Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK


Spotting the Royal stalkers

Tourists flock to Windsor Castle - but are some mentally ill?

Police in Britain's Royal residences will have to tread a fine line to differentiate between visitors who display eccentric behaviour and those who could be dangerous stalkers, say psychologists and psychiatrists.

The vast majority of tourists behaving oddly, or making visit after visit to Buckingham Palace, or Balmoral and Windsor Castles are completely harmless, says consultant psychologist Dr Sidney Crown.

Their obsession is an extension of the "groupie" effect many people feel when they come close to celebrity.

[ image: A protestor fired a starting gun at Prince Charles during a tour of Australia]
A protestor fired a starting gun at Prince Charles during a tour of Australia
But in the midst of hundreds of eccentrics are some who are sufficiently mentally ill to pose a threat to royalty.

Dr Crown, whose area of expertise is in "stalking" behaviour, says that royal protection officers would have little chance of spotting those dangerous few.

He said: "Psychiatric training is not the right way. If there is somebody who is being more than a nuisance and you have them in a side room, only then, by talking to them, you can get to their motivation.

"You can't differentiate between these types and harmless eccentrics."

Magnet for mental health problems

The Royal Family has traditionally been a focus for people with mental problems.

Dr Crown says that, as the pinnacle of the British establishment, it is natural that many become fixated by them.

"When people are insane, they will often go for some figure like Jesus Christ, or someone like Prince Phillip or the Queen, depending on their age and sex."

Dr David Enoch, a senior consultant psychiatrist who has written a book on uncommon psychiatric syndromes such as stalking, said that half of stalkers were convinced that their victim was in love with them, despite having little or no contact with them.

He said: "There was a woman who used to go every afternoon, at 4.30pm to Buckingham Palace.

Secret love message

"When they adjusted the curtains inside at that time, as they did every day, she believed it was the King sending her a secret message of love."

This behaviour is known as de Clerambault's Syndrome, after the French psychiatrist who discovered it.

Dr Enoch said: "The difference now is that the palaces are open, so the people who once waited outside are now walking inside."

But this is not the only psychiatric threat the Royal Family faces.

Dangerous paranoia

"You can have paranoid personalities, which are very dangerous.

"They might write to the Queen with grievances against the country about land, or neighbours.

"If their claim is rejected, or isn't answered, they project their anger onto the Queen."

He thinks some training for police officers would be of use.

"They could have basic training in the kinds of conditions and the behaviour associated, but it's very difficult for the police.

"But if somebody was persistently around, they would have every right to be suspicious, and act on that."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

19 May 99 | Health
Cow cure for royal madness

07 May 99 | Health
'Scrap mental health murder inquiries'

26 Mar 99 | Health
Mental illness missed by courts

Internet Links

Institute of Psychiatry

Emergency Psychiatry

Stalking victims' resources

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99