A Washington priest talked his way last month into meals, drinks, and an overnight stay at the barracks of the British soldiers who protect Queen Elizabeth II, prompting an ongoing Army security review in the U.K.
British media reported last week an intruder claiming to be a priest gained entry April 27 to the Victoria Barracks of the Coldstream Guards, who protect the British monarchy at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
The intruder told soldiers he was friends with a unit chaplain, and had served in Iraq. He was soon invited for drinks and dinner in the Officers’ Mess, and then given a bed for the evening. The intruder aroused suspicions when he began telling stories about being an ejector-seat test pilot, British media reported.
After spending the night in the barracks and having breakfast the next morning, Army officers decided something wasn’t right, contacted local police, and escorted him off the Windsor Castle grounds.
U.K. media outlets said the intruder identified himself to soldiers as “Fr. Cruise.” But The Pillar identified on Thursday the man as Fr. David Kruse of Spokane, Washington.
“We believe he is the person who was in the Victoria Barracks. However, what he did was not a crime. He talked his way in, and the soldiers let him in,” Fr. Darrin Connall, vicar general of the Spokane diocese, told The Pillar.
It is not clear that Kruse knew he would cause a national security issue, but after the intrusion made global headlines, the British Army said his unauthorized lodging in a royal residence barrack was a serious problem.
Queen Elizabeth II, though often seen as a figurehead, is the head of state of a nuclear power, the United Kingdom.
“The Army takes this breach of security extremely seriously and it will be thoroughly investigated as a matter of priority,” a Ministry of Defense spokesperson said this month.
A local police spokesperson told the BBC that the intruder did not face charges and was not detained, citing the U.K.’s Mental Health Act.
Queen Elizabeth II was at Sandringham, her country house, while Kruse spent the night at the Windsor Castle barracks. Windsor Castle has been the primary residence of Queen Elizabeth II since 2011.
Kruse traveled to London in early April, after suggesting on social media he was a “chaplain” to the British royal family and using the hashtag #QueensConfessor in social media posts.
On April 13, the priest posted a letter on Instagram that requested permission from Spokane’s Bishop Thomas Daly to relocate an apostolic project he oversees, the Fatherhood Foundation, to London. He asked followers for prayers that he could “stay and work out of London.”
Kruse posted photos on Instagram from Windsor Castle Park on April 23 and 24. The U.K. Daily Mail reported that the intruder had gone into a local pub on April 25, claiming to be a friend of Prince Harry and requesting a free meal. In the days before he approached the barracks, he had apparently told some locals that he was assigned to a church in town.
But Kruse posted on LinkedIn last week a letter dated May 6, in which he requested to transfer his incardination from the Spokane diocese to the London Diocese of Westminster. The priest wrote that his charity, the Fatherhood Foundation, had “gained significant support and widespread following from members of The Royal Family.”
On Monday the priest tweeted that in London he’d had “mission success by God’s grace.”
Connall told The Pillar that the diocese was completely surprised by Kruse’s breech of the Windsor Castle barracks, and that the diocese had worked to obtain a court order which committed the priest to a local hospital for mental health evaluation and treatment.
“The man is not well,” the vicar general told The Pillar, adding that the diocese has not yet developed a clear course of action, as events have unfolded quickly in recent days.
“He does not have an assignment in the diocese, and will not, until he gets the help that he needs,” Connall said.
On May 11, Kruse posted on LinkedIn that he was back in Spokane, and being “detained” at a local hospital. The priest urged social media followers to share that information with contacts.
Kruse, who says he is an Iraq combat veteran and served in the U.S. Special Forces, was ordained in 2015, and has served in several parish assignments since that time.
He was in 2017 a parish administrator for a three-month stint, which sources have described as tumultuous, and was then a parochial vicar, before another two-year stint as a parish administrator, after which he was again assigned a parochial vicar, though was sometimes listed as a “priest-in-residence” at a Spokane parish.
At the time he left for London, Kruse was listed by his diocese as a Spokane parochial vicar and had resigned in late March from teaching at Chesterton Academy of Notre Dame, a recently opened area high school.
“He has had a number of assignments since he was ordained - I think six - and I would say that some of them have not gone that well,” Connall said.
But the priest has not faced charges of criminal or moral misconduct, the vicar general told The Pillar, adding that the Spokane diocese is now aiming to help the priest.
“We’re addressing this, and we are just praying and hoping he can get the help that he needs. Because he is fundamentally a good man,” the vicar general said.