Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II confronted a potential assassination threat 40 years ago, prior to a trip to the United States, according to newly released FBI documents.
A 103-page cache was posted on the FBI Records website, The Vault, on Tuesday. The files cover preparations for several trips the late Queen made to the US, including a state tour of the West Coast with her husband, Prince Philip, in 1983.
One document appears to detail a tip collected about a month prior to that visit from the San Francisco Police Department regarding a phone call from “a man who claimed his daughter had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet”.
He continues: “This man also claimed that he was going to try to harm Queen Elizabeth and that he would do so either by dropping some things from the Golden Gate Bridge onto the British royal yacht when it sailed under it, or that he would try to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park.”
The same document notes that “the intention of the Secret Service is to close the lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge when the yacht approaches.” There is no mention of any precautions that may have been taken in the national park and the files do not reveal whether any arrests were made.
The files demonstrate the FBI’s excessive vigilance toward potential threats to the visiting British monarch, cooperation with the US Secret Service and concerns about the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its sympathizers during royal visits.
Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1979, using a bomb planted in his fishing boat. Three others were killed in the same explosion, including two children. Many of the Queen’s trips to the US have taken place amid unrest in Northern Ireland and documents reveal that the FBI has been watching closely as they prepared for royal visits over the years.
Prior to a private visit to Kentucky in 1989, one document notes that while the FBI was unaware of any specific threats to the Queen, “the potential for threats against the British monarchy always existed from the IRA”.
from the archive: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip visiting the Bay Area in 1983
Elsewhere in the files, a document preparing for the Queen’s state visit in 1991 lays out concerns about Irish groups organizing protests at several scheduled clashes, including a baseball game the monarch was to attend and an event at the White House. Citing information printed in the Philadelphia Irish newspaper titled The Irish Edition, the page read: “The article mentioned anti-British sentiment
The well publicized injustice against the Birmingham Six by the corrupt English judicial system and the recent surge of brutal murders of unarmed Irish Nationalists in the Six Counties by loyalist death squads is increasing as a result.
She added, “Although the article did not contain any threats against the president or the Queen, the remarks could be seen as inflammatory. The article stated that an Irish group had booked a large batch of tickets for the grandstands.”
Another document in the file, dated July 1976, mentioned an occasion when the Queen traveled across the Atlantic to help celebrate America’s Bicentennial, with stops including Philadelphia, Washington and New York.
During that flight, FBI documents reveal, the pilot was issued a summons to fly a small two-seater plane over Battery Park, carrying a sign reading “England, get out of Ireland”.
Editor’s note: The video above includes footage from the Queen’s visit to Yosemite National Park in 1983.