Armed police confront Britain's Prince Andrew in palace gardens

LONDON - Prince Andrew, the second-oldest son of Britain’s queen, was challenged by armed officers in the gardens of Buckingham Palace less than 48 hours after a break-in there, police and local reports said Sunday.

The 53-year-old was ordered to verify his identity at around 6 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET) Wednesday. It was not clear if the officers recognized the prince. 

The confrontation came after an intruder was able to scale a fence and get inside the palace on Monday night, before being arrested by police.

Prince Andrew, who married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 but later divorced her, had been in London attending an engagement as part of his unofficial role as a figurehead for British business interests overseas.

The Sunday Express newspaper, which broke the story, reported that the encounter put the prince “in danger of being shot dead by officers paid to protect him and his family.”

It said the officers had pointed their guns at the queen’s son, who is a former fighter pilot. However, a police statement said weapons had not been drawn during the encounter.

"On Wednesday, 4 September at approximately [6 p.m.] two uniformed officers approached a man in the gardens of Buckingham Palace to verify his identity,” London’s Metropolitan Police force said in a statement. "The man was satisfactorily identified. No weapons were drawn and no force was used."

They added, "We are grateful to The Duke for his understanding and have apologized for any inconvenience caused."

The prince, in a statement from Buckingham Palace, seemed to take the incident in stride.

"Police have a difficult job to do balancing security for the royal family and deterring intruders & sometimes they get it wrong. I'm grateful for their apology and look forward to a safe walk in the garden in the future," the release said.

Royal expert Robert Jobson said: "I do have some sympathy for the officer concerned because he would have been following a strict procedure.”

“It probably only lasted a few seconds, but the truth of it is they have to follow procedure even though Prince Andrew is very recognizable."

Two men were arrested over Monday’s break-in at the palace, described as one of the most serious security breaches there in about 30 years.

A police spokesman said one man was found in the palace in an area that is open to the public at about 10:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET) on Monday. He had scaled a fence to gain entry to the palace grounds.

He was arrested for burglary, trespass and criminal damage, while a second man was arrested outside the palace on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary. Both men were released on bail.