Recently released FBI files have revealed that Queen Elizabeth II faced a potential assassination threat during her visit to the United States in 1983. The documents shed light on the concerns of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the safety of the late Queen during her travels, particularly in relation to threats from the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The assassination threat was brought to the attention of the authorities by a police officer in San Francisco. The officer, who frequented an Irish pub, received a warning from a man he had met there. The man expressed his desire for revenge, claiming that his daughter had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet. The threat was made on February 4, 1983, just a month before Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, were scheduled to visit California.
According to the FBI files, the individual intended to harm Queen Elizabeth II by either dropping an object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Royal Yacht Britannia as it sailed beneath, or by attempting to kill her during her visit to Yosemite National Park. In response to the threat, the Secret Service planned to close the walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge when the yacht approached. The measures taken at Yosemite National Park remain unclear, but the visit proceeded as planned. The FBI did not disclose any information regarding arrests in connection with the threat.
The recently released cache of files, totaling 102 pages, was made available on the FBI’s information website, the Vault, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by various US media outlets. These documents provide insights into the heightened tensions and potential threats faced by Queen Elizabeth II during her state visits to the US, particularly against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The files also shed light on previous instances of potential threats against the British Monarchy. For instance, during the Queen’s visit to New York City in 1976 for America’s Bicentennial celebrations, a summons was issued to a pilot who flew a small plane over Battery Park carrying a sign that read, “England, Get out of Ireland.”
The FBI files demonstrate the agency’s ongoing vigilance and recognition of the real potential for threats against Queen Elizabeth II. This heightened security awareness was fueled by the tragic death of the Queen’s second cousin, Lord Mountbatten, who was killed in an IRA bombing off the coast of County Sligo, Republic of Ireland, in 1979.
Ahead of the Queen’s personal visit to Kentucky in 1989, an internal FBI memo emphasized the ever-present possibility of threats from the IRA against the British Monarchy. The memo requested that Boston and New York remain alert for any potential threats against Queen Elizabeth II and promptly relay the information to Louisville, Kentucky.
Throughout her life, Queen Elizabeth II had visited Kentucky multiple times to indulge in the state’s equestrian highlights, including the renowned Kentucky Derby.
In another instance, during a state visit in 1991, the Queen had plans to attend a Baltimore Orioles baseball game with President George H. Bush. The FBI alerted the Secret Service to the likelihood of protests by Irish groups at the stadium. It was discovered that one such group had reserved a large block of grandstand tickets for the game.
While the recently released FBI files shed light on specific instances, it is important to note that the Bureau has suggested the existence of additional records beyond those released, without specifying a timeline for their publication.
The revelation of these assassination threats against Queen Elizabeth II during her 1983 US visit underscores the complex security challenges faced by the British Monarchy and the ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of royal visits abroad.