There is a media frenzy this morning after the tabloid press reported that Princess Diana’s former butler is to tie the knot with his boyfriend next month.
Mr Burrell, 58, described by the late royal as her ‘rock’, will wed lawyer Graham Cooper during an intimate ceremony in the Lake District. Paul divorced wife Maria last year, after 32 years of marriage.
The couple, who have two grown-up sons, have been living apart for years with Maria, 62, in Florida and her husband running a flower shop in Farndon .
Mr Burrell and Mr Cooper, who currently live together, are reported to have a house in Peckforton. Mr Cooper has been seen working in the florist alongside Paul.
It is not known how long the pair have known each other or when things turned romantic.
They were both listed as directors of a company in 2011, and pictured together in 2014 at the Blackberry Creek Retreat Bed & Breakfast, in Missouri, US.
It is believed that Mr Burrell’s sons Alex, 27, and Nick, 24, will be at the intimate ceremony in April, for which wedding invites have been sent out.
They live in Florida, along with Maria, who bought a luxury home from proceeds of the former butler’s books.
Speaking last year Mr Burrell told our sister paper The Sunday Mirror: “I still love my wife. Marrying her was the best thing in my life, and to witness the boys being born – nothing compares. It’s sad when people part, but it happens a lot.”
The couple met when they both worked at Buckingham Palace.
He added: “Maria is the mother of my children - they’re the three most important people in my life. Their happiness comes before mine.”
Mr Burrell won his role as footman to the Queen in 1977, aged 19, and became Diana’s butler 10 years later.
Maria, who is five years older, was the Duke of Edinburgh ’s maid. They married in 1984.
Mr Burrell’s marriage to Mr Cooper next month is the first public acknowledgement that he is gay.
He has always refused to discuss his sexuality, despite a 2002 exposé in which Australian Greg Pead claimed he’d had a three-year gay relationship with Mr Burrell in the early 1980s, before his marriage.
Maria told the Sunday Mirror at the time of the revelations: “There are no secrets between Paul and me. What’s in the past is in the past. I went into this marriage with my eyes wide open. We have already confronted these issues.”
But there have been rumours Mr Burrell’s sexuality in the past. Piers Morgan referred to him in his diaries as Princess Diana’s ‘old queenie butler’.
And comedian Vic Reeves alluded to Mr Burrell’s sexuality in his post-eviction interview with presenters Ant and Dec after both appeared on the 2004 I’m a Celebrity in which Mr Burrell came runner-up.
Speaking to The Chronicle afterwards the former royal servant accepted he was a ‘flamboyant’ character and was not prepared to get angry.
He said: “I’m very happily married to a wonderful wife and I have two wonderful boys. I have everything in my life. I couldn’t wish for anything more.
“I know who I am and, do you know, these comments don’t bother me. I’ve grown such a thick skin.”
The story about Mr Burrell’s forthcoming nuptials and his sexuality was broken by The Sun newspaper.
Steve Dennis, the Los Angeles-based forrmer Mirror journalist who was the ghost-writer for Mr Burrell’s best selling book A Royal Duty, is furious that Mr Burrell was outed by the tabloid press.
He said on Twitter: “I hope Paul Burrell now chooses to tell his story in a more controlled way, in his words.”
He also tweeted: “Big difference between telling a select number of family/friends (Paul’s choice) and being ‘outed’ to the rest of the world.”
“Yesterday, Paul called me, worried sick about coverage he had no control over and the impact on his very private partner, sons, ex-wife,” he added.
Mr Burrell was unavailable for comment when The Chronicle called his shop this morning.