Michael Fagan has many memories of the day he broke into the Queen’s bedroom, but the image of Her Majesty tucked up in bed is oddly not the most abiding.
What he remembers best is the drab state of her home – and how lonely she looked in the middle of her huge bedroom.
Fagan is the man who went from obscurity to global fame in 1982 when he broke into Buckingham Palace not once, but twice – the second time walking into the Queen’s bedroom.
This week, the spotlight is back on the retired painter and decorator as the world gorges on the new series of hit Netflix drama, The Crown.
Amid the raging controversy surrounding its portrayal of Charles and Di’s ill-fated nuptials, it is the episode focusing on Fagan’s bizarre security breach and meeting with the Queen – played by Olivia Colman – that is proving most extraordinary of all to viewers.
Have you got an incredible story to tell? Email [email protected]
Recalling the monarch’s bedroom, Fagan, 70, says: “It surprised me how shoddy it was.
“I wiped my hands on the curtains because I got some muck on my hands climbing the drainpipe and they were falling to pieces, these 20ft drapes.
“It was like The Addams Family house, just old and flaky.
“And the isolation. It was a big, big room with one little person in it.
What is your view? Have your say in the comments section
“I could just see this little bundle under the covers. I ended up feeling a bit sorry for her.
“The loneliness of being in that position. I cheered her up, I think!”
Over the years, when asked why he wanted to get inside the palace at all, Fagan has always struggled to give an answer.
At the time, his marriage was breaking down and he was worried about the custody of his six children – including two stepchildren.
Fagan admits he was in the process of having a breakdown.
But today, he says of his motivation: “I wanted to understand how she lived.”
In The Crown, Fagan is played by Tom Brooke although he doesn’t approve of the casting – “not good-looking enough”.
He is shown discussing Thatcher’s Britain with the monarch, who is clearly moved by the voice of the common man.
But Fagan says angrily: “It’s a work of fiction, it’s rude to the Queen.”
His first entry to the palace, in the summer of 1982, went unnoticed after he didn’t encounter a soul.
After scaling a high wall and drainpipe to get to a flat roof, Fagan found an open window in a maid’s bedroom and spent two-and-a-half hours inside the palace before leaving again.
“I was waiting for someone to come up to me so I could say I was there to see the Queen,” he explains.
“I just wanted a quiet discourse. I wasn’t that insane I had lost my manners.”
Instead, he spent most of his time looking at paintings.
“I looked at one for 25 minutes,” he says. “It was massive, I think it was a Bacchus.
“Drinking wine!” he chuckles.
Fagan giggles because of what he did next.
He found Prince Charles’ private secretary’s office and ended up helping himself to a bottle of wine.
But he insists he only opened it because he was thirsty.
Fagan explains: “That’s because I couldn’t find a tap. I wouldn’t have stolen the wine if I could have found a tap.”
He also corroborates the allegation that he couldn’t find a toilet, either – so was forced to pee in a tub containing food for the Queen’s famous Corgis.
He set off two alarms during his visit but nothing happened and it is thought that security officers simply assumed they were errors.
So within weeks, Fagan returned.
This time, he left his sandals on the roof to make a barefoot intrusion.
Bizarrely, the Palace returned the abandoned sandals to his mother when they were discovered on the roof two years later.
Fagan says that, as he entered the palace, he struggled to get through mesh put in place to keep pigeons out.
Knowing he would need to cut the mesh to get out, he says he smashed a glass ashtray inside the palace and put a shard in his pocket, cutting his hand.
A cleaner saw him but did nothing, perhaps thinking he was a workman.
So he continued to explore, walking past doors labelled with various Royals’ names, before opening one with nothing on it.
It was the Queen’s room.
By now, it was around 6am.
The police officer who had been guarding the door had clocked off and the valet who had taken his place was nowhere to be seen.
Fagan recalls of seeing the Queen in bed: “It looked too small to be the Queen’s, it wasn’t a four-poster.
“I drew back the curtains and she sat up.”
He struggles to recall the exact words they said but insists the exchange was less than a minute long.
“She said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and ‘Hang on one minute’, and walked out the room,” he remembers of the encounter.
“She didn’t look frightened, not really.
“I think she was quite brave. She scared me!
“Then the footman comes and says, ‘You look like you need a drink.’
“He took me out to the Queen’s pantry and poured me a whisky, Famous Grouse.
“So I had a drink both times I was in there,” he says, proudly.
Following the incident, Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw offered to resign and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apologised – but Fagan was not charged with trespass, as he got in through an open window.
He was later charged with stealing the wine he drank during his first break-in, but was acquitted.
He did spend three months in a psychiatric hospital and says of the experience: “It was like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest…but I survived it.
“I had a breakdown but I’m very blessed I came out the other side.”
His ‘visits’ to Buckingham Palace weren’t the only time Fagan was, in his own words, a “naughty boy”.
He was convicted of various offences, including conspiring to supply heroin in 1997.
He went to prison for four years.
The palace intrusions led to a further brush with fame, when he released a version of God Save the Queen with punk band the B*****k Brothers in 1983.
Today, he is recovering from a heart attack and Covid-19, and has a carer.
He insists he doesn’t talk about his infamous brush with royalty to his children, seven grandkids or two great-grandkids, saying with a shrug: “It was just a couple of days in my life.”
There are no mementoes of his escapades or of the Royal Family on the walls of his North London flat but neither does he regret what he did.
“I don’t really see it as a mistake,” he explains. “I was enlightened by it.”
-- to www.mirror.co.uk