You must admit that there was something altogether British about The Royal Intrusion.
Her Majesty's forces had just finished lobbing computerized missiles at the enemy in the Falklands. But in London, a single commoner with the Dickensian name of Fagan scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace and clambered up the drainpipe, through the window and into Her Majesty's bedroom.
Talk about your Masterpiece Theatre.
The queen, playing her part, was nothing if not regal. She woke up to see a barefoot, T-shirted and blue-jeaned visitor holding a broken ashtray, and dripping blood on her bedsheets. Dripping blood is not generally done in Buckingham Palace. The queen's sheets are not, one may presume, wash and wear.
The queen, according to British reports, calmly offered 31-year-old Michael Fagan a glass of whiskey, chatted with him for 10 minutes or so and then rang for help on the pretense of procuring him a cigarette. She remained, of course, "unruffled by her ordeal."
The intruder also had a bit of Britain in his role. He didn't want to harm his queen. According to various and sometimes conflicting newspaper reports, he'd broken into the palace at least once before. In England, it seems, the crazy people want to talk to their leaders, while in America they want to shoot them.
To top the whole thing off, there was the home secretary, William Whitelaw, who gave new meaning to the expression "British understatement." He described the palace security as "seriously flawed."
The only one who blew her British cool was the housekeeper, who, typecast, blurted out, "Bloody hell, ma'am, what's he doing here?"
Frankly, I learned a lot from the royal intrusion caper. I learned, for example, that Elizabeth, unlike Nancy, does not have a teeny-weeny gun. I learned that Elizabeth and Philip have separate bedrooms. I learned that the queen keeps whiskey in her cabinet.
But what I want to know, since they all are safe and sound, is what on earth the queen and her subject--Elizabeth and Michael--talked about for 10 minutes.
I suppose the queen did all right. British royalty is nothing if not polished in the art of small talk with strangers. It is, after all, the only language they are allowed to speak in public.
In England, politics, foreign affairs and personal chitchat are all forbidden tongues. The queen, who inherits her job, is never expected to explain to a Barbara Walters how long she and Phil have been sleeping apart.
The royal family is, instead, educated in advanced chitchat for ribbon cuttings, Ascot outings and hospital tours. The queen speaks the way she dresses, with hats over her own ideas.
While there is no protocol for what to say to a subject you find sitting on your bed with a broken ashtray and a bloody hand at three in the morning, I suspect she could have improvised.
One report says she chatted about her family, but surely she could have discussed horses with him, too.
But what about Michael Fagan, the same Michael who told his wife that he was going off to visit his girlfriend, a married woman with four children named Elizabeth Regina?
It's my impression that people who are that desperate to meet Someone are the ones most likely to turn dumb at the meeting. The groupie spends weeks hatching a plot to meet Mick Jagger, finally springs out of the hotel closet, and gasps, "Oh my gawd, you're Mick Jagger!" The citizen fantasizes about how he'd like to tell the president a thing or two, meets the man and stumbles, "Oh, yes, everything's fine, thank you, sir."
I can imagine Michael. He's evaded 43 soldiers, 24 police, 350 palace staff, dog patrols, surveillance cameras, and electronic listening devices. He's now at the edge of the queen's bed--THE QUEEN'S BED!--and unable to think of anything to say except that he wanted whiskey and a cigarette.
Fagan's father, the one who said Michael "would not hurt a fly," is willing to sell the story of Michael's life. They'll probably make a series out of it. But all I want is 10 minutes or so of dialogue. What did he and the queen actually talk about?