Former royal butler Paul Burrell speaks to The Chronicle after jetting in from his Florida. In a wide-ranging interview he insists he “told the truth” at Diana’s inquest and he and wife Maria are still “very much together”. DAVID HOLMES reports
Former royal butler Paul Burrell has returned to Britain for the first time since giving evidence at the inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed.
But Mr Burrell, 50, who has a home in Farndon but is now based in Florida, had not been back to the UK since he was secretly filmed by The Sun newspaper admitting he did not tell the “whole truth” to the inquest.
At the time there was speculation Mr Burrell might be investigated for perjury but the Metropolitan Police decided there was insufficient admissible evidence.
All he will say on that episode is: “I told the truth in court”. Pushed a little further about his admissions on tape, he added: “I don’t want to talk about that. That’s an area I don’t talk about.”
Mr Burrell told The Chronicle he was based in the US in order to promote his range of “Paul Burrell” merchandise and not because he felt like a hate-figure in Britain.
Speaking from his Farndon home, he said: “Because I spend a lot of time in America and because I work in America doesn’t mean I’m hiding in America.
“If I walk down the street in Chester, a lot of people approach me and there’s a lot of warmth from the general public and gladly they don’t believe all they read in the newspapers.
“I’m attached to a phenomenon, a modern day legend. I may be quite famous because of my association and people think I’m a celebrity but I have never seen myself as that. And that’s not me being modest. I’m just an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances.”
And Mr Burrell revealed his two sons Alex, 23, and Nick, 20, also now live with him in the States. Alex is a lifeguard at the Olympic Training Centre and Nick is “thinking about” enrolling at film school.
But his wife Maria still lives in Farndon where she runs the family business Paul Burrell Flowers and this has led to speculation about the state of their marriage.
“Maria is backwards and forwards. She spends a lot of time in Florida. She’s only just come back, she’s been there since May.
“People get it wrong. They say we are living apart. We are not living apart. We are still very much still together it’s just that she has to take care of the flower shop.”
With two books about his life with Princess Diana to his name and a successful range of goods, Mr Burrell is said to have made about £25m but he denied cashing in on the princess’s memory.
“It has nothing to do with the princess. The furniture, the interior ranges, nothing is called Diana. It’s about English lifestyle. The Americans consider me English and they love everything about England.”
And he dismissed the notion that personal wealth mattered, despite being a member of the super-rich club.
“It doesn’t bring everything you desire. The most important thing in your life is your family. The most incredible thing I have ever seen or witnessed was seeing my boys being born and nothing will ever change that.”
The former butler is “still taking advice” on whether to sue the News of the World over a story by Maria’s brother Ron Cosgrove, who claimed Mr Burrell had confided in him that he had a sexual relationship with the princess. He said story was “not true” although the newspaper is standing by its article.
Mr Burrell has appeared in the TV series Australian Princess and American Princess in which he helps contestants learn high society manners as they transform Cinderella-style from an ordinary girl into “a princess”.
And he says he genuinely believe in the value of good manners, style and etiquette.
“They are not being taught these life skills. They don’t get it in school, they don’t get it in the workplace,” said Mr Burrell, who believes in old-fashioned conduct such as opening a door for a lady.
“If an 18-year-old walks into a boardroom with the right set of skills and manners and respect for the people interviewing them they will get the job above the person who doesn’t.”