Burrell steps out to ride 'rollercoaster of madness'

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The Independent Online

The Queen is standing by Prince William in his decision to meet Paul Burrell after the former royal butler published his book revealing details of the private life of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Buckingham Palace yesterday dismissed reports that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were blocking the prince's plan to meet Mr Burrell in an attempt, it is claimed, to stop further damaging leaks of secrets. A spokesman said: "Her conversations with her family are a private matter. But the Queen fully supports Prince William at this time."

Mr Burrell told reporters that just "one phone call" from the Royal Family, after his Old Bailey trial for alleged theft collapsed, would have stopped him from writing the book.

He claimed that his ordeal almost drove him to take his own life. He said: "I have been on this rollercoaster of madness. I have been through having the police knocking on my door and taking me to the highest court in the land. My name has been trashed, my family has been put through hell. I have been pushed to the brink of suicide."

The former butler claimed that he may still be in danger, and the princess feared for her own safety because of her relationship with two Muslim men, Dodi Fayed and the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.

The book, A Royal Duty, was published yesterday amid a deluge of publicity, with Mr Burrell giving interviews to radio and television stations. He has received £500,000 from the Daily Mirror for serialisation of extracts, and the publisher, Penguin Books, is confident that the initial 135,000 copies at £17.99 will quickly sell.

Mr Burrell, who has already released two books ­ Entertaining with Style and In the Royal Manner ­ with indifferent success, insisted that his latest work was more accurate than Andrew Morton's lucrative biography of the princess, maintaining that Mr Morton's book was "massaged" by Diana.

Bookshops and supermarkets reported thatA Royal Duty was selling well. Within hours, WH Smith stores had sold out, prompting predictions that it would be one of the biggest-selling biographies of the year.

"More stock is already on its way out to stores nationwide in order to fulfil the demand," said Gary Kibble, a spokeman for the company. A spokesman for the chains Borders and Books etc added: "It's selling exceptionally well. It's gone beyond our expectations."

Waterstone's said that at its store in Piccadilly, in central London, one third of its stock had been sold by 11am. A spokeswoman for Tesco said: "Early signs are it's doing well. But it's been released during a tough period as Shane Ritchie's autobiography has also just come out."

Princes William and Harry issued a statement on Friday accusing the former servant of a "cold and overt betrayal" of their mother. But Mr Burrell insisted yesterday that his book was, instead, "a loving tribute".

He said: "I have absolutely not betrayed their mother's name. If they read the book they will see the warmth that comes through it. They are living in an establishment that is controlled by media spin."

Mr Burrell's busy day of broadcasting began with an interview on Radio 4's Today programme. From there he went to Radio 5 Live, on to the American station ABC, and then to the Richard and Judy teatime chat show on Channel 4. He had pre-recorded an interview with BBC1's The Real Story.

Wearing a charcoal grey suit, Mr Burrell was accompanied by minders as he was driven between venues. Joanna Prior, Mr Burrell's publicist from Penguin Books, did not seem keen on publicity. Asked to confirm his schedule yesterday, she said: "I don't have to give that out. He is a very busy and important man, and he has a number of important interviews."

With the exception of the Mirror, Mr Burrell has received a more or less universally hostile reception from the press. Rosa Monckton, who Mr Burrell claims is a friend, wrote at the weekend: "Now he joins the rest of the vultures who had the task of looking after her, in picking over the bones of her existence in his book. A Royal Duty! Never was a book more inappropriately named." Mr Burrell denied yesterday that his book was an act of retribution for the Royal Family "abandoning" him. It was "absolutely not" about revenge, he said. But the perceived injustice was a constant theme. "A cup of tea at Highgrove would have stopped me. To take me in the fold yes, not to just leave me hanging out to dry," he said.

Asked what he would like to say to Princes William and Harry if he met them, Mr Burrell said: "I think I would like to give them a piece of mind and ask them why they personally did not help me when I needed helpat the worst point of my life."

In the BBC1 interview, broadcast last night, Mr Burrell said that he was angry with the princes but realised that they were being used as "emotional cannons" by the "grey men in suits" at the Palace. He said that it was time for the princes to "grow up".

Mr Burrell said he wanted to talk to Prince William about the book. "I want to sit down and talk with him man to man ­ he is 21 years old now, it is about time he understood what happened in his mother's life."

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