticed. He found an open window and crawled in. But the Queen wasn’t in that room, it held only an old stamp collection (King George V’s $20 million stamp collection). Fagan was not a thief. He wanted only to find the Queen. An alarm was tripped twice, but the policeman at the palace sub-station thought it was malfunctioning and turned it off both times.

Fagan then went back out into the courtyard and spied a 55 foot drainpipe that lead to the second floor. “I climbed it in seconds,” he proudly told interviewers later. “I was a Prince of the Earth.” He pulled back some wire meant to keep pigeons away and crawled in a window. He found himself in the office of Vice Admiral Sir Peter Ashmore, the man responsible for the Queen’s security. He took off his sandals and socks and proceeded to explore the Palace barefoot with dirty hands.

Princess Elizabeth, age 9 or 10, comforts her corgi Dookie, 1936

Princess Elizabeth, age 9 or 10, comforts her corgi Dookie, 1936

This wasn’t the first time Fagan had broken into the Palace. Only the month before, he’d had a practice run. He’d entered through an unlocked window on the roof and wandered about for a half hour. He viewed the royal portraits and rested on the thrones before entering the Postroom, where he drank half a bottle of California white wine before leaving.

On this, his second, visit to the Palace, Fagan was on a mission. He had to find the Queen. He wandered the corridors in search of her, and, on the way, cutting his hand on a glass ashtray. When he spied some dog dishes on the floor, he knew the Queen was near. She was never far from her precious dogs (See previous post, “Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis and Dorgis.”) He passed a housemaid who said, “Good morning,” then entered the Queen’s bedroom.

The Queen awoke to find a strange man sitting on the edge of her bed, cradling a broken ashtray and dripping blood on her bed linens. She kept calm and picked up the phone, asking the operator to summon the police. The operator did call the police but they didn’t come. She pushed the button for a chambermaid yet no one appeared. The armed guard regularly stationed at the Queen’s bedroom door was not at his post; he had taken her dogs out for a walk. Meanwhile, Fagan talked away, still sitting on her bed. He wanted to talk about love but the Queen didn’t. He thought it a coincidence that both he and the Queen had four children. Fagan wanted a cigarette. Again, the Queen called the palace switchboard yet no one responded.

After the Queen had spent ten minutes with the mentally disturbed, bleeding intruder, a chambermaid entered the Queen’s quarters and exclaimed, “Bloody hell, ma’am! What’s he doing in there?” The chambermaid then ran out and woke up a footman who then seized the intruder. The police arrived twelve minutes after the Queen’s first call.

When the public learned of this incident, they were outraged at the lapse of security around their Queen. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally apologized to the Queen and measures were immediately taken to strengthen palace security.

Nevertheless, a 1999 report by the Royal Protection Squad stated that, in the six years previous, at least 6,000 mentally-ill persons had visited British royal residences or written to the royal family. Most of the mentally-disturbed people are harmless, the report stated, but the police guarding royalty are still trained to handle the few intruders who do indeed pose a danger. 

A man protests at Buckingham Palace, insisting upon his right to appear in public naked

A man protests at Buckingham Palace, insisting upon his right to appear in public naked

Over the years, the Royals have attracted unwanted attention from, among others, a group of lesbian anti-nuclear demonstrators who scaled the walls with ladders, and an American paraglider who landed on the roof as a stunt.

 

(1) Erickson, Carolly. Lilibet: An Intimate Portrait of Elizabeth II. (New York: St. Martin’s, 2004)

 

For more on Queen Elizabeth II, look in the left column under “Categories – People – Queen Elizabeth II.” I’ve written many posts on the Queen; I hope you enjoy them!

For more on Insane Asylums, scroll to the very bottom of “Categories – The Insane Asylum.”

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