About a month before Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the San Francisco Bay Area and Yosemite National Park in 1983 — dining with President Ronald Reagan and Joe Montana and enjoying a serenade from Tony Bennett — a San Francisco police officer received an ominous call from a man he met at a favorite Irish pub.
As the officer told the FBI, the man told him he wanted to avenge his daughter who “had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet,” according to newly released FBI documents.
In the call, dated Feb. 4, 1983, the man described how he would harm the British monarch during her California visit, the BBC and New York Times said, citing the FBI documents. The man said he would do this “either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Royal Yacht Britannia when it sails underneath, or (he) would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park,” the BBC reported.
Responding to the threat, the Secret Service made plans to close the walkway on the bridge as the yacht approached the bridge, the BBC said. The documents don’t say what measures were taken at Yosemite, nor do they say if anyone was arrested for the threat, the New York Times said.
Elizabeth II, who died in September, paid California a multi-day visit in 1983, which started in San Diego and included a tour of a Los Angeles film studio and a stop at Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara, the New York Times reported. The California trip came during a time of heightened tensions amid the 30-year sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.
Some 3,600 people were killed during the Troubles, during which the British government deployed its military to Protestant enclaves, which wanted the province to remain part of the U.K. The military often confronted groups, including the Irish Republican Army, that wanted to reunite Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland.
The threat to kill the queen in San Francisco came four years after her second cousin, Lord Mountbatten, was killed in an IRA bombing off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland. The pub where the San Francisco police officer encountered the queen’s would-be assassin was called the Dovre Club, which the FBI described as a gathering place for sympathizers of the IRA, the New York Times said.
After authorities quietly handled the assassination threat, the queen’s visit to California proceeded in celebratory fashion, leaving her to remember it as a “wonderful and enjoyable journey,” the New York Times reported. However, there were complications.
The plan for Elizabeth and Philip to sail into San Francisco Bay on Her Majesty’s Yacht the Britannia, as they had done in San Diego, had to be scrapped due to a storm and rough seas, so they arrived by plane a day early on March 3.
Th royal couple were welcomed with a concert at Davies Symphony Hall, CBS Bay Area reported. That’s where the tensions over Northern Ireland presented some issues. Pro-Irish demonstrators gathered outside the hall to protest. Inside, the events were briefly disrupted by an Irish American protester who shouted “stop the torture” before he was hustled out.
Seated with then-Mayor Diane Feinstein, the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh enjoyed a performance by the cast of “Beach Blanket Babylon” and listened to Tony Bennett sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” The duke could be seen singing along to Bennett’s classic ode.
Elizabeth donned her jewels and tiara for a glittery dinner at the M.H. de Young Museum, hosted by President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, CBS Bay Area said. The guest list included the Bay Area’s own royalty: Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Montana and Steve Jobs.
During the visit, the queen and Prince Philip also drove down the Peninsula to Palo Alto to visit the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard and to enjoy lunch with the president of Stanford University.
The royal couple capped off their visit to Northern California with a weekend in Yosemite National Park, staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel, the New York Times reported. They later returned to San Francisco, where she gave a dinner aboard the Britannia to celebrate the Reagans’ 31st wedding anniversary.