Picture this: a mysterious man dressed as a vicar shows up at Windsor Castle and joins the staff in the Officers Mess where he regales them with stories of his wartime history. Though it might sound like the set-up for the next BBC cozy mystery series, it actually happened on April 27, and according to Harper’s Bazaar‘s Omid Scobie† the local police had to step in to help remove the man. In the latest of a series of odd palace break-ins, an intruder breached the Victoria Barracks, about 270 yards away from Queen Elizabeth‘s apartment, by claiming to be a friend of the chaplain of the Coldstream Guards, an army regiment that protects the monarchy.
A source told the whole story to TalkTV, who first reported the incident. †[He] said his name was Father Cruise and claimed to be a friend of the battalion’s Padre, the Rev. Matt Coles. He was invited in and offered something to eat in the Officer’s Mess,” the source said.
The source also explained that a few special claims led the assembled officers to doubt his story. “Within a couple of hours, he was drinking with the officers in the bar and telling them stories of how he had served in Iraq,” the source continued. “He was telling lots of tall stories and the lads were enjoying his banter and having a few drinks. It was only later when he started talking about how he had worked as an ejector-seat test pilot and had some organs replaced that the chaps started to get suspicious.”
according to Harper’s Bazaar, the intruder eventually spent the night in the castle, but the queen was in Sandringham during the break-in and didn’t return until the next day. “The Army takes this breach of security extremely seriously, and it will be thoroughly investigated as a matter of priority,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman told the magazine. “This incident is now part of an ongoing investigation, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Though the most famous breach of palace security—depicted in the fourth season of *The Crown—*took place more than forty years ago, there seems to be a troubling increase in trespassers in the palace in recent years. Last month’s pretend priest marks the third report of an intruder on the queen’s Windsor estate over the last year. In May 2021, two intruders were caught jumping the fence near Prince Andrew’s home, Royal Lodge. In December, a 19-year-old man wielding a crossbow on the castle grounds was arrested on suspicion of breach or trespass of a protected site. He was caught while the Queen, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were celebrating Christmas inside of the castle.
The castle has been the queen’s primary residence since the beginning of the pandemic, but other Crown properties have faced recent security threats. In March 2021, a bomb squad was called to the Palace of Holyrood, one of the queen’s Scotland homes, after a suspicious package was left on the doorstep.
After the Christmas intruder, former head of the royal protection unit Dai Davies called for a broader review of security practices at Windsor. “Yet another intruder on the Windsor estate should set alarm bells ringing in the ears of anyone and everyone to do with royal protection,” he told the mirror at the time. “I would predict a major review will be needed after this latest incident, which is incredibly worrying, especially as this individual was apparently armed… Due to the sheer size of Windsor Castle several organizations will be involved, from royalty protection, Thames Valley and the Metropolitan police. The next time could always be far worse and that is a huge worry.”
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