What Princess Diana's Butler Saw

ByHILARY BROWN via via logo

LONDON, Sept. 10, 2006 — -- A new book by Princess Diana's former butler, confidant and friend includes his own photographs of the late princess' inner sanctum in Kensington Palace -- her sitting room, her private dressing room, even the collection of teddy bears in her bedroom -- along with an intimate account of Diana's private life, including her secret and not-so-secret loves.

For instance, while she died in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, at the side of Dodi Al-Fayed, Paul Burrell told ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" in a worldwide exclusive interview that Al-Fayed wasn't the key romance toward the end of Princess Diana's life.

"The true love of her life, her soul mate, was a heart surgeon called Hasnet Khan," Burrell told ABC News' Kate Snow. "She met him while she was visiting someone in the Royal Brompton Hospital. The lift -- the elevator door -- was about to close and someone stuck their foot in it. The doors opened and she looked into his eyes and said, 'I knew there and then.' "

"The Way We Were," to be published by Harper Collins on Sept. 12, is almost certain to be seen as another act of betrayal by the royal family, after Burrell's first book about his life with the princess, "A Royal Duty," ruffled royal feathers.

In 2002, Burrell, Princess Diana's butler for 10 years, was put on trial for the theft of hundreds of Diana's possessions, but the case collapsed after no less a person than Queen Elizabeth intervened, saying that she remembered he told her that he had taken the items to safeguard her legacy. At the time, the view was that the trial was stopped because the palace feared the butler might reveal too many secrets in his testimony.

Well now, perhaps, he has.

Burrell says he timed his second Diana book to coincide with the start of the 10th year after her death. Burrell told Snow he expects more royal criticism, but felt moved to write the book anyway.

"It's been nine years, Kate, since the princess died," he said. "Now, an American person would say, if the first lady was killed in a road traffic accident, would they be happy that this was nine years and still no answer to that investigation? So I thought, rather than people write stories and tell lies about the princess, I want to tell the truth, tell people how she was, who she was and how she felt."

This time, he told Snow, there will be no sequel, "and you can hold me to that."

Throughout the 285 pages of his book, Burrell refers to the princess as "the boss," and writes that he would "like to think I've been faithful, loyal, brave; friend more than servant."

In England, Aug. 31, 1997 is one of those awful days that everyone remembers, in the way that most Americans remember Nov. 22, 1963, the day that President Kennedy was shot. In a way there is a parallel there, because the tragic death of the "people's princess" almost a decade ago has generated the astonishing theory that she, too, was assassinated.

Paul Burrell says such a conspiracy theory is "ludicrous," and of course he's not alone in that view.

According to the official, exhaustive French inquiry released in 2002, Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Al-Fayed, died because the driver of their armor-plated Mercedes was drunk and lost control of the vehicle as it entered a narrow tunnel at the Place d'Alma in Paris at about 100 miles an hour, pursued by paparazzi on motorbikes.

The source of the conspiracy theory is primarily Dodi's father, Mohammed Al-Fayed, the Egyptian billionaire businessman who makes the claim that his son was going to marry the princess, that Buckingham Palace knew this, that it could not allow the mother of the future King of England marry a Muslim, and therefore ordered her assassination.

Following complaints by Al-Fayed's lawyers (Al-Fayed owns, among other holdings, the Ritz hotel in Paris, which provided the armored Mercedes and its allegedly drunken driver, Henri Paul), French authorities have now re-opened their inquiry, ordering fresh depositions from the pathologist who conducted Paul's post-mortem, and from the doctors who tested his blood.

New documents appear to show that there are serious doubts now over the blood tests (there were reportedly two widely differing readings for the amount of alcohol in Henri Paul's blood, for example), and that these doubts could make it impossible for any court to rule conclusively that Princess Diana's death was an accident caused by drunken driving.

In a succession of chapters, Burrell reveals that the affair between the princess and Dodi Al-Fayed was orchestrated by Mohammed Al-Fayed himself and that, as far as Princess Diana was concerned, was no more than a holiday romance, a "summer fling." He says the princess told him this in no uncertain terms, claiming she said, "I want another marriage like I want a bad rash."

"The princess only knew Dodi Al-Fayed for 26 days and he only spent 10 minutes in Kensington Palace," Burrell told Snow. "That's not the greatest love story ever, is it?"

In the book, he describes how in the space of a few weeks, Dodi showered her with presents -- a diamond necklace, a pearl bracelet, Bulgari earrings. He says the princess was worried about what might come next, and told him so.

"What do I do, Paul, if it's a ring?" she allegedly asked her butler.

His advice, he says, would be to accept it graciously and put it on the fourth finger of her right hand, so it could only be seen as a friendship ring.

And this is what happened, he says. Dodi Al-Fayed gave the princess a $5,000 gold ring set with diamonds -- and she was wearing the ring, on her right hand, when she died.

Burrell adds that hasn't stopped Mohammed Al-Fayed from fuelling the engagement/conspiracy rumors and claiming that the couple was due to announce their marriage plans the first week of September. Burrell says that the princess even revealed a crude joke that she said Mohammed al Fayed once told her: "You're going to marry my son, but it's an Egyptian custom for the father to get in there first." Burrell says the princess did not find this remark offensive.

"Let's douse the embers before the flames take hold," Burrell writes, saying that Dodi had bought the princess nothing more than a "dress ring," just an "addition to her collection of costume jewelry.

"It is clear that this ludicrous claim has also evolved into a serious line of enquiry with the officers at Scotland Yard investigating the death of the princess and Dodi Al-Fayed," Burrell adds.

And indeed, apart from the re-opened inquiry in France, the British authorities are due to hold an inquest into the death of the princess at the beginning of the new year, having conducted more than 1,500 interviews. The inquest is awaiting a report by the former head of London's Metropolitan Police Force, Lord Stevens, who said, without elaborating, that the French inquiry was "far more complex than any of us thought."

Burrell describes Princess Diana's triumphal visits to the United States, her plans to buy a holiday home in Malibu, Calif., and her interest in an unnamed billionaire philanthropist who she thought might become a future president of the United States, making her a possible future first lady.

He describes the famous White House dinner where she famously danced with John Travolta, and reveals that the man she really wanted to dance with was another dinner guest that evening, the great Russian-born dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

"As a little girl she queued up for his autograph outside the stage door," Burrell told Snow. "There she was, sat next to her hero."

But although she danced with Travolta, President Reagan and Clint Eastwood, she never got the chance to dance with Baryshnikov that night, Burrell said on "GMA."

In perhaps the most sensational chapter of the book, Burrell names the real love of Princess Diana's short life, Khan, a Pakistani-born heart surgeon practicing in London. He describes their secret two-year love affair in intimate detail that he knows, he says, because he was the constant go-between.

"She was smitten from Day One," Burrell writes. "She was prepared to give up everything for him."

Burrell claims that by the time of Diana's divorce, she was deeply in love with Khan, nicknamed by the princess as DDG. That stands for "drop dead gorgeous," perhaps stemming for Di's alleged comment about when she first saw him at the hospital elevator.

"He was dressed in his scrubs and she said, 'He was drop dead gorgeous,' " Burrell told Snow "I think women know when they look into someone's eyes instantly. He wasn't the most attractive man in the world, he wasn't the fittest man in the world, and he smoked."

He writes that sometimes he would smuggle Khan into Kensington Palace in the back of his car, hidden under a tartan rug, where the couple would spend happy evenings together.

"As part of my routine to be a go-between, I would go out in London, find him and bring him back," Burrell told Snow. "[I would] drive him into a very private place opposite Princess Margaret's front door where there were no [closed circuit] cameras, and so I'd smuggle him in there. One night, I noticed the blinds twitching in Princess Margaret's apartment, and the princess cheekily waved and said, 'Good night, Margot.' "

At other times, when Dr. Khan was off duty, Burrell writes, Diana would put on a disguise and slip into his one-bedroom apartment, spending the whole day with him, washing his dishes, doing his ironing, changing his bed.

Once, Burrell told Snow, he had to hunt particularly hard to find Khan.

"Hasnet was a very busy man, very professional private man; he was a heart surgeon," Burrell said. "Very often he was in surgery for 24 hours and then slept the next 24 hours, so the princess wouldn't see him for days on end.

"Well, she hadn't heard from him for two or three days," he added, "and they had had a slight rift, so she said, 'Paul, please go out and find him.' So at midnight, I went out into the streets of London, combing the bars, and the clubs, and the pubs and the fast food eateries … and I found him in a corner slumped with a cigarette and a beer."

Burrell says the incident prompted the following handwritten thank you letter from Princess Diana in September 1996, which was shown on "Good Morning America:"

"Dear Paul,     "Not many people would venture out late at night to sort out a heart on basically a stranger's door!     "But then, not many people have the kindness & qualities you possess.     "I am profoundly touched by your actions last night, & very much wanted you to know that.     "Times are challenging in this particular home, but one thing is for sure, that is without you at the helm of this ship, we'd all be in bad shape & the laughter gone!     "So thank you very much for coming to my rescue once again.     "Love from,     Diana"

Burrell told Snow that although Diana resisted the idea of marriage to Dodi Al-Fayed, she "desperately wanted to marry" Khan.

"She loved him," Burrell said on "GMA." "She said to me, 'Go out and see, Paul, if you can arrange a secret marriage.' So the first stop I made was my Roman Catholic priest, because I thought he'd know all the answers. I said to him, 'If the princess was to marry someone in private, could that be done without witnesses?' and he said, 'No, absolutely not.' … And so her dreams of marrying him ended there, but the romance didn't."

Eventually, Burrell writes, the princess wanted to go official with their love affair by orchestrating a candid photo with a trusted photographer. "The boss" was an expert manipulator of the media, Burrell points out.

But "DDG" hated the spotlight and said he was "just not ready for it." The princess ended the affair in July 1997, six weeks before her death. Burrell says that with Khan, "she was the happiest I had ever seen, and ever would see her."

The final irony, Burrell says, is that Khan was the one man who could have helped her the day she died. A few days after the accident, Burrell says that the distraught heart surgeon phoned him to say he knew the exact procedure for a ruptured aorta, which is what killed her.

According to Burrell, the doctor cried, over and over again, "I could have saved her! I could have saved her!"

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