Paul Burrell: You Ask The Questions

Did you ever, even for one second, consider your publication of Diana's private letters as a betrayal? And would you bow to Queen Camilla?
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The Independent Online

Paul Burrell, 46, was born in Grassmoor, Derbyshire. He arrived at Buckingham Palace as an 18-year-old footman in 1976. When the Prince and Princess of Wales separated in 1992, the Princess requested that he move to Kensington Palace as her butler - a position he held until her death in 1997. In 2001, he was charged with stealing £5m's worth of the Princess's possessions from Kensington Palace after her death, but the trial collapsed when the Queen remembered that he had spoken to her about his removal of the objects. His subsequent account of his life with the Princess, A Royal Duty, became an international bestseller. He is married to Maria. They live in Cheshire with their two sons, Alexander and Nicholas.

Paul Burrell, 46, was born in Grassmoor, Derbyshire. He arrived at Buckingham Palace as an 18-year-old footman in 1976. When the Prince and Princess of Wales separated in 1992, the Princess requested that he move to Kensington Palace as her butler - a position he held until her death in 1997. In 2001, he was charged with stealing £5m's worth of the Princess's possessions from Kensington Palace after her death, but the trial collapsed when the Queen remembered that he had spoken to her about his removal of the objects. His subsequent account of his life with the Princess, A Royal Duty, became an international bestseller. He is married to Maria. They live in Cheshire with their two sons, Alexander and Nicholas.

How do you think history will remember Prince Charles?
Anita Kirkham, Colchester

As a weak man who betrayed his wife - that's the truth. He will be remembered as selfish and unkind - and as a man who talked to plants.

How does one make the perfect cup of tea?
Elizabeth Booth, Bournemouth

There's only one way: the traditional way. You warm the pot first - a silver teapot in the royal instance, of course - and then discard the water. You then add one heaped teaspoon of loose tea per person and one for the pot; fill the teapot with boiling water three-quarters full, stir, leave for two to three minutes to steep and then pour it through a tea strainer. I learnt that technique by watching the Queen do it.

What is your biggest regret?
Sally Crowther, Clacton-on-Sea

I can't think of one, but if I do have any, I put them away in boxes and put lids on them. Look ahead. Don't look back.

You have said the letters you have from Diana that you have made public are only the tip of the iceberg. How many more do you have? Under what circumstances would you consider publishing them?
Sean Stephenson, by e-mail

Quite frankly, it's no one else's business. I have those letters because they were all written to me and I treasure them. They contain many intimate secrets and I personally think they should remain private. Regardless of how many financial offers I am given, they will never see the light of day. But I do draw a distinction between what the public should know and what should remain private. I know what the Princess would want me to say and what she wouldn't want me to say, so I can't say that I'll never publish any more. If it falls on me to defend her memory with her own words, then I'll do it.

Should Piers Morgan have been sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror
Bob Jameson, by e-mail

Piers is one of the gentlemen of Fleet Street. I truly believe that he was hoaxed. I think it's generally felt that he was a scapegoat, because of his anti-war stance and because he took one step too far. I think it's very sad that he's gone.

Did you ever, for one second or longer, consider your publications as betrayal?
Robert Shaw, Canada

Never. Never. I wouldn't have written A Royal Duty otherwise. I always said that I would never write the book, but I changed my mind because of all the lies that had been written over the previous seven years about me and my family - the trauma. I wrote it for my boys, my wife, Maria, and for the Queen, to say, "Hang on a minute! Don't pull her out of her throne yet. She's a good kind, Christian lady."

What is your favourite book, film, TV programme and meal?
Stephanie Nixon, Hendon

Books: Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire - that brings out my Gothic, dark side. I think we all have one, don't we? My favourite film has to be Titanic. It was spectacular, a masterpiece. TV programme: Coronation Street. I grew up in a coal-mining community in Derbyshire. Every time I see those terraced houses, I think of home. As for the meal, it has to be quick. Having been used to state banquets that lasted three and a half hours, I hate meal times.

How important do you think your evidence will be to the current inquiry into Diana's death?
Jules Sierra, by e-mail

I've co-operated with the inquiry team fully. I've already met the officers on two occasions. I can't attach any weight to what I've said because that's for the coroner to do. I've only expressed the Princess's thoughts and feelings before she died and I've also told them what I saw in Paris. I have no other correspondence that indicates that the Princess thought she was going to die.

Would you bow to Queen Camilla?
Harriet Kirby, London

No. I only bow to people who I respect. In any case, there's no chance we'll ever see a Queen Camilla. Prince Charles will have to either abdicate or ascend the throne without her. I don't think the public is ready to accept her as queen.

Was Diana a Tory, or more of a Labour supporter? What did she think about Tony Blair?
Karen Barber, by e-mail

I can't honestly say where her party political allegiances lay, but she was a huge supporter of the late John Smith. He came for lunch at Kensington Palace and they immediately got on. He's the best Prime Minister we never had. She also liked Blair - she was in talks with him before she died about forging some kind of role as a goodwill ambassador.

How often do you think about Diana?
Peter Tyson, Monmouth

Sad to say, I think about her most days. There's a picture of her in most rooms of my house - not intentionally, but because she's part of who we are. But I never watch her on television. I don't like to hear her voice. It's still there.

Is royal security as ropey as it looks?
Chris Robinson, Manchester

No. In my experience, royal security was always very good.

What do you think the stuff you've got from Diana would go for at auction? Would you ever sell it?
Indira Singh, by e-mail

No, I have no intention of doing that. I could never sell her notes and letters to me. They are only worth something to me, as far as I'm concerned.

Mr Burrell, I have to say that I never really believed your stories about Diana's property. I still don't understand why you were taking things from Kensington Palace at 4am. And, even if the stories are true, why don't you just give Diana's property back to her family? It doesn't really belong to you.
Leila French, Birmingham

It's an odd question. It isn't factual. This reader doesn't understand my unique relationship with Diana. This reader has obviously taken the prosecution case at my aborted trial at face value - I never had the chance to put my defence. Yes, I did take a few items away at 3.30am from Kensington Palace, because at the time the Spencers were mishandling the Princess's world. They were shredding her papers. No one had told me I could take those items. I took it upon myself to do so. I had no legal right to do that, but I had a moral right to do it. When I told the Queen that I had been protecting the Princess's world and keeping her documentation safe, she understood.

'A Royal Duty' by Paul Burrell is published in paperback on 3 June (Penguin, £7.99)

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