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Her Majesty The Queen and MI5

Published date: 17 Sep 2022

Picture of the Queen at Thames House in 2020

The Queen meeting staff on her last visit to Thames House in 2020

As the country mourns the death of Her Majesty The Queen, we reflect on the close relationship enjoyed between The Queen and MI5 during her long reign. 

As crown servants, our motto ‘Regnum Defende’ (Defence of the Realm) embodies the long history between the Royal Family and our organisation.

The Monarch is also represented by the crown at the top of the portcullis on our crest, which Her Majesty gave her approval for us to carry on our official flag in 1981.

Thames House

The Queen visited Thames House in 1992 and 2007 and her final visit to our headquarters was in February 2020, when she met a significant number of our staff from all grades, received a briefing on threats and visited our private museum. 

During an address to MI5 staff, The Queen said: “I have been impressed by the way that you have adapted to the changing threats of our nation… I am always struck by the remarkable resolve with which you carry out your vital role”.

A member of staff commented afterwards that “it was humbling to see her genuine interest in the nature of our work”.

HRH King Charles III has been patron of the Intelligence Services since 2011, and Prince William spent a week working alongside MI5 officers in 2019 as a continuation of the interest and support that the Royal Family has shown in our work.

MI5's work during Her Majesty’s reign


The Queen and Dame Stella Rimington shaking hands

Former Director General Dame Stella Rimington greeting The Queen in 1992

In the course of her reign, which began on 6 February 1952, the Queen oversaw 15 Directors General of MI5.

During that time, there was a significant shift in the types of threats faced by the country, and the ways in which MI5 responded. 

At the time of the Queen’s coronation, early in the Cold War years, the main focus of MI5’s work was countering Soviet espionage.  

Following the end of the Cold War, MI5’s priorities became the domestic terrorist threat from the IRA and state-sponsored threats from overseas. 

The Queen looking at museum display

The Queen visiting the MI5 Museum in Thames House with former Director General Sir Andrew Parker

Christopher Andrew, in his authorised history of MI5 ‘Defence of the Realm’ noted that a small explosion at a power station in Shetland in 1981, caused by the IRA, failed to derail The Queen’s opening of an oil terminal just yards away, and described Her Majesty as “characteristically unruffled by the incident”. 

We were privileged to benefit from The Queen’s private and public support and join the nation in this period of mourning. 


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Staff at MI5 have today joined people around the UK to remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives protecting this country and its allies.

Today, MI5 will be joining people around the UK to remember the service and sacrifice of all those that have defended our freedoms and protected our way of life.

The UK and US flags alongside each other in the entrance of Thames House

To pay our respects, MI5 is flying the UK and US flags together in the entrance of Thames House, our London HQ