Sept. 12, 2006 -- Paul Burrell's first book, "A Royal Duty," fueled worldwide speculation about the late Princess Diana.
In his new tell-all book, "The Way We Were," Diana's former butler and confidant reveals the princess only he knew.
Burrell throws open the gates to Kensington Palace and gives readers a tour of the princess' home, complete with previously unseen photographs.
He details Diana's Hollywood relationships and her sisterhood with Sarah Ferguson, and sheds light on the true nature of her romance with Dodi Al Fayed.
In stores today, "The Way We Were" offers a rare glimpse of Diana in her private world.
Read an excerpt from "The Way We Were" below:
The gold Yale key turned in the lock, and my stomachlurched as the back door of Kensington Palace opened.I stepped inside and walked forward, as the heavy black doorslammed behind me, sending an echo throughout the emptinessthat lay ahead. It was as dark and gloomy as ever in thatpart of the palace so I flicked the light switch. Nothing happened.The bulb must have blown, I thought.
Then I looked up to the ceiling and saw that the entire lightfixture had been ripped out, leaving only dangling wires. Iwalked on, my footsteps echoing, to what had been the engineroom of the 'home' I called KP, where tradesmen, staff anddeliverymen had once busied themselves. I was in the middle ofthe lobby, once filled with the buzz of the refrigerator, thewhirr of the ice-making machine, the swish of the dishwasher,the chatter of people coming and going. Now there was a void.The mail pigeon-holes were empty; black garbage bags, emptydrawers and chairs lay about, discarded. KP looked as if ithad been ransacked by thieves. Apartments 8 and 9 had beenreduced to a shell, there wasn't a single hook for my memories.
It was 2002, and I had gone back to the apartments ofDiana, Princess of Wales for the first time since I had left themin July 1998 when, even then, they were being emptied. Finefurniture was transferred to the Royal Collection. Jewellerywas returned to Buckingham Palace. As the family was entitledto do, Princes William and Harry and the Spencer family hadtaken some items, and the Crown Estates had reclaimed theproperty. On the day I moved out, 24 July 1998, the apartmentswere being stripped. It was too painful for me towitness. I wanted to leave with a mental picture of what hadbeen, dismissing the reality of what was taking place.In the ensuing four years I steered clear of the palace.I never imagined I'd ever see the day when I'd need to go back.
I didn't want to go back. But it became necessary to return'home' when Scotland Yard and the CPS charged me withtheft from the boss's estate – the system's response to my spontaneousprotection of her legacy. In preparation for my OldBailey trial, which ended in acquittal in 2002, I had to walkmy legal team through the palace to build up a picture of whatlife, and my role, had been like.
That day, accompanied by my barrister Lord Carlile, QC,and solicitor Andrew Shaw, I steeled myself for what I knewI would see – the dismantling of the princess's world had longbeen complete. But I was still unprepared for the devastatingscene of erasure and decay that confronted me when I walkedup the main staircase, then went from room to room. Eachhad been stripped with a disregard that said everything abouthow the princess had been treated in life.
Nothing had been respected. Workmen had moved in,ripping up carpets, tearing down the silk wall panels that haddecorated the drawing room and sitting room, leaving thedoors of fitted cupboards hanging off their hinges. Even plugsockets had been removed. There were horizontal gaps wherethe odd floorboard had been pulled up and left proppedagainst a wall. Newspapers were scattered on the floor. A bluemattress was propped against one wall. Junk lay everywhere.And it was dirty. It seemed that the place hadn't been cleanedin the four years since 1998. A layer of dust covered the oncepolished banisters, giant cobwebs were spun round grubbycornices, and the air was musty. A once pristine home wasnow as dark and unhealthy as Charles Dickens had depictedSatis House in Great Expectations.
Those with no reason to care about the princess's world, andthe devastation I saw, might have shrugged and said, "Well,she's dead. It's time to move on. Who cares?" But moving onshouldn't mean forgetting.
I could have cried as I walked round those rooms. It was astark illustration of how quickly some people had wanted toforget her, how eager some people were to remove everyvestige of her.
It also represented a lost opportunity. A potential museumof memories had been wrecked.
After Princess Margaret's death in 2002, the administrationof her home, Apartment 1A, was transferred to the care ofHistoric Royal Palaces so that part of her living quarters couldbe viewed for educational and exhibition purposes. Today,although the place has been stripped of its furniture, the publichas the chance to visualize Princess Margaret's life, and studythe photographs of her. Would it not have been possible to dothe same with Apartments 8 and 9 five years earlier?Also, when the Queen Mother died in 2002, the Prince ofWales ensured that there was a fitting tribute to his grandmother:he arranged for the World of Interiors magazine tophotograph the inside of her home to show how she had lived;to capture her way of life, her tastes and style, for posterity. Itwas published in October 2003.
That is why I've decided to share with you my photographs,taken inside Apartments 8 and 9.
I took them, with my own camera, in the weeks after theprincess's death, for purely sentimental reasons – to preservewhat had been a special place to me. They also catalogued theprecise location of her possessions, which was useful to me inmy role as guardian of her world.
Over the years, the photographs have been a comfort, andhave helped me remember details and moments that might haveblurred with time. Many people from around the world havewritten to me, or asked me face to face, what life was like withthe boss, how she lived, and what her inner sanctum reallylooked like. Well, the photographs in this book provide theanswer; you will enjoy a virtual tour of Apartments 8 and 9.They show the rooms as she left them.
Today, Apartment 9, which housed the princess's bedroom,bathroom, dressing room, wardrobe rooms and part of thenursery, provides accommodation for members of the Queen'shousehold. But Apartment 8 – the main staircase, sittingroom, drawing room, dining room, kitchen and my pantry –remains a shell. I hope my photographs recapture the spirit ofthis home and offer a vivid image of what life was like withthe boss. Her private rooms deserve to be remembered for thevibrancy, drama, laughter, tears and magic of a life lived tothe full. That is why, as butler to that residence, I'm openingthe doors to show you around. This is the way we were . . .She called the walled garden her 'little oasis', her place ofescape and solitude. There was only one key to the blackdoor set in the surrounding brickwork and, as the resident ofApartments 8 and 9, the princess had exclusive access, sharedwith me and the gardener. It was the only set of four wallsbehind which she found complete relaxation and sanctuary,with the sky as a roof.
Almost a decade since her death, my memories of thatgarden, and life at KP, are as vivid as ever. If I close my eyes,my mind evokes those special years of duty between 1993 and1997. Her garden was scented, with roses of all colours climbinghalf-way up the ten-foot-high walls. There was a floweringcherry, a pergola in one corner, a long, rectangular lawn witha wide border, a central oak in which squirrels nested, apotting shed and a dilapidated old greenhouse.
In summer, on blazing hot days, I knew the routine. I can seeher now, in a pair of shorts and a vest, and wearing her Versacesunglasses, almost skipping out of the front door, with a palebluewicker basket filled with correspondence, books, CDs, aWalkman, a low-factor Clarins suncream and her mobile phone.She never went anywhere without her phone.
Then she'd settle down with her hair tied back. When shewas relaxing, in the garden, in the sitting room before bedtimeor at breakfast, she scraped back her blonde hair with an elasticatedcloth band. She had several, in black, blue and purple.If the world remembers the princess for her signature hairstyle,I remember her for that band! Sometimes, as she talkedon the phone, that hairband would be wrapped round herfingers, and she'd toy with it, then put it back on her head.I never joined the boss in the garden. It was her privatetime. When that black door swung shut, she was alone, as shewanted to be. Often, she returned to KP with a bunch of rosesfor a vase on her desk. She never stayed out there long, maybean hour or two. She was too restless to keep still for longer thanthat. As much as she portrayed herself as a sun-worshipper,she was too impatient to lie immobile for long. The sun-bed,in half-hour bursts, was more her cup of tea.
If the garden was her sanctuary, Apartments 8 and 9 werethe home that was filled with the laughter of the young princesWilliam and Harry, but also the tears and sadness of the boss'swell-documented personal strife. The entrance was a set ofblack double doors, flanked by two giant wooden planters.
One day in early spring, I decided to fill them with rows ofhyacinths, like the ones at Windsor Castle planted round theQueen's private entrance, called the 'dog door', because HerMajesty used it when she walked her corgis. In my elevenyears' service as footman to the Queen – from 1976 to 1987 –the gardeners at Windsor planted row upon row of bluehyacinths, to flower around Easter time, and I was met by theirheavenly scent each time I was on corgi-walking duty – up toeight times a day. Those dogs never tired of walks! I supposeI planted the hyacinths because I thought that the scent wouldbe a lovely welcome for visitors to KP. Except one visitordidn't agree. When Prince Charles saw what I had done, hechastised me. He told me it was far too early to plant hyacinthsoutside. "It's such a waste, Paul!" he said.
And, of course, he was right. What the prince didn't knowabout plants and gardening could have been written on theback of his mother's head – on a British postage stamp. I hadwitnessed his skills in the garden many times during my serviceas butler to the Prince and Princess of Wales at Highgrove,from 1987 to 1993, so I knew he was talking sense, even if hismanner was somewhat brusque. Not that I was going to givehim the satisfaction of watching me dig the bulbs out. Instead,each night for the next month, I covered them up with an oldbed-sheet to protect them from the frost. I did it my way – afterall, it was the boss's home, not his any more. She loved thatscent, so maybe I'd got it right, after all.
From the front door of KP, visitors stepped out on to thegravel that surrounded an oval lawn, like a mini-roundabout,with a central flower-bed, overlooked by the first-floor diningroomwindows. The princess always drove her BMW in nosefirst. As soon as she was inside the house, I would nip outwith the car keys and turn it round so that it was ready to bedriven out the next time she needed it.
About two hundred yards ahead of the door there was ablock called the Upper Stables. Staff quarters filled the firstfloor and Princess Margaret's garage was underneath. To theleft, a group of cottages was used by senior members of theRoyal Household: Kent Cottage, Nottingham Cottage andWren Cottage. To the right, there was a dead end: a toweringbrick wall with a black door set in it, which led to the StateApartments and the Orangery. The princess used that gate tonip out into Kensington Palace Gardens for a walk, or to goRollerblading at around 8 a.m. when few people were around.
To reach it, she had to pass the door to Prince and PrincessMichael of Kent's apartments. I occasionally went in for chatswith the Portuguese housekeeper, Julia – it was like walkinginto a full-size doll's house, immaculate and chintzy. Whereasmy first impression on walking into Apartments 8 and 9 was ofsimple elegance: the walls down the narrow entrance corridor,with its barrelled ceiling, were painted primrose yellow and ledto an archway into the vestibule where there was a cloakroom.
The boss always stopped there on her way out. She wouldthrust her handbag into my hand and say: "Wait there – buthum or sing loudly!" Instead, I waited discreetly in the hallway.Across the vestibule, a doorway opened on to the mainstaircase, which climbed up then turned at a right angle to thefirst-floor landing and the boss's private rooms. From thatsame doorway, six steps dropped down to the right and thebutler's pantry. It was there that I often waited for the princessto arrive home, waited for the frosted-glass panes to rattle inthe door, those quick, light footsteps on the carpet, as shebounded up the stairs, rushing in like a whirlwind of energy.
Moments later the floorboards directly above me wouldcreak, indicating that she was moving between her dressingroom, bedroom and sitting room. Those old floorboards oftentold me her whereabouts and her mood: slow, unhurriedmovement meant she was relaxed; frantic pacing meant shewas in a rush or had taken a phone call that had upset her.The staircase was wide with a classical white balustradetopped with a varnished, bevelled-edged banister. White garlandmouldings fell down the walls from an intricate cornice, and agrandfather clock stood on one of the turns in the stairs. Onehigh window cast daylight over them. On the sill, the boss kept aSteuben crystal vase, a gift from US President Ronald Reaganand his wife Nancy on behalf of the American people, with ascene of the Pilgrim Fathers landing in America carved into it.Sadly, a housekeeper washed it in too hot water and it crackedfrom base to lip. It was replaced with a hand-blown Venetiancrystal lion.
Those stairs are a focal point for my memories. It was therethat she stood and did a twirl to show off a new dress oroutfit; there that I told her she had never looked so goodbefore she left on that ill-fated excursion with Dodi Al Fayed.It was also the spot from which she would shout, "Paul, areyou there?" In response, I would bolt up to the first floor, pasta stunning full-length portrait of her painted by NelsonShanks. It hung on the wall, adjacent to the grandfather clock,and showed a contemplative princess wearing a diaphanouswhite blouse, with a ruffed collar and cuffs, and an anklelengthblue taffeta skirt. Around her neck she wore QueenMary's emerald and diamond choker which the Queen hadgiven her as a wedding present in 1981. The boss felt it rathervain to have such a huge image of herself as a centrepiece onthe stairs – at least, she feared others would judge her as vain.I think, though, she was proud of it, even if she didn't let onthat she was to too many people. Instead, walking up thestairs with a friend or a visitor, she would ask what theythought of it and, before they had the chance to answer, add,"It looks like I'm about to jump off a bridge, doesn't it?" Thatwas her way of dealing with self-consciousness. Today, thatportrait takes pride of place on a wall at Althorp, the Spencerfamily home in Northamptonshire.
John Ward sketches also hung on the wall, favoured snapshotsfrom the Waleses' family history: William's christening inthe music room at Buckingham Palace, Harry's christening inSt George's Chapel, and the Prince and Princess of Wales'swedding day at St Paul's Cathedral. It was on those stairs,beneath those pictures, that we'd sit together, the boss on onestep, her butler on the one below, talking through a piece of correspondenceshe had received, or composing a letter of her own.As one of the princess's closest friends, Rosa Monckton,wrote in the Sunday Telegraph in November 2002, "WhenI was in Greece with Diana, we discussed Paul. She . . . toldme how he often helped her to write her letters, and theywould sit on the stairs together. 'What do you think, Rosa –the Princess and Her Butler?'"
I can picture the scene now: the boss sitting down, kneestogether, on the carpeted step, scribbling words and thoughtson her memo pad or revising a letter, scratching through a sentenceor phrase. As she thought, she'd suck the end of her pen.Then, she'd pass a note or a letter over my shoulder.Sometimes, she'd ring Richard Kay, the Daily Mail journalistand a trusted friend, for his opinion. He was her expert wordsmithand she called him 'Ricardo'.
I would sit with the princess for fifteen to twenty minutes:which was consistent with her short attention span, her hurriedlifestyle. Then she would dart back up the stairs, and I wouldreturn to the pantry.
The walls of the hall, vestibule and staircase were not alwaysyellow. In fact, they were only that colour for the last year ofthe princess's life. Yellow had replaced peach, which had dominatedsince the Prince and Princess of Wales had taken chargeof Apartments 8 and 9 after their wedding in 1981. Withdivorce imminent at the end of summer 1996, the boss hadwanted to place her own individual stamp on KP. She wantedher home to reflect her tastes, not Prince Charles's.
It is not true, as other observers have suggested, that sheexpunged all memories and remnants of the prince from thoseapartments – although I saw her put a collection of china thatbore the Prince of Wales feathers into a garbage bag, thensmash it with a hammer. It was her way of dealing with anger,she said. Later, she had sessions with a kick-boxer – thecheaper alternative, I joked! However, she kept framed photographsof Prince Charles, as a loving father, in her sitting roomand bedroom. He took from KP some treasured possessions,but also a pair of upholstered Georgian chairs circa 1780from the drawing room. The boss described them as 'hideouschairs', which was probably why they were pushed to oneside. One day she said, "You'll never guess what he wantsnow! Those portraits of his ancestors!" She pointed to twopaintings of Hanoverian forebears that hung against theyellow silk panels in the drawing room. They were duly dispatchedto St James's Palace, but one request wasn't granted.
Prince Charles had wanted the John Ward watercolours fromthe staircase. The boss decided that those images of herwedding and the boys' christenings would stay at KP.When the division of possessions had been finalized, theboss concentrated on a new interior, drawing up plans withher favoured interior designer and friend, Dudley Poplak."Let's freshen this place up a little," he said.
"Make a list of everything we need," she suggested, "andlet's spend a bit more of his money while we can!"'His money' referred to the budget of her soon-to-beex-husband. After the divorce, the tab for domestic alterationsand household goods would have to be picked up by the boss,not by the Prince of Wales's office. She undertook wholesalechange on every front. We bought new towels, sheets, duvetcovers, pillowcases, china, crockery, silver and kitchenware.We walked round KP with a check-list. "Do we need a newwashing-machine?" she asked. I nodded. "And what about anew dishwasher, microwave and kettle?" she smiled mischievously.I agreed. We decided to throw in a new juicer for thehell of it.
The princess had suddenly started to become more carefulwith her money, and sought independent financial advice.From the moment she had to stand on her own two feet, shewatched the pennies. Some staff received a payrise but we alsonoticed cut-backs, even down to the number of window-boxesat KP. One memo she sent read: "It is now not possible tohave 5 window boxes outside the dining room and drawingroom, please can you remove them and put the survivingplants in the boxes outside the sitting room . . ." She lovedflowers, but they were an extravagance – unless, of course,they were a gift from an admirer or friend.
She even drew up a list of nine restaurants that were withinher budget: "The only ones where I shall dine from now on,"she said. It makes me laugh when I think of it now: theprincess was attempting to be thrifty but her chosen restaurantswere: Caviar Kaspia, Bebendum, Le Caprice, ThomasGoode, Turner's, Cecconi's, the Ritz, Claridges and the Ivy.At KP, Dudley Poplak drew up designs to transform herfavourite rooms from pink, peach and cream to something hedescribed as "a little more professional and mature": cream,gold and blue. The carpet in the main hall, up the stairs andacross the landings was in lime green and orange diamondpattern, embroidered with the Prince of Wales feathers.
"Ithas to go," said the boss, and settled on beige-brown with asubtle design. Unfortunately, the silk-embossed hangingpanels that covered the walls (they don't use wallpaper inroyal residences) was deemed too expensive to replace. So theblue and pink pattern in the sitting room stayed, as did thepeach paint in the dressing room. But the princess put yellowand gold in the drawing room and her bedroom. The diningroom remained crimson.
The last room to be refurbished was the one where shespent most of her time: the sitting room. The furniture wasreupholstered: a candy-striped sofa became a calmer cream;the chairs blue, and a new, long, cream stool on cabriole legsarrived to stand on the massive Aztec-style rug in pink andblue. Pastel blue curtains, with matching pelmets, were hungat the sash windows. All of this took place in mid-August1997 when she was on the Jonikal yacht with Dodi Al Fayed.Sadly, she only ever saw the sitting room's new look once,when she made a fleeting visit to KP on 21 August. Before shedashed off to Stansted Airport and a flight to Nice. There, shewas reunited with Dodi to cruise round the French Rivieraand Sardinia. I don't know how much pleasure she took inthe new colours because on the day she returned to replenishher luggage I wasn't there. I was on holiday with my family inthe Republic of Ireland, unaware that I'd never see the bossalive again.
She didn't always wait in the sitting room for me to answer atelephone summons. Frequently, I'd be half-way up the stairswhen I'd glance up to find her leaning over the banister,waiting for me, her shoulders hunched round her neck. We'dwalk to her desk as she unloaded a thought or asked me to dosomething. If she was seeking a male opinion on what not towear, she'd stand on those 'catwalk stairs' and ask, "What doyou think?" then strike a pose. "With these?" she'd say, flashinga bejewelled earlobe with a dangling earring, and thenshe'd turn her head to show the other lobe with a diamondstud: "Or these?" Or one foot would be placed in front of theother. "With heels? Or without?" "With stockings? Orwithout?" Had there been ten staff in the house, she'd haveasked each one for their opinion. As it was, she depended oneither her dresser or me.
At the top of the stairs and straight ahead was the door toWilliam and Harry's sitting room. It had been Prince Charles'suntil it was turned into a play den – that room was used forthe boss's BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in1995. It was untouched during the refurbishment because theboss understood the importance to her sons of not interferingwith their father's tastes and influence. The room for the menremained stuck in its 1981 time-warp, and looked as dated asthe television that rested on a mahogany cabinet until aHarrods-donated, wide-screen plasma Sony model arrived in1997. Both sets provided the boys with endless hours of funand entertainment: either they were engrossed in their collectionof action movies – James Bond, Lethal Weapon, Robocop,The Terminator, Mission Impossible – or they spent hoursengaged in combat on their Sega Mega Drive, Super Nintendoor PlayStation consoles, always at full volume.When I was sitting in my pantry, I'd often hear an explosionof noise and knew what would come next because I'd seen orheard whatever game it was so often before.
"Do you think you've got that loud enough, boys?" theprincess would shout. Two pairs of sheepish eyes would turnto her, and the volume would suddenly dip.My sons, Alexander and Nick, were often invited up to thepalace to play with William and Harry. As a treat, I wouldfetch a plateful of Harry's favourite chocolate biscuits:Penguins. Sometimes the princess joined the boys in that roomfor burgers and fries, fish fingers or spaghetti Bolognese,served on trays or fold-away tables as she sat on a chairagainst a cushion embroidered with: 'Don't bug me, hug me.'There were unforgettable times at weekends, during hotLondon summers, when the princess and her boys came downto where we lived at the Old Barracks to play rounders on thegreen that stretched out in front of our home. As a family,we'd spot the princess, in a flowing skirt and short sleeves, onher bicycle, complete with basket at the front, coasting downthe drive that runs past the staff living quarters, connectingthe palace to Kensington High Street. At either side of her,pedalling furiously to keep up on their BMX bikes, were thetwo princes, in shorts and T-shirts.
I'll never forget how determined the boss was to win, especiallyat rounders. She wanted to win at everything. I'd alwaysbe captain yet everyone wanted to be on the 'princess's team'.She'd be giggling even before it was her turn to bat, and wouldlaugh as she belted the ball, then ran from base to base, feetbare on the grass. She cheered, clapped and jumped up anddown with the rest of us.
At the top of the stairs and down a short landing, another fourpaces would take you to the drawing-room door, on the leftand, straight ahead, the door to the boss's sitting room. Thebalustrade that looked over the stairwell was on the righthandside. The drawing room was where I took guests to waitbefore the princess received them. It was where she conductedformal entertaining, receptions, business meetings, pre-lunchdrinks and chats. An eighteenth-century Flemish tapestryseized the eye as it took up an entire wall, from cornice todado-rail, and spread at least twenty feet wide. It was thebackdrop for a long cream and gold silk-upholstered couch –which looked so delicate that I can't remember a single guestsitting on it. Most visitors tended to stand with a drink inhand as they nervously anticipated the arrival of the boss.
Flanking that couch, and positioned at right angles to it, weretwo peach-upholstered armchairs with tassel-fringed skirts tothe carpet and two end-tables beside each that bore framedphotos on piles of books, stacked four or five high. That wastypical of the boss – she placed a photo wherever she found aflat surface. One of her favourite images of herself with herboys stood on one such pile – the black-and-white head shotof Harry, Mum and William, taken by Patrick Demarchelier.One year she used it inside the Christmas cards she sent tofriends and family.
On the other side of the room was a fireplace, its marblesurround standing five feet high. In front of it, facing eachother, two lime-green sofas were scattered with peach andyellow cushions. I remember two ladies, smartly dressed insuits, kneeling on the carpet between these sofas poring overpapers, sheets and charts spread out before them. The princesswas 'in session' with her favourite and most-trusted adviser,Debbie Frank, in June 1997. Intricate diagrams of the universeand the planets spilled across the carpet, and the boss –a Cancerian whose birthday was on 1 July – was enthralled byeverything Debbie said. The astrologer became a good friend,one of the few who wasn't dropped for being too familiar or'wacko'. The boss adored her. Even when Debbie was askedto analyse the charts of Charles and Camilla, she was braveenough, and respected enough, to tell the boss the harsh truth:that they were 'well matched'. When Debbie came to lunch,the boss always had a private reading, and the intensity ofthose sessions was always in sharp contrast to the girlishbanter and gossip at the dining table.
I remember the drawing room as a place for formal discussions,friendly chatter, the clink of crystal champagne glasses –and the boss bounding in to meet a guest, smiling, arms wide.I'm sure many visitors, formal or otherwise, have fond memoriesof that room. But, for me, it was also a room that wasfilled with music. Her Steinway grand piano was positionedbetween two Georgian sash windows, each topped with aruched, peach pelmet. It was there that I often caught herplaying the few bars of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2that she had mastered, head back, eyes closed. She would sitthere at quiet times by herself over the weekend, or in theevenings after a busy day, when the work at her desk wasdone. It was one way she chose to unwind.
On one particular day, she didn't quite unwind. She wasmore in a spin, continually revolving on the spot. Two menand a woman had arrived at the front door with trunks, instrumentsand briefcases. I showed them in to the drawing roomwhere I had already moved back the sofas, leaving a vast openspace on the carpet. They set up their equipment, whichincluded a metal-plated, revolving turntable. Meanwhile, theprincess was in her dressing room, squeezing into a skin-tightleotard as the guests had requested. They needed to take'precise' measurements. It was 1997 and they had come fromMadame Tussaud's waxworks museum in London.
The boss greeted the trio with a smile. "Hello, everybody!"she said, and they got down to the business in hand. Theprincess was asked to stand on the metal plate in the centre ofthe room. Suddenly, she looked like a doll in a musical box,and was overcome by a fit of giggles. "I'm afraid we must askyou to stand still," someone said meekly, and the boss – eventually– composed herself. Giant callipers and tape measureswere produced. Cameras flashed. Every inch of her anatomy,every curve, had to be measured exactly, from the width of herhead to the width of her hips; the length of her nose (always asore point with the princess) to that of her inside leg. It tookaround two hours, and she stepped down twice to take abreak. I was back and forth with tea, coffee, and sandwiches,and water for the boss.
For me, history was repeating itself. In my days as footmanto Her Majesty the Queen, I had accompanied the Queen, andher corgis, to the Chinese Drawing Room at BuckinghamPalace for the official inspection of the finished product.Sadly, the boss never saw her finished product, but thefigure that stands today in Madame Tussaud's is a superb representationof her.
The drawing room was between the dining room and thesitting room. A connecting door – adjacent to the windows –led to the all-crimson dining room, where the colour smackedguests between the eyes when they walked in. A round table,draped in white linen that fell to the carpet, stood in the centreof the room surrounded by latticed bamboo chairs, with redupholstered seats. A crystal chandelier with candle lights hungabove, and a sideboard, again draped in linen, was pushedagainst one wall. In the mornings an electric toaster and a hotplatefor the Herend china coffee pot stood on it. Her breakfastcomprised a slice of wholemeal toast, half a grapefruit, aspoonful of honey, and black coffee, no sugar. She'd sit at thetable in her white towelling robe, scanning the morning'spapers, sometimes with a towel wrapped turban-style roundwet hair. Each morning, the boss ran herself a bath – she nevertook showers – and appeared for breakfast around eight.
Lunch was formal or relaxed, depending on the company. If itwas someone like Debbie Frank, the boss's barriers were down.If it was Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, they were up andfortified behind a charming façade. Lunch with Raine Spencer,her stepmother, sticks in my mind – because I didn't always getthings right at KP. Even when I tried to impress. Or, as theprincess would say, when I "tried too hard". I had wanted theCountess to marvel at my floristry skills. Which she did – at first.
As I stood behind the boss, pulling back her chair for her to beseated, her stepmother was all oohs and aahs and "Isn't that justwonderful?" as she surveyed the arrangement. There were smilesfrom the boss, and a murmured, "Well done," from the cornerof the boss's mouth as she sat down, and I left the room. Butnow the two ladies realized they couldn't see each other. Myarrangement, with its foliage spilling over onto the table, wastoo big. When I returned with the starter, my beautiful displayhad been relegated to the floor, placed out of the way.
"Beautiful, but far too big." explained Raine, apologetically.There was a wet patch on the table-cloth where the basket hadleaked. The boss saw my disappointment, and folded her lips tostop herself laughing. And then she laid a napkin over the damplinen, and continued chatting to Raine.
The sitting room was relatively small, the heart and soul ofthe princess's home, where she spent much of her time. Shefilled the shelves with her favourite things. "This will all beworth something one day," she said, as she reached into theopen-faced white cabinet against the wall behind her desk, totake down a china rabbit, part of her treasured Herend animalcollection, which also included elephants, sea lions, unicorns,pheasants, cockerels and fish. She was for ever re-arrangingthem and sometimes put them on the mantelpiece.
Queen Mary had collected miniature furniture and possessionsfor the doll's house now on public display at WindsorCastle, and the princess believed that one day her china collectionwould be a treasured addition to the Royal Collection.But it never was. Instead it was boxed up – with the HalcyonDays enamel pillboxes that covered a glass-topped end-table –and sent to her ancestral home at Althorp.
Pictures of ballerinas hung on the walls, a reminder of herchildhood passion. "I dreamed of becoming a ballerina," shesaid, "but I was too tall." She liked to watch the EnglishNational Ballet at rehearsal, yearning to be among thedancers, and two pairs of pink satin pointe shoes hung bytheir ribbons from a hook on the door that led to the landing.In that room, there were signs of her sense of humour. Stickerssaying 'I Like Di' and 'CAUTION: Princess on board' wereplastered on to the marble fireplace. In one corner of theroom, between the window and the Herend china collection,hung two of her favourite watercolours in gold frames, one ofa kingfisher, which had been a wedding present, the other ofWilliam as a cheeky infant, in a blue and white striped jumper.A giant cuddly hippo slumped in front of the desk, betweenthe two sofas where she sat, legs curled beneath her, to watchblack-and-white movies, the news, Brookside, Blind Date,EastEnders and Casualty.
That area in front of the sofas was used for dress-fittingswhen Jacques Azagury and Catherine Walker visited tooversee operations. The boss would kick off her shoes andstand on a small stool as fitters pinned a hem or took a measurement."Isn't it beautiful? Isn't Jacques clever?" I rememberher saying once, as she twirled on that stool. Or "What doyou think of this colour?" she'd ask.
She spent an inordinate amount of time at her desk, talkingon the telephone, penning an endless stream of thank-younotes, signing official correspondence, writing letters tofriends, putting down her thoughts on paper. She kept hervocabulary list propped against a letter rack and used it as aquick reference for words she found hard to spell, such as'conscientiously' and 'infinitely'. Words, by her own admission,were not her strong point. She'd sit at that desk andwrite postcards or short notes to William and Harry, sometimestwo a day. Frequently they'd say no more than 'Can'twait to hug you!' and she always sent them 'huge kisses andenormous hugs'. A silver ink stand was positioned in front ofthat list: a three-sided ornamental tray with a crystal pot asan inkwell at its centre, and a grooved channel for her to laydown the black fountain pen she used for all correspondence.
A bottle of blue-black Quink was kept to hand near the blueleather blotter – always filled with pink paper, alwayscovered with dark splodges. It was here especially that theboss surrounded herself with William and Harry, in littleframed snapshots to right and left on her desk. A tiny, openlocket lay on the ink stand, with thumbnail photos of herboys. It had been a gift from the readers of Woman's Ownmagazine, which she flicked through for its real-life storiesabout women. She had once hosted its annual 'Children ofCourage Awards' and the locket had been presented to her asa memento. She treasured it.
When she left for that holiday in August 1997, she hadensured her desk was neat and tidy – she was fastidious in thatway. In the hours after her death, I was drawn to the sittingroom and the desk, and it struck me how organized everythingwas. There were three miniature clocks, ticking quietly,a dozen pencils crammed into a beaker, and a miniaturemarble statue of Jesus Christ, with the rosary beads given toher by Mother Teresa draped round the arms and neck.It's easy for me to bring to mind the vision of the bosssitting at that carefully arranged desk. Whenever I was in thetiny first-floor pantry that adjoined the dining room, I couldsee her through all of the open, interconnecting doors. I'd bethree rooms away but could always see her at the far end ofthe palace. And she'd be sitting in that seat, her back againsther pink cushion, head down, scribbling away, sometimeslooking up to gaze out of the windows as she searched for aphrase or new train of thought.
My two abiding recollections of the boss, imprinted on mymemory, are simple ones: of the infectious giggle that couldbreak out anywhere and at any time, and the quiet sight ofher at that desk, endlessly writing.
At the top of the stairs a left turn led immediately to a smalllobby where there was a cupboard, a passenger lift, its doorsdisguised as a bookcase, and a door that led up to a narrowerstaircase to the boys' nursery and bedrooms. Straight on, therewas a long corridor with six high windows overlooking acobbled courtyard with an ornamental well in the centre.Outside, the windows of the boys' sitting room were to theright, and ahead the butler Harold Brown's apartment. (Hewent eventually to work for Princess Margaret.) To the left laythe apartment of Sir Michael Peat, then the Keeper of thePrivy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen.
Every evening the boss went to each window and pulled thestring to close the wooden slats of the Venetian blinds. She notonly guarded her privacy in public, but protected it, too, fromthe inside.
That corridor felt claustrophobic because half of its widthwas taken up with cupboards that stood with their backs tothe walls, facing the windows. Once the doors were open, itwas impossible to pass through.
The first entrance that came up on the left was covered witha curtain, not a door, and led into her main L-shaped, walkthroughwardrobe with one section for daywear, one sectionfor eveningwear; each suit, dress or coat hung on its ownpadded silk hanger. I walked through that wardrobe to anarchway that led into the boss's dressing room, between herbathroom on the left, and her bedroom on the right. This wasthe inner sanctum few people ever saw.
On many mornings, I delivered a glass of freshly squeezedcarrot juice to the princess after breakfast as she sat in herwhite towelling robe on a bamboo chair, in front of herdressing-table in the window. She'd see me approaching inthe oval mirror that stood on the glass top where she kepther hairspray, perfume, makeup, cotton-wool pads andQ-tips, and brushes. She'd reach out, take the glass, andthank me. More often than not, her hair was being blowdriedby stylist Sam McKnight, who also became a confidant– even princesses gossip with their hairdresser! She wouldsip the carrot juice, reading a letter or the newspaper, as Samworked on her hair, occasionally shouting to make herselfheard above the noise of the hairdryer. "HAVE YOU SEENTHIS, PAUL? SAM WAS JUST SAYING THAT . . ." and itwas quite comical at times as I stood there, straining to hearwhat she was saying.
The woman I saw on those occasions was not the fashionicon, the royal celebrity or the high-profile humanitarian, buta woman without the mask of royalty and fame. Others mightremember her for a dazzling public engagement, when shewas wowing crowds in a stunning dress, in her jewels andtiara, every inch the beautiful princess, but I remember herbest for being 'Diana' at home, for her being – and for meknowing – the ordinary woman behind-closed-doors. Believeme, it was an immense privilege.
Yet my lasting memory of that dressing room is not of theprincess sitting in her robe, but of the wall-to-wall images ofWilliam and Harry, which charted their growth from babies toinfants to boys. It was a museum to a mother's love for hersons. There were thirteen large framed black-and-white portraitson one wall alone: mother and sons photographed inbales of hay at Highgrove; brothers back to back, cuddlingtheir rabbit and guinea pig; William and Harry embracing theirmother, larking about, or rocking with laughter as the photographercaptured official poses among off-guard moments. Evenin the bathroom there were framed photos of the boys asbabies at bathtime.
And the boss arranged her own photographic montage onher dressing-table, inserting snapshots between the glass andthe table top, so that she could see them each morning as shedid her hair and applied her makeup. There must have beenfifteen or so photos under the glass, and she'd refresh the collectionfrom time to time, inserting a new picture that showeda recent milestone reached in her boys' lives. Wherever shewalked in KP, there was always an image of her boys toremind her of the good that had come from her marriage tothe Prince of Wales.