Plot to kill Queen Elizabeth II during 1983 San Francisco visit revealed in FBI documents
The FBI has disclosed a potential threat to Queen Elizabeth II during her 1983 trip to the United States. The documents were released this week on the FBI’s records website. Elizabeth died last September after a 70-year reign.
The queen’s West Coast visit with her husband, Prince Philip, included a stop in San Francisco in March 1983. CBS San Francisco reported that one document appears to detail a tip gathered around a month before that visit from San Francisco police regarding a phone call from “a man who claimed that his daughter had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet.”
Four years earlier in 1979, IRA paramilitaries opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland killed Louis Mountbatten, the last colonial governor of India and an uncle of Philip, in a bomb attack.
According to the documents, the man said he was going to “attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth” by either dropping an object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the queen’s royal yacht or trying to kill her during a visit to Yosemite National Park. The documents said the Secret Service intended to close the bridge’s walkways as the yacht drew near.
The names of the San Francisco police officer who received the phone call and the caller were redacted in the documents, which did not indicate whether precautions were taken at Yosemite or whether any arrests were made. A March 7, 1983, memo indicated the queen completed the U.S. visit “without incident” and that “no further investigation is warranted.”
A separate file among the documents, dated 1989, pointed out that while the FBI was unaware of any specific threats against the queen, “the possibility of threats against the British monarchy is ever present from the Irish Republican Army.”
In 1970, suspected IRA sympathizers unsuccessfully attempted to derail Elizabeth’s train west of Sydney, while in 1981 the IRA tried to bomb her on a visit to Shetland, off the northeast coast of Scotland.
In the same year, a mentally disturbed teenager fired a single shot toward the queen’s car during a visit to New Zealand. Christopher Lewis fired the shot as she toured the South Island city of Dunedin.
The botched attempt was covered up by police at the time and only came to light in 2018 when New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service spy agency released documents following a media request.
Also in 1981, another teenager fired six blanks at Elizabeth during the monarch’s Trooping the Color birthday parade in central London.
The queen quickly calmed her startled horse and carried on while the teenager told soldiers who disarmed him he had “wanted to be famous.”
The following year, in one of the most famous security breaches of her reign, Michael Fagan managed to get into the queen’s bedroom and spent 10 minutes talking to her before she could raise the alarm.
The unemployed decorator had a few drinks and scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace, climbing up a drainpipe to enter the queen’s London residence.
He wandered into her bedroom and reportedly sat on the end of the bed for a chat with the perturbed monarch before a palace staffer lured him away with the promise of a shot of whisky.
The FBI documents detailed other security concerns involving the queen’s visits to various U.S. cities. When she attended a Baltimore Orioles game with President George H.W. Bush in May 1991, several dozen demonstrators in the park chanted slogans condemning Britain’s policy in Northern Ireland.
On September 8, 2022, after more than 70 years on the British throne, Elizabeth died at Balmoral Castle, her official residence in Scotland. She was 96.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.