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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 17:38 GMT
What the butler heard
Paul Burrell, former Royal butler
Paul Burrell said he spoke to the Queen for three hours
Peter Hunt

You have to hand it to them, they have stamina.

The Sovereign and her former servant standing for some three hours at a meeting in 1997 which one courtier acknowledged was probably an emotional affair in the aftermath of the princess's death.

Apart from the nine corgis panting and probably yelping in the background, they were the only ones in the room.

The Queen isn't going to appear on daytime television.

The Queen
Mr Burrell said the Queen tried to "reach out" to Diana

So we have to rely on his version of events.

He has recalled with crystal clarity a five-year-old conversation.

At first glance the suggestion, apparently by the Queen - that there were powers at work in this country which we have no knowledge about - sounds more like it would come from the lips of a scriptwriter for the X Files rather than a woman who's been on the throne for 50 years.

There is no explanation as to what she meant.

And then there's the suggestion the Queen wanted to unburden herself on the subject of the late princess.

"I tried to reach out to Diana so many times. I wrote many many letters to her Paul," she's reported as telling the former butler.

He's described the whole lengthy experience as like "talking to my Mum" and he wanted to embrace her because he knew she was hurting.

Difficult time

Deference spared him a regal incident.

Instead he offered her the following verbal solace.

"Your Majesty, you only spoke in black and white. The princess spoke in colour."

Five years on, she may well be still exploring that phrase to understand its full meaning.

A charitable explanation would that be the Queen, at a difficult time in the Royal Family's life, after the Paris car crash, chose to speak freely with someone who wasn't a relative but who did know the princess well.


[The Queen] doesn't like dirty Royal linen being washed in public

A cynic might suggest that in the House of Windsor, a fiercely hierarchical system, it's questionable whether a Sovereign would talk to a servant in such intimate detail for three minutes, let alone three hours.

Despite his repeated protestations that he doesn't want to harm the Queen, his revelations are unlikely to help matters.

Her reported comments expose her to the risk of being ridiculed by satirists for years to come.

She is not touchy-feely.

She doesn't like dirty Royal linen being washed in public.

Her grandsons, Princes William and Harry, are similarly upset at the continuing negative publicity about their mother's life.

Inside Buckingham Palace - where the Queen, an avid reader of newspapers, may well have devoured her copy of the Daily Mirror this morning - there's likely to be a sense of irritation, but also relief.

Paul Burrell, the self-styled keeper of Diana's secrets, knew so much and could have revealed a great deal.

On the basis of this first paid for tabloid instalment, he may have left members of the royal Family feeling uncomfortable.

But he hasn't, as yet, damaged them.


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