— -- Nov. 18 —
Paul Burrell, the former butler who is at the center of recent revelations about Princess Diana and members of the royal household, says he never intended to reveal any of the secrets he accumulated in two decades of royal service.
"I do keep secrets. I'm very loyal … I have never spoken about intimate details of privacies which I've been trusted with. Never," he told 20/20's Elizabeth Vargas in an exclusive interview airing Monday night.
Burrell, who was a butler in Princess Diana's service from 1988 until her death in 1997, says that the cycle of revelations was set in motion when he was arrested in January 2001 for allegedly stealing more than 300 items from the princess and other members of the royal family.
"I lost control of my world when the police knocked on my door on that morning and they took over — and suddenly felt myself helpless to protect her, helpless to protect what I had kept safe for so long," he said.
Burrell, 44, was put on trial for the alleged theft last month, but the trial collapsed the day before he was due to testify, when Queen Elizabeth II said she remembered having a conversation with Burrell in December 1997, four months after Diana's death, in which he told her he was holding some of the princess's private possessions for safekeeping. (Burrell had been a footman for the queen before working for Princess Diana.) Prosecutors, who had maintained that Burrell told no one about taking the items, dropped the charges.
Says Document Was Leaked Without His Knowledge
The first wave of embarrassing disclosures about palace life came during the trial, when jurors heard, among other things, that Diana had kept an audiotape on which a male palace employee accused another male staff member of raping him. The judge had barred disclosure of other details about the princess because of concern for Diana's sons, the royal princes, according to Burrell.
But the most salacious reports about Princess Diana came after the trial when a British tabloid, the Sun, published information it said came from a statement Burrell made to police. The newspaper's Nov. 5 report said Burrell had admitted smuggling Diana's lovers into the princess's official residence, Kensington Palace, and said that she once went out to meet one of her lovers, cardiac surgeon Hasnant Khan, clad only in a fur coat and diamond and sapphire earrings. The Sun also quoted Burrell as saying Diana had begged Khan to marry her, and that she had sometimes given cash handouts to help prostitutes working on London's streets.
Burrell says the Sun's information did not come from a statement he gave to police, but from a private 64-page deposition intended only for the internal use of his defense lawyers. "In order to tell my counsel exactly how close, how intimate, my relationship was with the queen and the Princess of Wales, I had to write some things down," he said. His lawyers told the media the document was intended to gather everything Burrell knew that could be even peripherally relevant to the case, so they could decide what to use in his defense.
"Someone got a hold of it and leaked it to the media," Burrell said of the document, adding that it was not him. "That's what has fed this media frenzy."
Telling His Side of the Story
The same day as the Sun's report came out, a rival tabloid, the Daily Mirror, announced that it had agreed to serialize Burrell's memoirs. Burrell, who reportedly received as much as 400,000 pounds ($620,000) in the deal, told 20/20 he felt he had to tell his side of the story to set the record straight after the trial.
"I had to prove to everyone that I'm not a thief, I'm not a liar. I did actually tell the truth from the very beginning," he said, noting that the prosecution had presented its case at the trial but he had had no opportunity to respond.
Burrell said he accepted payment for his story because he needed to recoup the financial losses his family had suffered since his arrest. "I had to put back what had been taken away from us," he said, adding that there will be little left over once he has restored the family finances to where they were "before this whole nightmare happened."
"I am not selling the princess's secrets," he went on. "I promised that I would never tell certain things. There are so many things that will remain unsaid, and that's the way it should be."
In the Mirror series, Burrell said that Diana had never wanted a divorce from Charles, but the marriage could not withstand negative media coverage and outside interference. He also said there were tensions between the royal family and Diana's family after her death.
Acting as Diana's ‘Go-Between’
In the 20/20 interview, Burrell declined to confirm most of the details reported in the Sun, saying only, "Some things are true. Some things are not true."
He acknowledged, though, that he acted as an intermediary between Diana and her lovers. "It is true that I was a go-between and did things that were asked of me — sometimes beyond the call of duty," he said, admitting that he sometimes smuggled visitors into Kensington Palace under the noses of the police stationed at the entrance.
"I had to facilitate certain things," he said. "Certain things had to happen, and they could only happen through me. But I did them because that's my duty … I was very happy to do that. In a way, I needed to do that. I needed to be involved, and be part of it. It was part of my world, too. After all, toward the last few years of her life, I was spending every waking hour with her, from 7 in the morning or before, to bedtime. So I had to know everything about her. I had to be part of it."
Burrell denied that he is obsessed with Diana and her memory. "I don't think 'obsessed' is the right word," he said. "I think she'll always be with me in a certain way. You know when you lose someone close to you in your life you never forget them … they sort of create a hole in your heart when you lose them."
He acknowledges he needed to seek psychiatric help after the princess's death. He said it was hard to open up to the therapist at first, because he has always had problems trusting people, believing that they are trying to get at the secrets he knows about the royal family.
"There have always been people who wanted to get to me for the wrong reasons — always people who want to know more," he said. "This phenomenon will not go away. It will be here long after we're gone. … I put it on the same equation if I was Marilyn Monroe's butler in those days, they'd still be asking me questions. … They're saying to me, 'What was she really like? And what perfume did she like? And what did she do during the day?' I mean, I could sit here for hours and hours and hours and talk about things that happened. But I don't want to. I'm trying to move on."
Diana’s Mysterious ‘Soul Mate’
Burrell said he is sure that Diana found true love before her death. "I know that she found a soul mate. She did find a soul mate," he said.
He declined to say who it was, but said it was not Dodi Fayed, the playboy businessman who died in the car crash along with the princess. Burrell said the princess never told him she intended to share her life with Fayed.
The former butler said he believes that if Diana were alive today she would be married and living in America. He said that at the time of her death there were plans to move her household — including him and his family — to a beachfront house in Malibu, Calif.
"She had always had this idea of an idyllic home on the coast," he said, adding, "She loved America. She loved the American people. They're so warm, so forgiving. And of course, she'd always said, well, she wasn't a saint. And American people sort of forgive people much easier, and more readily, than they do in Britain."