Conspiracy to assassinate the Queen in 1983 by a man seeking revenge for the murder of his daughter in Northern Ireland
The FBI has revealed a trove of classified documents relating to visits to the US by Queen Elizbeth II, revealing a possible assassination plot by Irish nationalist sympathizers.
The documents, which show authorities repeatedly bracing for threats from supporters of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), were revealed as a result of FOI requests filed after the Queen’s death last September.
The possible assassination threat was revealed the night before the late Queen was due to arrive in San Francisco in 1983, when a police officer alerted federal agents to a possible attack.
It involved an attempt to drop ‘an object’ from the Golden Gate Bridge as the royal yacht Britannia sailed underneath.
It is part of a massive release of more than 100 pages of documents related to the late monarch following Freedom of Information Acts sent to the FBI following her death last September.
What has been revealed by the FBI documents?
- An assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth II was thwarted the night before her arrival in the US in 1983;
- The FBI warned it would be “very difficult” to avoid events that would “embarrass” the Queen during the journey;
- There were also warnings of an attack by IRA sympathizers during a 1981 visit;
- The FBI assessed the IRA’s threat to the British royal family as ‘ever-present’.
Queen Elizabeth II toasts former US President Ronald Reagan at a banquet in San Francisco in 1983
The possible assassination threat was revealed the night before the late Queen was due to arrive in San Francisco in 1983
Queen Elizabeth II’s yacht Britannia passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on her 1983 trip to California
The police officer who tipped off authorities drank regularly at an Irish pub and told officers about an IRA sympathizer seeking revenge for his daughter’s death.
It followed a phone call he received in February from a man he knew through the pub, “who claimed his daughter had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet.”
This call came about a month before then-President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan received the 57-year-old Queen and Prince Philip in California.
According to official documents, the man told the officer that he intended to “harm” the late queen by either dropping “an object” from the Golden Gate Bridge or otherwise killing her while visiting Yosemite National Park.
The memo on the assassination attempt reads: “This man additionally claimed that he would attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth by dropping an object from the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia as it passes below, or would attempt to to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park.”
According to the documents, the man in question had previously been involved in police investigations. He was described as being ‘generally co-operative, although he makes no secret of his sympathy for the IRA’ [sic].
The documents also show that prior to the visit, FBI agents warned, “It will be very difficult to anticipate and prevent incidents that could embarrass the Queen or the President.”
While arguably the biggest threat, it wasn’t the first time the FBI had issued warnings about potential attacks on Her Majesty.
Two years earlier, the FBI warned of a “potential attack” against Elizabeth II when she visited American cities with strong Irish ties, including Boston and New York.
Another 1989 document stated: ‘The possibility of threats against the British monarchy is ever present from the Irish Republican Army.’
It continued: “Boston and New York are requested to remain alert to any threats against Queen Elizabeth II by immediately notifying IRA members and Louisville.”
The police officer who tipped off authorities regularly drank at an Irish pub and told officers about an IRA sympathizer seeking revenge for his daughter’s death
Queen Elizabeth II (right) and Prince Philip (second from left) pictured in Yosemite National Park in 1983, the second location mentioned by the sympathizer as a possible murder site
Queen Elizabeth II visits the Hewlett Packard factory in California on March 3, 1983
Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to the Institute of Oceanography in San Diego in 1983
The Queen arrives in Santa Barbara, California in 1983
The documents also show that prior to the 1983 visit, FBI agents warned, “It will be very difficult to anticipate and prevent incidents that could embarrass the Queen or the President.”
The 1983 plot was far from the only assassination plan that survived the Queen (second from left, pictured in California in 1983)
The would-be assassin planned to drop ‘an object’ off the Golden Gate Bridge as Queen Elizabeth’s craft passed underneath
And in 1976, a pilot in New York was called in by police to stop him from flying an “England, Get out of Ireland” banner while Elizabeth II was in town.
The frequent concerns of US authorities and the royal family themselves were far from unfounded – in 1979, Elizabeth II’s second cousin, Lord Mountbatten, was famously murdered in an IRA bombing.
He and three others died after his fishing vessel was filled with explosives that later detonated.
The other victims were Mountbatten’s grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, crew member Paul Maxwell and Nicholas’s paternal grandmother Doreen, widowed Lady Brabourne.
There had also been previous assassination attempts against the Queen, making the IRA threat even more powerful.
In 1981, a New Zealand teenager pointed and fired a gun at Her Majesty as she got out of a car.
Christopher John Lewis fired a rifle, which missed, during the Queen’s tour of the country. But he soon became obsessed with the idea of wiping out the royal family.
Two years later, he attempted to overpower guards at a psychiatric hospital where he was being held to kill Prince Charles, who was in New Zealand with Princess Diana and Prince William.
Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by an IRA plot that killed him and three others in 1979
Lord Mountbatten was killed after explosives were detonated on his boat (photo, stock image)
In the same year, an anti-royal extremist shot the Queen six times with blanks during the Trooping of the Colour.
She again emerged unscathed from the attempt, carried out by 17-year-old Marcus Sarjeant.
He was later sentenced to five years in prison for terrorist offences, but only served three – during which time he wrote to Elizabeth II and apologized for his actions.
And in 1970 a plot was discovered in Australia after the train she and Prince Philip were traveling in hit a block on the tracks.
Fortunately, the driver noticed the block and slowed down enough that the train did not derail, but former detective Cliff McHardy said in 2009 that his investigation had concluded that the block was placed on purpose.
Had the driver not seen the block, the train could have derailed, sending the royal couple into a deep embankment below.