Newly released but heavily redacted FBI files reveal that Irish Republican Army members or sympathizers had plans to try to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to California with Prince Philip in 1983.
A Freedom of Information Act request has led to the publishing of a trove of documents about the queen's visits to the U.S., and in particular these include previously undisclosed details about her visit to San Francisco and other parts of California in March 1993.
As the New York Times reports, the local assassination plot centered on the Dovre Club, the still extant Irish pub in the Mission District, which at the time was said to be "a gathering place for sympathizers of the Irish Republican Army." The plot was allegedly shared with a San Francisco Police Department officer who frequented the bar, via a February 1983 phone call from a man whose name appears to have been redacted from the documents.
The man told the officer that his daughter had been killed by a rubber bullet in Northern Ireland, and said that there was a plan to assassinate the queen, either by "dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia" when it passed underneath, or killing her during a planned visit to Yosemite National Park.
The FBI document notes that "it is the intention of the Secret Service to close the walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge when the yacht nears."
The queen and Prince Philip ended up flying into San Francisco instead of sailing due to inclement weather — the yacht followed behind and they later had a dinner onboard with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan while docked in San Francisco Bay. The dinner, as SFist noted following the queen's passing in September, was a celebration of the Reagans' 31st wedding anniversary.
While the Troubles were raging back in Ireland, Queen Elizabeth's visit was met with multiple protests, as were some subsequent visits. In San Francisco, the Chronicle reported that there were 7,000 pro-Irish demonstrators who gathered outside the state dinner that was held at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. "Firebrand Warren Hinckle led the charge," the Chronicle said. "But the protests, like the miserably wet weather, rolled off the back of the irrepressible queen who withstood the populous bowing before her in good cheer while her acerbic husband Prince Philip kept his potshots to a minimum."
During a performance event that greeted the queen at the then-recently-opened Davies Symphony Symphony Hall, one protester seated in the orchestra section, Irish Northern Aid leader Seamus Gibney, stood up and screamed, "Stop that torture!" And he was subsequently arrested.
The new FBI revelations also include details about a protest during a 1991 visit by the queen to the U.S. that sounds it like it never fully took shape. As CBS News reports, an item appeared ahead of that visit in the Philadelphia Irish newspaper titled Irish Edition, regarding a planned protest at a Baltimore Orioles game that the queen was scheduled to attend with President George H.W. Bush. A group of protesters had reportedly bought up a large block of tickets to the game, though the article didn't contain any threats to the queen.
Per the FBI, "The article stated anti-British feelings are running high as a result of well publicized injustices inflicted on the Birmingham Six by the corrupt English judicial system and the recent rash of brutal murders of unarmed Irish nationalists in the six counties by loyalist death squads."
Coverage of the queen's visit to the Orioles game appeared in the May 16, 1991 edition of the Times, and there is no mention of any protest in the stands.
As thousands of baseball fans roared their approval, Queen Elizabeth II strode onto the field at Memorial Stadium this evening, accompanied by President and Mrs. Bush, for a few minutes of queenly greeting before a Baltimore Orioles game...
After the Queen greeted the players, she was expected to leave. But the Queen, the Prince and the President and Mrs. Bush surprised everyone by walking into the foul territory near the first base line. The Queen, wearing a wine-and-black print dress with a pin, turned and waved, and the crowd burst into cheers and applause.
The party sat in the glass-fronted box reserved for the owner of the Orioles, Eli S. Jacobs. Among others in the box were Fay Vincent, the Baseball Commissioner; Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynn; Gov. William Donald Schaefer of Maryland; John H. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, and Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary. Behind them were Secret Service agents.
Top image: President Reagan laughs following a joke by Queen Elizabeth II, who commented on the lousy California weather she has experienced since her arrival to the States. The British Queen is delivering a brief address during a state dinner held at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)