The morning of July 9, 1982, saw one of the most bizarre footnotes of modern British history play out in the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace.
Dressed in a nightie, the monarch was safe and sound in her bed – nothing out of the ordinary. However, that all changed when a young man by the name of Michael Fagan decided to try and grab a private audience with Her Majesty.
Scaling the 14ft barbed-wire-topped wall of Buckingham Palace before climbing up a drainpipe, 32-year-old Fagan found himself hopping in through a window and eventually wandering into the Queen’s bedroom, where he approached her bed and shared a few brief words before she hurried away to alert security.
After Fagan’s break in, 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 did, however, spend three months in a psychiatric hospital following his actions.
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.
However, speaking to The Mirror in early November, he said the reason for going into the palace was to see “how the Queen lived”.
The incident has since become infamous, with Fagan currently enjoying a new wave of recognition after his exploits featured in the latest series of the hit Netflix show The Crown.
However, in a strange set of circumstances, watching the show has also reignited memories of the daring intruder’s exploits here for one man here in Wales.
In 1984, Martin Spain was training to be a police officer in Fishguard – the same year that Fagan found himself in Pembrokeshire in circumstances that remain unclear.
No one knows why Fagan came all the way from London to rural west Wales – it has been suggested that it was an attempt to escape his life in the city.
Whatever it was, however, the story unfolded with him walking into a cafe in the centre of Fishguard one morning, and leaving in handcuffs a short while later after assaulting a police officer.
“When the police were called, there was a bit of a scuffle and my colleague was assaulted,” said Martin, who is now a reverend and a reserve chaplain in the army, recalling his memories from the day and of the constable who scuffled with the palace intruder.
He added: “I can remember it happening, because I worked the same shift and we worked together. He was my duty constable.”
As an on-duty police officer, Martin was out and about in the community when he heard news of the assault over the radio, returning to Fishguard police station to find Fagan being put into a car and driven by officers to Haverfordwest.
Only 22 when it happened, the bizarre incident in the cafe that day is actually one of Martin’s earliest memories from his time with the police.
“I can remember there was a bit of teasing of the duty constable! He managed to do what the Metropolitan Police hadn’t done and catch him [Fagan] in the act,” laughed Martin.
“He wasn’t seriously injured… We were able to laugh about it then.”
He added: “We had no idea he was down here. It was only later, after he was arrested and taken to the police station, that we realised who he was.”
Looking into the incident today, there isn’t much information to be found save a few brief paragraphs in the newspapers and the odd mention here and there in history books.
In his book Queen Victoria’s Stalker, author Jan Bondeson describes how Fagan reportedly became angry after the owner of the Fishguard cafe asked the Londonder to turn his radio down, using strong language and “making observations about the Welsh national character”.
A scuffle broke out between Fagan and some locals who tried to evict him, one of whom, an off-duty police officer, was met with a fist to the eye from Fagan.
In the aftermath of the event, Fagan was given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
On August 14, 1984, the Daily Mirror reported: “Magistrates at Fishguard, south Wales, heard that he [Fagan] went to the town last month ‘to escape from the pressures of his life.'”
It continued: “But his notoriety over the Palace escapade two years ago caught up with him when he went to a pub. His lawyer told how customers recognised him and insisted on buying him drinks.
“He finally went to a cafe for a meal and got into a row with the owner.”
Today, as a self-confessed fan of The Crown, Martin has binge watched the latest series already.
“I knew the story obviously, but right at the end it came up that he’d been to Fishguard and I thought, ‘Oh now then!’” he said, expressing the surprise he felt seeing the event referenced on the massive Netflix hit.
“You think of these things over the years, you know? The cafe isn’t there any more, but when I pass it occasionally I think, ‘I remember Fagan going into there,” he said.
As well as the Fagan incident, Martin said that watching the series also triggered other memories for him, such as the visit of Prince Charles and Princess Diana to Pembrokeshire.
“I remember they had a car that was kept in the police station,” he recalled, adding that the chauffeur invited the police officers to sit inside the vehicle to try it out for themselves.
“He kept it highly polished back in the garage until they arrived.”
After his exploits in Fishguard and subsequent month in prison, Michael Fagan returned to London, where he has occasionally drifted back into the limelight over the years.
He was jailed for four years in 1997, and in 2012 his palace intrusion was adapted for an episode of the Sky Arts’ Playhouse Presents series starring Emma Thompson as the Queen.
But it is this most recent appearance in the fourth series of The Crown that has brought him back into the public consciousness yet again.
“I don’t really see it as a mistake,” he said, speaking to The Mirror in November about his palace break-in.
“I was enlightened by it.”