On Wednesday night, the police whose job it is to keep Buckingham Palace secure, were, understandably, feeling somewhat jittery.
Just forty-eight hours earlier, 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 forty-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 which are open to the paying public during August and September.
After scaling a 12ft fence, it is believed that the intruder, an East London DJ named Victor Miller, 37, entered Buck House by the tried and tested technique of kicking down a poorly secured external door.
He was caught after setting off burglar alarms in the palace.
Although news of the incident was kept out of the papers until Saturday, the members of the Royalty Protection Department, the 400-man specialized unit of the Metropolitan Police dedicated to protecting the royal family, knew all about the break-in, and as a consequence were on heightened alert.
There was then a theory circulating among the RPD that the man who broke into the palace may have hidden in the grounds of Buckingham Palace after going on a guided tour, so when cops patrolling the garden saw a middle-aged man strolling nonchantly towards them shortly after 6pm, they freaked.
Unfortunately, the Keystone-ish Cops didn’t spot that the man, far from being a criminally-minded member of the public who had been hiding in the rhodededendrons was actually one of the principals they are paid to protect – Prince Andrew.
The Sunday Express, which broke the story, claimed in their 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”. A “Mexican stand-off” apparently ensued before the police realized who Andrew was.
But the Metropolitan Police has since gone into damage limitation mode and was insisting yesterday that “no weapons were drawn and no force was used” during the incident. They apologized to Andrew.
They palace source quoted by The Express added: “From what we’ve all heard the Duke was absolutely livid and tore them off a strip.”
Yesterday, however, the Duke had apparently seen the funny side of the incident and issued a graceful acceptance of the police apology, saying: “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.”
The Times is reporting that the burglars may have been targeting "priceless jewels" on display to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.
"Among the items on display are the Coronation Necklace, made for Queen Victoria in 1858 and the Diamond Diadem made in 1820 for George IV and set with 1,333 diamonds, which the Queen is seen wearing on stamp designs,' the paper says, adding, "Buckingham Palace is also home to one of the finest art collections in the world. Paintings by artists including Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Claude Lorrain and Stubbs are hung alongside world-famous paintings by the likes of Canaletto. The palace also contains priceless porcelain, works by Fabergé, as well as furniture, sculpture, arms and armour, plus historic pieces still used for ceremonial occasions."
However, police told the Daily Mail that the prospective burglar had since been "passed into the care of mental health professionals following bail". They declined to comment further.