"The Queen refuses to fly on helicopters... and she wishes to remain on her yacht as often as possible." These were the glorious instructions given to U.S. officials when Queen Elizabeth II was preparing to visit America's West Coast in February 1983. But while the Elizabeth was thinking about her comfort, the FBI was quietly concerned about a potential threat to her life. They'd received a tip-off about an alleged plot targeting the Queen, one the public is only now learning about thanks to a series of declassified documents.
"This entire communication is classified"
The alleged plot became public knowledge in mid-2023 when the FBI published a 103-page document related to Elizabeth. The formerly classified file includes details of a number of visits the late monarch made to the United States.
One detail in this cache of information caught everybody's attention. This report, like many of the documents in the file, is headed with the phrase, "This entire communication is classified." The memo then explained that an inspector from the San Francisco Police Department had contacted the U.S. Secret Service.
Focus fell on a bar for IRA sympathizers
The inspector told the Secret Service that there was an officer who was a "regular patron and well acquainted with [redacted] of the Dovre Club" in San Francisco. In 1983 the Dovre Club was owned by Paddy Nolan, a known supporter of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In fact, the FBI file makes it clear that the Dovre Club "has a popular reputation as a republican bar that is frequented by sympathizers with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)." That is significant because this period of Northern Irish history is known as the Troubles.
A (very brief) Troubles explainer
There is no way to explain the entire history of the Troubles in one paragraph... but we're going to give it a go anyway. It's important to understand who the main players in the conflict were, as this provides context for the FBI file.
The central disagreement of the Troubles was that the loyalists wanted to keep being part of the United Kingdom, while the republicans wanted independence. It would often turn into a violent conflict, with the loyalists calling the IRA's guerilla-warfare tactics nothing short of terrorism.
A distraught man had been in touch
The FBI file reported, "On the evening of Friday, February 4, 1983, [redacted] received a telephone call from a man who claimed that his daughter had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet." This date was just three weeks before the royals arrived in the U.S.
There is no concrete information given in the document about who the man was, or the identity of his daughter. We do know, though, that 17 people were killed by rubber bullets during the Troubles — and that almost half of them were children.