The latest season of The Crown has incited an intense debate over its use of an "artistic license" — a critique levied not by the royals themselves, but from Michael Fagan, the Buckingham Palace intruder depicted in the fifth episode.
In the Peter Morgan series, Fagan's character (played by Tom Brooke) pleads with a nightgown-wearing Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) in her bedroom for a respite from conservatism and the policies of Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson). After previously seeking aid through government channels without avail, the unemployed, divorced decorator sought help elsewhere: with Her Royal Highness herself. "She’s destroying the country," the fictional Fagan tells the Queen. "The right to work, the right to be ill, the right to be old, the right to be frail, to be human — gone."
Fagan's real break-in and encounter, however, unfolded quite differently. Here's what actually happened then — and where Fagan ultimately ended up.
Did Michael Fagan break in twice?
Michael Fagan does claim to have broken into Buckingham Palace twice, as shown on The Crown. The first time was on June 7, 1982 — after his wife had left him. Fagan first shimmied up a drainpipe and through a window. He then wandered through the palace halls, opening (and drinking) a bottle of wine belonging to Prince Charles. He later testified to leaving the palace through the back gardens without attracting any attention from security.
During the second break-in on July 9, 1982, Fagan entered a similar way and made his way towards the Queen's bedroom. According to a Scotland Yard investigation, Fagan says he found a glass ashtray in an anteroom and broke it, intending to slit his wrists in front of the Queen. After Fagan opened the curtains in her bedroom at around 7:15 a.m., the Queen awoke and pressed the night alarm bell, but the night staff had gone off duty. She then called the palace telephonist, asking for the police. When the police did not arrive within six minutes, she dialed again. Meanwhile, a maid and footman entered the bedroom and plied Fagan with cigarettes in a nearby pantry as they waited. Finally, the authorities arrived and removed Fagan from the premises.
What did Michael Fagan say to the Queen?
Despite the lengthy exchanged depicted in The Crown, the real conversation between Fagan and the Queen was reportedly much shorter. Fagan, who has offered differing accounts over the years, has most recently told The Telegraph that they didn't speak much at all. He claims the Queen simply asked, "What are you doing here?" before going to seek help. "She went past me and ran out of the room, her little bare feet running across the floor," he told The Independent in 2012.
What happened to Michael Fagan?
After the two palace break-ins, Michael Fagan was only charged with the theft of wine. (At the time, trespassing was only a civil offense rather than a criminal one.) Shortly thereafter, Fagan received an psychiatric evaluation and spent three months in a psychiatric hospital.
Fagan did commit several more crimes later on. He attacked a Welsh police officer in 1984. Three years later, he was found guilty of indecent exposure. Then in 1997, Fagan, his wife, and their 20-year-old son were charged with conspiring to sell heroin. He consequently served four years in prison.
Where is Michael Fagan now?
The 70-year-old is still reportedly living in London. He did suffer from a heart attack and COVID-19 earlier this year, he told The Sun. He did not express any regrets for his palace excursions.
"People who have done marvelous things get to kneel in front of her to be honored," Fagan said, "but I actually sat on her bed and almost got to talk to her."
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