The late Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell has been described as the royal’s « closest confidante » and her « keeper of secrets, » two descriptors that don’t quite take into account the blabby butler’s willingness to share her confidences at the drop of a black-and-white boater hat. (Despite the fact that she evidently took the secret of Burrell’s homosexuality to her grave.)
Burrell first became Queen Elizabeth II’s footman at the age of 18, moving to Highgrove in 1987 to tend to Prince Charles and Princess Diana (via The Telegraph). He subsequently joined Princess Diana in Kensington Palace after the royal marriage dissolved. Over the years, they reportedly developed quite a close relationship — to the point that Princess Diana would refer to Burrell as « her rock. » But ever since her untimely death in a 1997 car accident, he’s done a brisk business of serving up royal secrets. In 2002, he allegedly sold his « story » to British tabloid the Daily Mirror for somewhere between £250,000 and £500,000. He’s also written two dishy memoirs (A Royal Duty and The Way We Were: Remembering Diana), performed a one-man show spilling even more secrets, and divulged yet more gossip during an appearance on the reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
From alleged sexual liaisons to rumored late-night rendezvous with street prostitutes, these are the royally scandalous secrets shared by this particularly mouthy manservant.
She allegedly sought out prostitutes
Did Princess Diana have a soft spot for sex workers?
In November 2002, Paul Burrell was acquitted on charges that he swiped hundreds of Princess Diana’s belongings. The list of improbable items included a pepper grinder, an « Indiana Jones whip, » several photos (one signed « Diana »), a Prada Milano bag, and a Baywatch trading card autographed by David Hasselhoff to Prince William (via ABC News).
Following his acquittal, a voluminous, highly sensitive « statement of proof » from Burrell was leaked to the News of the World, as reported by The Telegraph. In an article inelegantly headlined « Di’s Whore-Able Secret, » the New York Post picked up one of its most scandalous claims: Burrell allegedly would escort Princess Diana to Paddington Station so she could hang out with prostitutes. In her book The Fortune Hunters, author Charlotte Hays claimed the ladies would politely chit-chat with Princess Diana outside her BMW: « Hi, Princess Di. How are you? » She would allegedly respond with something like, « I’m fine. Have you been busy? » According to Burrell, she even took out « two crisp fifty-pound notes » on occasion, saying, « Look, girls, have the night off on me. Go home to your children. »
Princess Diana allegedly tried placating Burrell on those wild nights, saying, « Oh, Paul, lighten up. Those girls need help. »
Princess Diana allegedly thought Prince Charles wanted her dead
A few hours before royal coroner Michael Burgess opened a formal inquest into the deaths of both Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed in January 2004, British tabloid the Daily Mirror published an explosive front-page story that alleged that Diana had suspected her ex-husband, Prince Charles, had wanted to kill her (via People).
As detailed in his memoir A Royal Duty, Paul Burrell claimed Princess Diana penned the troubling letter in October 1996, ten months before she was killed in a fatal car accident in Paris, France. The letter reportedly read, « My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury … to make the path clear for him to marry. » The BBC was quick to point out that there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up those claims (via People).
Princess Diana was reportedly on the brink of a breakdown when she wrote the letter, still suffering the emotional fallout from her divorce to Prince Charles, according to The Evening Standard. Acquaintances of Prince Charles put no stock in the report at all. « It is risible and deeply hurtful, » said one friend. « I am sure nobody really believes this preposterous claim. »
The Daily Star reported Burrell subsequently shared the physical letter during a 2017 interview on Australia’s Sunday Night, saying, « This particular letter is rather poignant because it is rather spooky thinking that she saw and prophesied her own death. »
Burrell would reportedly help Princess Diana induce vomiting
In the 2017 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, interview footage shot in 1992 and 1993 featured Princess Diana opening up about her fraught relationship with Prince Charles and revealing that she’d met him only 13 times before they were married (via The Independent). Shortly after learning of her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (now the Duchess of Cornwall), Princess Diana said she developed bulimia. « Everyone in the family knew about the bulimia, » she said, « and everyone blamed the bulimia for the failure of the marriage. » She felt like the eating disorder was a far more « discreet » way of hurting herself, unlike alcohol abuse.
In August 2017, mere days before the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, Paul Burrell appeared on the British show In Therapy, a sort of « celebrity counseling show, » according to the Mirror. During his appearance, Burrell claimed he was just « doing his duty » by enabling Princess Diana’s bulimia. « I’d get the chef to prepare a gallon of custard, » he told Mandy Saligari, the program’s psychologist. « And I’d buy yoghurt and lots of bananas and prepare the room to make sure she was comfortable. »
Acknowledging that he was setting the scene so Princess Diana could make herself sick, Burrell confessed, « I’d make sure there was a pile of towels. I was doing my duty. I’d have done anything for Diana. »
She’d reportedly buy pregnancy tests for a giggle
Shyness doesn’t preclude mischievousness; in fact, the traits sometimes go hand in hand. According to the Daily Mail, Princess Diana possessed a mercurial sense of humor that rather belied her « Shy Di » persona. (The Independent somewhat awkwardly hailed her a « shy rebel princess with a cause. ») In the ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, claimed Princess Diana sent them « the rudest cards » on the regular. Meanwhile, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, revealed his late mother’s motto: « You can be as naughty as you want, just don’t get caught. »
Unless, of course, you want to get caught. In a leaked 39-page police statement, former royal butler Paul Burrell claimed one of Princess Diana’s all-time favorite pranks was breezing into her local pharmacy and blithely purchasing home pregnancy tests.
« She would take great delight going to the counter in Boots, » Burrell said, « [and] picking up Predictor pregnancy kits or contraceptives » (via Daily Mail). At the time she was indulging in this performance art, the British tabloids were often aswirl with speculation that Diana was expecting her third child, with the Daily Express hungrily wondering in 1985 (via The Sun-Sentinel), « Is Princess Diana pregnant? »
Princess Diana was reportedly in a ‘secret’ second car crash
On Aug. 31, 1997, Diana died in a tragic car accident when her Mercedes S280 limousine crashed in France’s Pont de l’Alma tunnel. According to Burrell, she was also involved in another accident several years prior. He told his story in a February 2018 episode of Australia’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, during a « psychic reading » by « celebrity medium » John Edward (via the Mirror).
The tale was prompted by what sounds like a « cold reading » on Edward’s part, who told Burrell, « You had a friend who passed in a vehicle accident. » Burrell took the ballsy bait, replying, « Were there two car accidents? » Edward responded, « I’m feeling like there were two car accidents — almost like one was foreshadowing and one was tragic. »
A seemingly rattled Burrell exclaimed, « Yes! You couldn’t possibly know that. » Later in the episode, Burrell opened up about this alleged secret accident to Real Housewives of Melbourne star Jackie Gillies, who naively proclaimed Edward was « speaking to [Diana’s] spirit. » Burrell told her the late princess was « frightened that night, » adding, « She crashed her car. … She was in the middle of nowhere. »
When Princess Diana allegedly asked Burrell what to do in the aftermath of the accident, he told her to lock herself « in the ladies loo in the nearest hotel and I’ll come and get you. » Burrell claimed he retrieved Princess Diana from that restroom and then made arrangements to have her car towed.
She allegedly blamed herself for her mother’s absence
In February 2018, former royal butler Paul Burrell revealed yet another of Princess Diana’s purported secrets. While it’s well known that she had a highly strained relationship with her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, Burrell claimed that strain was at the root of some of Diana’s emotional problems. « [She] always thought it was her fault that mummy had left home, » he revealed on an episode of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! (via Daily Mail). Burrell also claimed Shand Kydd « wasn’t a very kind person. Not very motherly. »
Burrell asserted that Shand Kydd’s treatment of Princess Diana informed her eating disorder, saying that she « blamed herself » for her mother’s perpetual absence. « That’s where her anorexia started, » he said. « She suffered with it all her life. She punished herself. »
According to the Express, several viewers were displeased by Burrell’s statements, taking to social media to share their ire. « Good lord! He does like to come out with Diana related stuff every now and again to seem relevant, » wrote one. A fellow tweeter fumed, « Paul Burrell on his 100th reality show since Princess Di died. »
She allegedly snuck several paramours into Kensington Palace
Following her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996, Princess Diana reportedly took more than a few lovers — and she also went to Herculean lengths to keep these late-night trysts secret. According to former royal butler Paul Burrell, he’d have to find ways to « smuggle » Diana’s paramours into Kensington Palace, performing bold feats of romantic espionage that included hiding the men in the trunk of his car.
According to Burrell’s notorious, oddly well-spoken 39-page police statement, it sounds like the process teetered towards bedroom-farce territory. In order « to facilitate the arrangements in relation to the Princess’s male friends, » Burrell reportedly told officers guarding the gate that he was « going on an errand » and didn’t want to be stopped upon his return (via Daily Mail). « I would then flash my lights and they would open the barrier and let me in, » he claimed.
Upon returning to Kensington Palace with the secret lover in tow, Burrell said he wouldn’t make a formal announcement that he was with somebody, so police wouldn’t have a record. Princess Diana’s former lover Dr. Hasnat Khan reportedly stayed with her overnight on several occasions, and it was up to Burrell to sneak him out the following morning. He said Khan « would be left to sleep [in the palace] until later in the morning, at which point I would give him something to eat and then take him home. » A royally romantic racket.
Burrell claimed Dr. Khan was her soulmate
All this alleged sneakiness — the late-night prostitute visits, the lovers hidden in trunks — evidently turned Princess Diana into a master at evading press. Following her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996, she concealed her relationship with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan (pictured, left) for 18 months, according to Tina Brown’s book, The Diana Chronicles (via Vanity Fair). Meanwhile, her mouthy former butler Paul Burrell claimed Dr. Khan was the love of her life. « The Princess loved many of her male friends, » he said in a leaked statement to police, « but she was in love with Hasnat Khan » (via the Daily Mail).
In fact, Burrell claimed Diana asked a Roman Catholic priest if there was any way she could marry Dr. Khan privately. Burrell allegedly had to personally deliver the news to Diana « that this was not possible. » He recalled an evening when Princess Diana was celebrating her birthday « wearing sapphire and diamond earrings and look[ing] absolutely stunning. » He claimed she later ran upstairs, removed all her clothes, and stepped out to meet Dr. Khan wearing only a fur coat.
But Burrell said their relationship faced an insurmountable « stumbling block. » Dr. Khan allegedly « could not stand the pressure placed on him by the press in the outside world and he found that he had no protection. » As Tina Brown put it, he « couldn’t face the onslaught of becoming Di’s New Guy in every tabloid newspaper. » Their relationship ultimately dissolved in the summer of 1997.
Her alleged last words to her trusted confidant
During a March 2018 episode of Australia’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, butler Paul Burrell abruptly burst into tears as he opened up about Princess Diana’s death.
« I do have a dream of me sitting alone with the Princess crossed legged on the floor and she is wearing a blue dress, » he confessed (via the Express). « It’s the last dress I saw her in. » Burrell admitted he initially thought Diana was merely « playing a trick » and wasn’t really dead at all. He allegedly even « sat with her » after she died, trying to make sense of the scenario: « I held her hand and I said to her, ‘Wake up, wake up, you’re not really dead, are you? »
Those revelations came on the heels of a February 2018 episode that found Burrell sharing Diana’s alleged final words to him: « The last things she said to me were on the phone, » he revealed (via Yahoo!). « She was in Paris and the very last words were, ‘Promise me you will always be there.' » He reportedly replied, « I promise I will always be there. »
Following her death, Burrell came to an epiphany: It was his duty to take care of everything that Diana had left behind. « She couldn’t do that and she left me to do that, » he said, « so I had to take care of her world and the people in it. »
Evidently, this provision doesn’t include keeping her secrets.