The late Queen Elizabeth II faced a potential assassination threat from the IRA during a 1983 visit to the US, newly released FBI documents show.
The document, available on the FBI's online vault, outlines what appears to be intelligence provided to federal agents about a threat to the queen's life in California 40 years ago.
The Queen and her husband Prince Philip made an official visit to the US in February and March 1983.
They show how the FBI, which helped secure the monarch's safety during her visits, worried about IRA (Irish Republican Army) threats.
According to the file, an officer who frequented an Irish pub in San Francisco warned federal agents about a call from a man he had met at the venue.
The officer said the man told him he was seeking revenge for his daughter who "had been killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet".
It adds: "This man additionally claimed that he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia when it sails underneath or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park."
The release, which comes on the foot of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by NBC News and other media in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death last September, shows concerns about IRA sympathizers in the US ahead of Queen Elizabeth's visits.
Queen Elizabeth in New York City, 1976
In July 1976, Queen Elizabeth II visited New York City to mark America's bicentennial celebrations. One document in the FBI's release, dated July 13, 1976, noted that while there were no arrests made in NYC during the royal visit, one person, whose name was redacted, was issued a summons for “flying over the Battery Park area in a Super-piper Cub carrying a sign which stated ‘England, Get Out of Ireland.'"
Queen Elizabeth in California, 1983
Ahead of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's visit to the US in February and March 1983, FBI memos showed communications concerning Irish Northern Aid (NORAID).
A February 1983 memo ahead of the royal visit said: “The other primary protest group will be one organized by Irish Northern Aid (NORAID). [Redacted] is acting as [redcated] for the NORAID protest.
“In an interview with the San Francisco Police Department, [redacted] pledged to have demonstrators present at every stop that Queen Elizabeth makes.
“He also indicated he was toying with the idea of having a boat greet the Yacht Britannia when it sails under the Golden Gate Bridge.
“On the night of the state dinner, [redacted] is proposing to have a soup line with free beer to illustrate the contrast with the elegance of the State Dinner.
“In comments published in the February 4, 1983, San Francisco Chronicle, [redacted] claims that he hopes for a crowd of demonstrators numbering between fifteen and thirty thousand.
“[Redacted] has made continual reference to certain ‘surprises’ in store for the visitors which could be potentially embarrassing and draw great media attention.
“The previous NORAID demonstrations against visiting royalty in San Francisco have included eye-catching stunts of this type.
“San Francisco has made an effort to increase coverage in the Irish community, and assets including [redacted] have all reported that the opportunity to demonstrate against the Queen will be hard for most Irish to pass up, however, all suggested that these activities will be non-violent.
“These same assets added that if NORAID goes ahead with its free-beer giveaway, that this could add a dangerous dimension to the events planned.”
Another February 1983 memo said: “SA [redacted] US Secret Service (USSS), San Francisco advised on February 9, 1983, that Inspector [redacted] San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), advised he, [redacted] had been contacted by Officer [redacted] of the police department.
“[Redacted] is a regular patron and well acquainted with [redacted] of the Dovre Club, 3541 18th Street, San Francisco. (The Dovre Club has a popular reputation as a ‘Republican bar’ that is frequented by sympathizers with the Provisional Irish Republican Army [PIRA].)
“Officer [redacted] claimed that [redacted] told [redacted] that 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 man additionally claimed that the was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Royal Yacht Britannia when it sails underneath or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park.
"(San Francisco notes that it is the intention of Secret Service to close to walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge when the Yacht nears.)
“SA [redacted] advised that he and inspector [redacted] will reinterview Officer [redacted] on the morning of February 10, 1983, to clarify details regarding the alleged threat and will then probably contact [redacted]. San Francisco notes that [redacted] has previously interviewed in PIRA cases and has been generally cooperative, although he makes no secret of his sympathies for the IRA.”
Queen Elizabeth in Kentucky, 1989
Queen Elizabeth II visited Kentucky several times throughout her life, including in May 1989. A memo dated April 25, 1989, read: “During a previous visit by the Queen, several anonymous threatening telephone calls were received at [redacted] and by local police.
“There are no known activists or sympathizers of the Provisional Irish Republican Army operating in Lousivlle’s territory.”
Referencing the April 25 memo, a subsequent memo on May 13, 1989, said: “While FBIHQ is unaware of any specific threats against the Queen, the possibility of threats against the British monarchy is everpresent from the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
“Boston and New York are requested to remain alert for any threats against Queen Elizabeth II on the part of IRA members and immediately furnish same to Louisville.
“FBIHQ has established liaison with United States Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and will provide Louisville with any pertinent information received from that agency.”
Queen Elizabeth in Maryland, 1991
Ahead of the Queen's visit to Baltimore, Maryland in May 1991, where she attended a baseball game with President George HW Bush, a memo dated April 25, 1991, said: “From a review of a letter to the editor printed in the Philadelphia Irish newspaper titled, 'Irish Edition,' and contact with a Baltimore USS, Irish groups are planning to protest Queen Elizabeth II’s attendance at the baseball game and a White House event (dates unknown.)
“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 loyalists death squads.
“Though the article contained no threats against the President or the Queen, the statements could be viewed as inflammatory. The article stated that an Irish group had reserved a large block of grand stand tickets.
“US Secret Service advised their contacts with the local law enforcement agencies have produced no information re possible threats being made against the Queen and Prince.”
* Originally published in May 2023.