A Royal Duty, Princess Di's butler offers revelations
( 2003-10-29 11:24) (abcnews.com)
Paul Burrell was Princess Diana's butler, but he was also
her confidant. In A Royal Duty, Burrell reveals new truths about Diana, and
gives insight into the complexities of life in the royal family. In the preface,
he describes the last time he saw her.
The Princess died at 4 AM in a hospital in Paris on Sunday, August 31, 1997. The last time I saw her, she was waving goodbye from the back of her BMW, being driven away from Kensington Palace on Friday, August 15.
The previous day, we had been to Waterstone's bookstore in Kensington High Street. We drove because time was tight, and because we didn't fancy walking back with what she called her "heavy reading matter": half a dozen books on spirituality, psychology, and healing. Then we headed back to the palace so she could finish her packing with assistance from her dresser, Angela Benjamin. As we turned into the palace drive, she was in a relaxed mood. "I'm looking forward to a quiet holiday, good company and lots of light reading!" Her friend Rosa Monckton had hired a yacht with a crew of four to sail her and the princess around the Greek islands on a six-day Aegean holiday.
When she returned, the princess was due to go on holiday with another female friend, Lana Marks, for five days in Italy, staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan.
She had not intended to spend that final week of August with Dodi al- Fayed. Reservations had been made and flights booked for her to be with Lana. That holiday was canceled at the last minute because Lana's father died suddenly, which left the princess at loose ends until the boys returned to Kensington Palace on August 31. She accepted Dodi's substitute offer to spend time with him on his yacht, the Jonikal, cruising around the French Riviera and Sardinia.
Before she flew out to join Dodi, she would be back at the palace for one
day, on August 21, but I wouldn't be there because I had deliberately booked my
family holiday to Naas, in the Republic of Ireland, to coincide with the
princess's. As she finished packing on August 15 to head off to the airport, I
was sharing that happy pre-vacation feeling as I waited with Rosa inside KP.
The princess had been fussing around in the sitting room, tidying her desk, putting the wastepaper bin out in the landing to be emptied, checking her shoulder bag. As the two friends came down the stairs to leave, she stopped halfway down and went through her cross-checking routine, thinking aloud: "Passport, phone, Walkman ¡" I was leaning on the wooden banister, looking up at her in her simple Versace shift dress. "Do you know?" I said. "I've never seen you looking as good. You look perfect. You don't need the sunshine ¡ª look at your tan already!" And she skipped down the stairs, smiling.
We went through into the inner hallway. "Hang on to that a minute." She thrust her shoulder bag into my hands and disappeared into the ladies' room. Within minutes, she was ready to go. She stepped out into the sunshine and into the rear passenger seat of the BMW as the chauffeur started the engine. I fastened her seat belt.
"If you have chance to ring me, you will, won't you?" she asked me.
"Of course," I said, having arranged that week for her mobile telephone to be allocated a new number that only a handful of people would know.
"Have a nice time, Paul." I walked back to the doorstep, and the princess waved. I watched the BMW turn left and out of sight. She was heading for Heathrow and an airplane to Athens.
The Burrells joined my wife's side of the family, the Cosgroves, on a four-day holiday in an Irish town named Naas. We visited Kilkenny Castle and then the village where the BBC series Ballykissangel was filmed, visiting the famous Fitzgerald's pub. I was under strict orders from Maria to forget about work and the princess. "This is family time," she said.
The only problem was that I had promised the princess I would call.
Four days of no contact would be noticed by the Boss, so I found myself making excuses to go for long walks.
The princess was on the deck with Rosa when I rang. She told me how sunny and hot it was. I told her how wet and miserable the Republic of Ireland was. She had finished a book on spirituality and was tackling a new one already, she said. I hung up, promising to speak to her again when I was back at my vacation home in Farndon, Cheshire, and she was on the Jonikal with Dodi. I told Maria that the long walk had done me a power of good.
On August 21, she made a short return to Kensington Palace, then dashed off to Stansted Airport for a flight to Nice to meet up with Dodi.
While she had been away, the decoration of the sitting room had been finished and she saw the reupholstered sofas and the new sky blue curtains.
The completion of the new decor was ironic because, after flipping through the real estate brochures for American properties without much success, the chance had arisen to purchase a clifftop property in California: the home of British actress Julie Andrews. The princess was seriously considering buying a holiday home where she could spend up to six months of the year, while she kept KP as her London base.
A move to America had been in the cards since the spring. In August, between holidays, she had spread out the brochure and said, "America is where my destiny lies, and if I decide to do this, Paul, I would like you, Maria and the boys to join me." As we knelt on the sitting-room floor, she pointed at the Julie Andrews property, featured on several color pages and floor plans. "This is the main reception area. This is where William's room will be, and Harry's. And that annex is where you will live with Maria and the boys.
This can be a new life. Isn't it exciting? It is a land where anyone can achieve," she said.
I had longed to live in America but it all seemed too sudden. "I think you should slow down. Even I'm finding it impossible to keep up with you," I said, trying not to burst the bubble.
That afternoon the princess peppered me with questions. "Well, if we don't live there, what about Cape Cod? It's nearer to London. We can travel the world, Paul, and seek out all those people who need help." We sat there imagining the American lifestyle: the jogs along the beach, the constant sunshine, the sense of freedom. And then there was one more thing. Something she had always talked about. The one thing she had always wanted at Kensington Palace but felt was not possible. "And we can get a dog," she said. The thought of America made her so happy. "I always said we would end up living in America, didn't I?" she said, conveniently forgetting Australia, which had been her first idea.
The princess was making decisions. Many things were discussed, secrets that I cannot mention here. Secrets that will go away with me. Surprises would be coming, and the prospect of all that excited her.
After the holiday in Ireland, I spoke to the princess nearly every day, though I never rang her from home ¡ She told me about the last-minute diversion to Paris on Friday, August 29. She spoke to me from the deck of the Jonikal. It was one oft he last six phone calls she made in the final twenty-four hours of her life, as recorded in the call register of her mobile telephone.
I was on the telephone, sprawled on the sitting-room floor at my brother-in-law Peter Cosgrove's house in Farndon, two doors down from our first house, bought that spring as a holiday home. The family ¡ª Maria, the boys, Peter, his wife, Sue, and their daughters, Clare and Louise ¡ª had all given me privacy, but were growing impatient in the kitchen because I'd been on the telephone to the princess for around forty minutes.
In that call, the timetable for her arrival had changed. Originally, she'd been due back to London direct from the Mediterranean, arriving on Saturday, August 30, ahead of the boys' arrival on the Sunday. But Dodi had told her he needed to go to Paris for "business reasons." She seemed reluctant to go, but, again, Dodi had persuaded her.
"We've got to go to Paris, but I promise I will be back on Sunday," she said. "Now, I bet you can't guess where I am." I tried at Sardinia.
"No. Monaco. And I bet you can't guess where I'm going tonight." I guessed at a fine restaurant. "No. I'm going to visit the grave of Princess Grace. It will be a special moment." It would be the first time she had returned to the grave since she attended the funeral in 1982. "I'm going to lay some flowers and say a few words," she added.
Then, her mind was back on land. She was thinking ahead and making plans, giving me instructions: remember to book Mr. Quelch at Burberry (the boys' tailor) for the following Monday. The Armani fitting for September 4. She asked what was in her schedule, and I told her lunch with Shirley Conran, and an appointment with aromatherapist Sue Beechey.
Otherwise, she had plenty of free time with William and Harry.
As that marathon call neared its end, the princess told me: "I'm looking forward to catching up with friends, and I can't wait to see the boys.
There's a lot we have to talk about, so don't be late! I'll tell you everything else when I see you." In the background, an impatient family was calling me from the kitchen.
"Paul?" the princess asked. "I want you to promise me something." "Of course," I added.
"Promise me you'll be there," she said in a chirpy voice, and I laughed at her worrying about me being late or not being there on the front doorstep when she arrived.
"Say it!" she demanded humorously. "Iwant to hear you say those words!" I started to laugh. "Okay, okay, if it makes you feel happier, I promise I'll be there." The princess laughed. Behind the kitchen door, the family guffawed. The poignancy of those final words only hit me later but have stayed with me ever since. I will carry on that responsibility of being there for her ¡ª even when others object.
"Good!" said the princess. "I'll see you when I get back." It was the last
time I spoke to her.
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