It doesn’t quite rank up there with the prowler who made his way into the Queen’s bedroom for a late night chat, or the reporter who got a job serving the Queen breakfast.
But a British pop duo have pulled off a publicity coup by blagging their way past Buckingham Palace security to perform one of their songs—albeit in slightly modified form—while disguised as a Renaissance music ensemble.
There will inevitably be questions asked as to how security at the Palace has been so comprehensively breached once again.
Less than two years ago, an East London DJ entered Buck House after hours by the tried and tested technique of scaling a security fence and then kicking down a poorly secured external door.
This time, the break-in was a subtler affair. The two members of the band, Cat’s Eyes, who specialize in ethereal, floaty pop, have form in this department, having performed their debut gig at the Vatican after talking their way into St Peter’s Basilica.
This time, posing as members of a mock-Renaissance music band, they wangled their way into Buck House, got past security, and then performed to assembled guests in the Queen’s Gallery who were there for an art talk. They received ‘polite applause’ and then scarpered.
Classically trained vocalist Rachel Zeffira told music website The Quietus, “For the last 5 years, almost every time Cat’s Eyes has been interviewed, the journalist has brought up our Vatican performance and asked where we’ll go next. A few have actually said, ‘You’d have to go to Buckingham Palace to top that.’
“When they brought it up, it felt like a challenge. However, I knew we couldn’t scale the walls and I also knew, like the Vatican, we had zero chance of getting in as a band who want to play one of their songs.”
Fate intervened when an event organizer who knew that Zeffira was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts asked her if she knew of any charismatic art historians who could speak at a post-dinner art talk for an important visiting guest—at Buckingham Palace.
“I decided there would be a painting in the collection that could be linked to music somehow, and could then be made part of the talk. We would arrange one of our songs so that it would sound vaguely baroque or renaissance.”
Her musical partner Faris Badwan (better known as frontman of hip London band The Horrors) added, “There were quite a few obstacles and challenges. The whole thing was a lot harder to arrange than the Vatican performance.”
The Royal Collection, which runs the Queen’s gallery, adjacent to Buckingham Palace, confirmed to the Guardian that Cat’s Eyes did not have permission to perform.
In a statement it said: “The event was an evening view at the Queen’s gallery and shop… All attendees were subject to a security search on entry to the gallery. Musicians often perform at the gallery, and though permission had not been arranged prior to the event, the decision was made to facilitate the performance on this occasion.”
Although the gallery is run as a separate entity from the palace, the stunt inevitably raises questions about palace security.
There have been several high-profile breaches of royal security since 1982 when Michael Fagan was arrested in the Queen’s bedroom.
In 2003, Mirror reporter Ryan Parry got a job as a palace footman by using a false reference. A year later, a Fathers 4 Justice campaigner dressed as Batman staged a protest on the palace balcony.
In 2013, days after an attempted break-in, Prince Andrew was confronted at gunpoint by armed police as he took a stroll in the garden.
Asked if she was afraid of “royal retribution” for the stunt, vocalist Zeffira said, “I think I might have lost my chance for a damehood.”