What the butler saw, and how

LONDON NOV. 7. The case of the royal butler Paul Burrell, who has become more famous in recent weeks than some of the royals, is becoming curiouser by the day much to the embarrassment of both the Palace and the family of the late Princess Diana, the Spencers.

With newspapers, publishers and TV channels queuing up to sign him for multi-million pound deals, Mr. Burrell is enjoying his moment in the sun, happily spilling beans or spinning tales while pretending all the time that his loyalty to the royal family remains intact. Palace spokespersons are having a field day putting out denials and clarifications-or simply trying to keep the media at bay.

Mr. Burrell, whom Diana once called "my rock'', has been denounced as a "betrayer of secrets'' rather than a "keeper of secrets'' by a member of the royal circle quoted in the staunchly royalist The Daily Telegraph. Under a �300,000 deal, the former handyman of Diana has been talking to The Daily Mirror this week about his life and time with the royal family-revealing not only "what the butler saw'' but also what he did to `protect' his charge and what he was told by the Queen in a private conversation that apparently went on for over three hours, some two hours longer than her weekly meeting with the Prime Minister.

His claim that the Queen `warned' him to be vigilant against "powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge'' was dismissed by the Palace with some contempt, and unnamed members close to the royal circle were quoted as suggesting that he might have made it all up.

They said the Queen simply didn't use the kind of language he attributed to her.

But neutral sceptics were equally dismissive of the royal `apologists' saying that with so much smoke around, there must have been a semblance of fire somewhere.

In his Daily Mirror revelations, Mr. Burrell attacked Diana's brother Earl Spencer calling him a `hypocrite' for his "stomach-churning speech'' at her funeral.

"And I, for one, would never have paraded her life before a museum and charge �10.50 a time,'' he said referring to the museum Earl Spencer has set up in Diana's memory.

He also accused Diana's family of virtually abandoning her during the most difficult period in her life, after her marriage broke down.

Mr. Burrell shot into the media headlines after his trial for allegedly stealing hundreds of Diana's personal belongings collapsed last week when the Queen suddenly recalled that he had told her that he was taking them for "safe-keeping''. The Queen's role has come in for sharp criticism, and it is being suggested that she intervened fearing that the trial might result in some embarrassing disclosures.

Mr. Burrell, meanwhile, has been offered a TV show to host a quiz "What the Butler Saw'' which, it is claimed, has the same potential as "Who Wants to be a Millionaire'' Well, Mr. Burrell already is one.

Recommended for you