Entertainment

Meet the Real Life Man Who Broke into Queen Elizabeth's Bedroom on 'The Crown'

Yes, the incident covered in 'The Crown' Season 4, Episode 5 really did happen.

the crown
Netflix

Midway through the fourth season of The Crown, creator Peter Morgan diverts his attention from the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace to show how the rest of England was faring during Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister. Though you could have devoted an entire series to the rampant unemployment and injustices that piled up in her 11 years in office, The Crown is far more interested in palace intrigue. In order to weave these two threads together, Morgan and the episode's co-writer Jonathan Wilson take a shocking incident from Queen Elizabeth II's reign and mythologize it. This is to say that, yes, a man named Michael Fagan did break into the Queen's bedroom in 1982. But while The Crown uses the story to dramatize the economic desperation of the Thatcher era, the real-life intentions of Fagan are a bit more nebulous, even to Fagan himself. 

The real Michael Fagan, played on screen by Tom Brooke, is very much alive, which means he has made his issues with the episode well known. He has said in interviews with The Sun and The Guardian that he is displeased with the casting, arguing the actor had "no charisma" and was "totally charmless." He said that he did not actually ask the Queen for a cigarette because "that would have been cheeky and disrespectful," and that they didn't actually discuss Margaret Thatcher. Rather, the Queen immediately went to get a footman, who offered Fagan a drink of whiskey. There are other details from his accounts over the years that contradict The Crown. According to Fagan, during his first visit to the palace he didn't drink any of the monarchy's fancy wine, but rather a "cheap Californian" from Charles' room. In the episode, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip laugh at the reported theft of a ÂŁ6 bottle of wine.

michael fagan
R. Brigden/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Perhaps the element of his story that contradicts the show's interpretation of his visit the most is the reason why he broke in. Fagan maintains that he doesn't really know the motivations behind his trespassing, but assumes it might have something to do with the magic mushrooms he took. He told The Independent back in 2012 that he had taken a bunch five months before the incident.

"I forgot you're only supposed to take a little handful," he said. "Two years later I was still coming down. I was high on mushrooms for a long, long time." He was, as the series implies, dealing with the aftermath of a nasty split from his wife at the time, which could explain where he was psychologically. What his interviews don't frequently mention is the bleak economic state of the country at the time, and, according to Fagan, his heart-to-heart to the Queen about Thatcher never happened. 

Of course, Fagan isn't the most reliable narrator—note the use of psychedelics—and it's not that far-fetched to assume that Thatcher's policies did impact his life. Still, the self-serious portrayal of Fagan and his mission doesn't really align with the reality of the way he presents himself. The real-life Fagan seems more like he was looking for a laugh. At least, that's the way he tells it. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.