“Visiting Royal Bedrooms”

This article was written by Edwin McDowell and appeared in the July 16, 1982 edition of The New York Times.

BRITISH newspapers this week are filled with stories of the prowler who broke into Buckingham Palace, entered Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom and spent 10 minutes sitting on her bed. The episode sounds bizarre enough to have come from a novel and, in fact, in October two publishers, Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the United States and Jonathan Cape in Britain, plan publication of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, a children’s book about a Big Friendly Giant who kidnaps Sophie from her orphanage bed and deposits her in the Queen’s bedroom “with the Queen herself asleep in there behind the curtain not more than five yards away.”

Parliament is reportedly up in arms over the real-life security lapse that allowed Michael Fagan to shin up a drainpipe, climb through a palace window and enter the Queen’s bedroom undetected. In the fictional version, by the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory¬†and other well-known stories for children, the Queen “simply sat there staring wide-eyed and white-faced at the small girl who was perched on her windowsill in a nightie.” But after the Queen gets over her surprise and puts on “a pale pink dressing gown and slippers,” she talks at length with Sophie, then consents to chat from her bedroom window with the giant.

The Dahl work arrived at the publishers in November and was circulated only to the book clubs. So it is unlikely that Mr. Fagan knew of it, “unless he’s a reader for the equivalent of the Book-of-the-Month Club,” said Michael di Capua, editor in chief of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Otherwise, he said, “It’s an uncanny coincidence.”