One would expect, in this day and age, for Buckingham Palace to be the height of security, though as was demonstrated last week, this is far from the case. In case you didn’t see the news, a man was arrested in one of the State Rooms at the Palace last Monday after scaling a fence and allegedly kicking open a door. The mainstream media jumped straight in with the same chastisement about how security should be better. In this article, I aim to explain the elements of security for Buckingham Palace to help build a picture of where it went wrong.
On the surface, Palace security seems rather basic – the responsibility of securing the royal residence is split between the Metropolitan Police and the British Army. During the day, the Army presence is the most overt and widely-recognised, coming in the form of soldiers dressed in ceremonial uniform (pictured below). Although in this capacity they’re largely ceremonial, they still play a vital part in securing Buckingham Palace (believe it or not).
The Police provide a visible armed and unarmed presence in and around the palace – during the day the Police have the largest role in security.
Despite this, the break in last Monday happened during the late evening. By this time, security in the palace has taken on a different form. The ceremonial guards standing guard at the front of the palace during the day now dismount, return to the guardroom for the night and soldiers, this time dressed in non-ceremonial clothing, patrol the grounds of Buckingham Palace making sure all is well. At this time, the police presence becomes more withdrawn towards the Palace itself (as opposed to being around & outside the Palace during the day).
When The Queen is in residence at the Palace, a policeman sits outside her room all night and in the words of Brian Hoey in his book At Home With The Queen – is told to shoot anything that moves, that shouldn’t. We’re also told this policeman wears slippers instead of regulation boots so as not to wake The Queen. As a side note, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh do not share a bed, nor a room.
Inside the Palace are various other security measures such as CCTV cameras, movement sensors and a whole host of other secret security devices.
So the question remains. With all this, how on earth did an intruder manage to get into the Palace as this isn’t the first time it’s happened either.
One of the Armed officers who patrol around the palace during the day.
In 1982, Michael Fagan managed to break into the Palace and find his way to The Queen’s bedroom whilst she was in residence. To add insult to injury, there was no policeman on duty outside The Queen’s bedroom because they were changing shifts and the on duty officer had gone off to walk the corgis. Fagan was eventually stopped and arrested when a footman came up after a maid, who was bringing cigarettes to The Queen for Fagan, didn’t return for a while.
It was only chance that Fagan found The Queen’s bedroom, in the case of last week’s break in – we’re still not sure as to whether the state rooms were targeted for a burglary or if that too was chance.
The most stunning thing about last week’s entry is not only that similar incidents had happened before, but that with modern security techniques and equipment, this is still able to happen.
If you have an opinion on the break in at the Palace last week, enter your comment in the comments box below.