Our Paul was the one who was mistreated, misrepresented and betrayed, say villagers

The former royal butler was at home in Cheshire yesterday, preparing for a stormy week defending his decision to tell all he knows about Princess Diana. Cole Moreton and Mark Parry report

When Paul Burrell begins his hectic promotional tour tomorrow, his neighbours in the village of Farndon in Cheshire will be watching and cheering. He may not be welcome in the Palace but they'll treat him like royalty in the Farndon Arms.

"Paul is very angry and upset at the way he has been portrayed and the way he has been mistreated and misrepresented," said Martin Bouchier, the landlord and a close friend of Mr Burrell, yesterday. "He has always wanted to get together with Wills and Harry and he will always defend the memory of Diana, but he is angry at his portrayal."

Prince William and Prince Harry are themselves livid at the former servant's portrayal of life with their mother in his new book, A Royal Duty, serialised in the Daily Mirror all last week. Extracts revealed their father demanding his staff tell lies to keep his adultery secret, while their grandfather was writing notes to Princess Diana that could be construed as lecherous, meddling or both. Then there were the dark threats to anyone below stairs who threatened to serve and tell; Mr Burrell says he respected this rule until the Royal Family allowed him to be sent for trial at the Old Bailey.

The case collapsed, and now comes the book, to be published tomorrow - presumably containing further revelations. Mr Burrell spent Saturday morning with his wife and two children at a luxury hotel apparently provided by the Daily Mirror before being driven back to his terraced cottage.

As Channel 4 producers revealed that Mr Burrell would be using tomorrow's Richard & Judy show to appeal to Prince William and Prince Harry to meet him, a spokeswoman for them at Clarence House said they would be prepared to do so in principle but had no immediate plans. But Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that a meeting between the ex-servant and the young princes would not be a good idea as Mr Burrell would "dine out" on it for some time.

Last night it emerged that he is now being represented by the Outside Organisation, one of London's leading celebrity agencies, whose client list includes David Bowie, Jamie Oliver and Ronan Keating. Until recently, Mr Burrell was believed to still be on the books of Dave Warwick, whose best-known client before him had been the former Changing Rooms presenter Carol Smillie. Mr Warwick could not be contacted yesterday.

Mr Burrell's new book looks likely to be a success, at least in comparison with the rather limp performances of many celebrity autobiographies and memoirs. Of its 100,000-strong initial print run, 90,000 have been ordered in advance by booksellers. By contrast, Andrew Morton's infamous unauthorised biography of Princess Diana had an initial run of only 50,000. Another 700,000 copies have been printed in the United States.

Mr Burrell is now believed to be considering contributing to a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary with the working title Di's Guys, which is focusing on all aspects of the princess's private life from her affairs to her relationship with her brother, Earl Spencer. Then there is What the Butler Saw, a daytime game show Mr Burrell is due to present shortly on American television. The series - the idea of which would have been dismissed as a spoof in another era - will see contestants test their knowledge of scandals involving the rich and famous, with particular emphasis on misbehaving royals.

"If he hadn't been hounded and taken to the lowest point, the book would never have been written," said Mr Bouchier at the Farndon Arms. "If lies hadn't been perpetrated about him, he wouldn't have had reason to write the book. The establishment is to blame. If people read the book, which is an honourable and beautiful book, people will be surprised. Everything will come out in the wash. He just wants to sell flowers, but he's not had the chance.''

Mr Burrell's next-door neighbour, a Mr Gelling, said: "Paul's entitled to write this book. Some people may see it as cashing in and I suppose it is in a way, but I've no problem with it. The trial has had a tremendous effect on his wife and she has been under a lot of stress.'' Other villagers simply said they would back him and that he was a decent man. Staff at his shop, Paul Burrell Flowers and Gifts, in neighbouring Holt in north Wales, refused to comment on their boss, just saying "people still support him".

On Friday Prince William and Prince Harry issued a statement saying they "could not believe that Paul, who was entrusted with so much, could abuse his position in such a cold and overt betrayal". His actions would have mortified their mother if she were alive, they said. "And, if we might say so, we feel we are more able to speak for our mother than Paul."

Mr Burrell responded by saying: "I am convinced that, when the princes, and everyone else, read this book in its entirety, they will think differently. My only intention in writing this book was to defend the princess and stand in her corner."

He had been encouraged by calls of support from some of Diana's friends, he said. "I would also like to point out that, following the collapse of my trial at the Old Bailey last year, no one from the Royal Family contacted me or said sorry for the unnecessary ordeal myself, my wife and my sons were put through. Neither do I say sorry for writing this book of which I am extremely proud and I am convinced the Princess would be proud of too. I have told the truth where the British public should know the truth."

Mark Bolland, the former deputy private secretary to Prince Charles and a man once described as "the real power behind the future King of England", believes that the failure to stop the trial of Mr Burrell was the biggest mistake Prince Charles has ever made. Yesterday Mr Bolland gave his first interview since leaving St James's Palace, in which he said: "It is impossible to argue against the point that it was a complete fuck-up that should never have happened ... the Prince of Wales should have done more to stop it. But he's not a terribly strong person. I just think he lacks a lot of confidence. He doesn't have a lot of self-belief. He doesn't have a lot of inner strength. It's one of the very sweet and lovely things about him that he's a humble man."

Asked to identify the "forces stronger than the Prince of Wales" who had thwarted attempts to make a deal with Mr Burrell before the trial at the Old Bailey, Mr Bolland went on to say: "The Prince isn't strong so it's not that difficult to be stronger than the Prince in this kind of situation. He was very, very weak and I think that was frustrating for everybody."

WHAT THE BUTLERS SAY

Paul Burrell is Britain's most notorious butler, accused by the sons of his former employer of overt betrayal, and thus breaking the golden rule of butlering: loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.

So what do his fellow butlers have to say about this apparent dishonouring of their calling? We asked Britain's leading butlers for their views:

Ivor Spencer

Currently appoints butlers to the royal households. He is disgusted with Mr Burrell's actions: "I would rather go to prison than divulge any information. I knew the Princess very well; she was a lovely person. To talk about her now that she's dead is a terrible thing." He adds: "It's the worst thing you can do as a butler. It's like a doctor discussing information about a patient."

Rick Fink

Head of the Butler-Valet School. He said: "I have been a butler for 52 years and if I talked about my clients I wouldn't be in employment now. You simply don't write about the people you work for." Mr Fink is frequently asked whether his clients have raucous parties. But, as he says, "I have never before spoken of my clients' behaviour and I'm not going to start now." He adds: "Of course, butlers will repeat anecdotes and funny stories, but I would never dream of naming names."

Wayne Fitzharris

Butler to the Jordanian Royal Family for three years. Said that during his time there, "we took care of everybody who was anybody - Prince Charles, the Clintons, Chancellor Kohl, John Major - we saw fights and mood swings, but why would we talk about it? Why would you reveal those things?" Mr Fitzharris believes that Mr Burrell is doing this for financial gain. "He's profiting from this. He is feathering his own bed." In his view, Mr Burrell has broken the trust of his client: "The guy has no morals. He has betrayed all the loyalty that he had entrusted to him." He adds: "These days, butlers generally sign a contract of confidentiality." Finally, he said before withdrawing: "Can Burrell not be sued? It's absolutely disgusting."

Kendah El-Ali and Annabel Fallon

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