How the Queen saved Princess Diana’s butler from prison
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Channel 5’s 2021 documentary ‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’, which delves into life behind Palace walls, outlined how Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell ended up embroiled in a court case accused of stealing his former employer’s possessions. Mr Burrell was spotted by police at Kensington Palace in June 1998, 10 months after the death of the Princess of Wales. Journalist Susie Boniface told the documentary a police officer spotted Mr Burrell “pulling up at about 3:30 in the morning, loading up his car with a couple of evening dresses and a wooden box”.
Three years later, a police investigation was launched into the suspected sale of the Princess’ personal possessions in America.
The investigation led police to Mr Burrell’s house in Cheshire. Hundreds of Diana’s possessions were reportedly found in the loft after a 12-hour search of the property.
Royal expert Richard Kay claimed the police thought he was helping himself and stealing Diana’s possessions.
Mr Burrell had worked for the Queen for 10 years, before being asked by the Princess of Wales to come and work for her and Prince Charles at Highgrove House as their butler.
He recalled: “I was invited into her world. I became part of her world, and became closer and closer as the years went by.”
The Princess trusted him, and Ms Boniface claims she confided in him.
“She believed that Paul Burrell was one of the few people in the world who she could trust implicitly to do what she wanted,” claimed solicitor Mark Stephens CBE.
Mr Burrell became heavily involved in the sorting of Diana’s possessions after she died.
He could see others destroying things that, Mr Kay claimed, “should be preserved for William and Harry”.
So Mr Burrell reportedly began secretly protecting her possessions, and removing them from Kensington Palace. It was these items that police found in his home 3 years on.
He was formally charged with stealing 342 items, worth millions, of personal property.
Mr Burrell claimed: “The police told the Prince of Wales they had photographic evidence of me wearing Diana’s clothes. Of course, none of it was true.”
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The Princess’ relationship with Mr Burrell came under spotlight in court.
He claimed: “It’s impossible for anybody to have witnessed what happened.
“So because of that, I had no backup, no defence, none whatsoever. I was heading straight to prison.
“The police wanted my head on a spike. They wanted me in prison, because then I would never have been believed again.”
In his defence statement, Mr Burrell mentioned a private conversation with the Queen in which he had told her why he was removing Princess Diana’s possessions.
However, due to age-old Palace protocol, Mr Burrell was duty-bound to keep the details of this conversation secret.
Mr Burrell refused to disclose the details of the conversation, and said: “I’m not going to tell them how close I was to Her Majesty, I’m not going to tell them. That’s going to be my privilege.
“But I would have to pay the cost. And the price I would pay would be prison.”
After 11 days of the trial, the documentary narrator claims Mr Burrell was “thrown a lifeline by an unexpected source”.
The Queen, on her way to a church service, saw all the crowds outside the Old Bailey and had her memory “jogged”, according to Mr Stephens.
Her recollection of events undermined the trial, which subsequently collapsed.
Mr Burrell claimed that the Queen had “come through for him”.
An emotional Mr Burrell recalled: “Never before had a monarch intervened in a criminal court case, and she saved me. She saved me from what I thought was my fate.
“But I think she saved me because she knew me, because I was her boy for 11 years.”
Welling up, he continued: “I think she cared. I do, I think she cared.
“She cared about me and what would happen to my family.”
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