A former guardsman has told how he “nearly shot” Queen Elizabeth as she took a late-night walk around the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
The queen is said to occasionally suffer insomnia, and, to combat it, she will “sometimes put on a mac and walk around the palace grounds,” according to an anonymous ex-guardsman quoted by the Times of London’s Times Diary.
On one occasion, The Times reports, the guardsman was patroling inside the perimeter of the palace walls at 3 a.m. when he spotted a figure in the darkness.
Thinking that he had come across an intruder, he shouted: “Who’s that?”
To his surprise, it was the queen.
“Bloody hell, Your Majesty, I nearly shot you,” he blurted out.
“That’s quite all right,” the queen apparently replied. “Next time I’ll ring through beforehand so you don’t have to shoot me.”
It seems the queen was evidently a good deal more gracious than her son Andrew, who, in 2013, was also mistaken for an intruder and confronted by armed police as he walked in the vast gardens.
The Sunday Express, which broke that story, claimed in its report of the incident that the police pulled out their guns and ordered the prince to “put your hands up and get on the ground.”
The palace source quoted by the Express added: “From what we’ve all heard, the duke was absolutely livid and tore them off a strip.”
Andrew said: “The police have a difficult job to do balancing security for the royal family and deterring intruders, and sometimes they get it wrong. I am grateful for their apology and look forward to a safe walk in the garden in the future.”
Gurads were on red alert at the time, as just 48 hours before, in the most embarrassing security breach since a homeless drifter named Michael Fagan broke in to the queen’s bedroom and engaged her in a 40-minute midnight chat in 1982, an optimistic thief had been arrested in one of the Buckingham Palace state rooms, the vast and opulently furnished formal reception rooms that are open to the paying public during August and September.