Just One Person Joined the Family at Diana's Graveside -- the Lorry Driver's Son Who Was the Rock in Her Life; AND A TRIBUTE TO THE BUTLER WHO WAS HER CONFIDANT

Daily Mail (London), September 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Just One Person Joined the Family at Diana's Graveside -- the Lorry Driver's Son Who Was the Rock in Her Life; AND A TRIBUTE TO THE BUTLER WHO WAS HER CONFIDANT


Byline: PAUL HARRIS

WHEN the sunlight broke through the trees at the spot where they buried Diana, Princess of Wales on Saturday, most of the faces it illuminated would have been known to anyone in Britain.

Prince Charles was there with Princes William and Harry. So was Diana's brother Earl Spencer, along with her mother, her two sisters and their husbands. This grieving group crossed a wooden bridge to the Princess's final resting place on an island set in an ornamental lake in Althorp Park, her ancestral home in Northamptonshire.

But in the silence of this most private of family moments, another face, less familiar to the public, was among them.

Paul Burrell, a lorry driver's son from a Derbyshire mining town, was there because, as Diana's butler for the past nine years, he had become a central figure in her life.

Perhaps more than any other, 39-year-old Mr Burrell experienced the crises and dramas as she went through her divorce and set out to forge her new life.

To Diana, he was far more than simply a loyal servant - he was there to share the good times and to comfort her in the bad times.

He had travelled with her across the world, so it was entirely appropriate that on her final journey, the man she referred to as 'my rock' should once more be at her side.

Diana's sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale knew this, which was why his name was on the Spencer family's list of just ten people out of almost 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey who were invited to the private burial at Althorp.

In the past week Mr Burrell's name has not figured greatly in the news.

Perhaps the reason is that, as a good butler, he has always seen it as his job to help things run smoothly while keeping a discreet low profile.

That was exactly what he did.

Mr Burrell, who lives with his wife and two children in a grace and favour apartment at Kensington Palace, was in London when news of Diana's death came. His immediate reaction was the same as that of everyone else in the royal circle - initial disbelief and enormous grief.

He has personal experience of the trauma involved when a loved one dies abroad - his mother Beryl collapsed and died, aged 59, during a holiday in Canada two years ago.

He was also on Diana's staff when she learned in Austria that her beloved father Earl Spencer had died in England and was able to comfort her during one of the most dismal periods of her life.

He knew that in Paris, Prince Charles and Diana's family would be under great distress at a time when practical things had to be done. So he caught the first available flight to Paris, to play a pivotal role in making the necessary arrangements. He too cried when he went into the mortuary to pay his last respects, with a message that said they had all just lost 'the captain of our ship'. But despite his personal pain, he had his duties to carry out.

He had brought a small suitcase containing her clothes and makeup and sadly began the task of preparing the body.

He chose a simple black Catherine Walker dress she had never worn and spent a long time applying her makeup to 'make her look like a Princess again' for the arrival of Charles and Diana's sisters to view the body later that day. …

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Just One Person Joined the Family at Diana's Graveside -- the Lorry Driver's Son Who Was the Rock in Her Life; AND A TRIBUTE TO THE BUTLER WHO WAS HER CONFIDANT
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