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Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: What the man who broke into the Queen’s bedroom really wanted

Michael Fagan broke into the bedroom of Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1982. (Jonathan Banks/Shutterstock)
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The fifth episode in the new season of “The Crown” has a simple one-word title: “Fagan.”

Outside of England, the word Fagan calls to mind not much. Inside England, the word conjures up the scariest and dodgiest threat to a sitting monarch in modern history.

Fagan refers to Michael Fagan, a 32-year-old bloke who in 1982 not once but twice broke into Buckingham Palace and roamed the halls, drinking wine, sitting on thrones and admiring paintings.

On his second break-in, he tiptoed into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom, threw open the curtains and woke her up.

“Who are you?” the queen says on screen.

“I don’t want money, I don’t want anything,” Fagan tells her. “I just want to talk to you.”

On screen and in real life, Fagan is a down-on-his-luck painter whose wife and family left him. On screen, he wants to chat with the queen about the tough economic policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In real life, it was probably the drugs — specifically magic mushrooms — that made him do it.

“I forgot you’re only supposed to take a little handful,” he told the Independent, a British newspaper, in 2012. “Two years later, I was still coming down. I was high on mushrooms for a long, long time.”

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Season 4 of "The Crown" draws on events such as Princess Diana's marriage to Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II's relationship with Margaret Thatcher. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

The TV show paints their encounter as a rather long and fine chat, with Fagan remarking about how the palace could use a new paint job, but the real Fagan tells a different story.

“It was a double bed but a single room, definitely — she was sleeping in there on her own,” he told the Independent. “Her nightie was one of those Liberty prints, and it was down to her knees.” When she woke up, “she went past me and ran out of the room, her little bare feet running across the floor."

Fagan was quickly arrested.

In retelling his story, it seemed that the real highlight of his break-ins — an investigation found palace alarms either didn’t go off or were ignored — wasn’t his brief audience with the queen but rather the time he spent roaming her majesty’s hallways.

“I was loving it,” he told the Independent. “It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I tried one throne and was like, ‘This one’s too soft.’ ”

Following his arrest, Fagan spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. In later years, he was in and out of jail on drug and other charges. In one episode, he punched a police officer. He was also arrested for walking around without trousers.

Today, he lives in London and was recently seriously sickened by the coronavirus.

He has no regrets.

“It’s brought me adversity,” he told the Independent, “but I can laugh about it and that’s the main thing.”

And he still really thinks the queen is the bee’s knees.

“I hope she lives to be a hundred,” he said. “If she does, I’ll send her a hundredth-birthday telegram."

He has no plans to return to the queen’s bedroom.

“I think security is tightened up now,” he said.

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