BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 19:26 GMT
Diana 'said Queen would abdicate'
Princess Diana
Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died after a car crash in Paris in 1997
Princess Diana claimed the Queen would abdicate in April 1996, her former lawyer has told her inquest.

Maggie Rae said Diana stated to her lawyers in October 1995 that the Queen would stand aside for Prince Charles.

Diana said there were plans to sideline her through an accident where she would be seriously injured, Ms Rae added.

And Diana's ex-butler Paul Burrell, who returned to the hearing for a second day, admitted it was "very difficult 10 years on to remember everything".

The princess and Dodi Al Fayed died after a car crash in a Paris road tunnel in 1997.

On Monday, Mr Burrell, 49, was ordered to "hot foot" it from London by the coroner to his home in Farndon, Cheshire, to retrieve the documents which he said he needed.

But upon returning from the 382-mile round trip he said the letter was not there, and possibly was in America.

And, on the idea that any member of the royal family was behind a plot to kill Diana - not true, according to Mr Burrell
The BBC's Daniela Relph

In a note to the coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, he disclosed what the "secret" had been.

But the coroner told him in open court: "(There is) not in fact one secret but two secrets and you describe them to me in the letter."

Lord Justice Scott Baker said that he did not consider the information to be secret at all, and one of them already appeared in Mr Burrell's book about Diana.

Michael Mansfield, representing Mohamed Al Fayed, told the former butler: "What you are suggesting in the letter (to the coroner) today, it's more than one secret.

"She's going to live almost entirely abroad, by which you seem to be suggesting that was the United States of America.

"But on the other hand there's a second secret, which is not the United States of America - it's South Africa."

Mr Mansfield then told Mr Burrell that he was "all over the place" with his evidence.

Mr Burrell said he was "constantly wracking his brains to find the right answers", adding that he was trying to find the "truth" but that it was difficult to recall events from a decade ago.

Royal succession

Princess Diana's claims came at a meeting with her legal team at Kensington Palace, said Ms Rae.

Diana also told the lawyers that she felt the succession should skip a generation and that her son, Prince William, should be made king.

Her leading lawyer, the late Lord Mishcon, was so surprised by what she said at the meeting that he made a note of it and kept it securely until after her death.

In the note, Lord Mishcon said he was alarmed and asked the princess's private secretary Patrick Jephson whether any of it could be true.

Mr Jephson said he did half-believe some of it.

During her evidence, Ms Rae said she had been surprised by the princess' claims and did not really believe that any of them could be backed up.

She said she had been taken aback by her meeting and talked at the inquest of Diana being in lonely, silent apartments at Kensington Palace.

Microwaving meals

She said she had spoken to Diana one weekend when the princess had been alone all the time and microwaving her own meals.

Paul Burrell
Paul Burrell took an overnight trip to Cheshire to retrieve documents

Ms Rae and fellow solicitor Sandra Davis told the hearing that Diana often expressed fears that she would be killed.

Ms Davis said the princess had been "deadly serious" about her concerns at the meeting in October 1995, and those present informed the police.

Diana also thought both she and Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, were to be "put aside" in favour of royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

Mr Mansfield read an extract in court from the diaries of Tony Blair's former communications chief Alastair Campbell.

Writing about a dinner party at Ms Rae's home in 1997, Mr Campbell wrote of Diana: "Tony Blair couldn't work out whether to flirt with her or treat her like a visiting dignitary, he ended up doing a bit of both but wasn't comfortable."

Ms Rae said she had taken care of some of Diana's correspondence, including a letter from the Queen which said the princess and Prince Charles needed to get divorced.

The letters were returned to Diana shortly before her divorce.

Speaking about Diana's fears, Mr Mansfield asked Ms Rae: "It may be that underneath it all people were just not listening or taking her seriously. Is that a possibility to you?"

"Yes," she replied.

Paul Burrell arrives at the High Court

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific