Prince William to meet Diana's former butler to discuss book

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

LONDON -- Prince William will meet his mother's former butler, Paul Burrell, to discuss the royal family's anger over revelations Burrell's new book makes about Princess Diana and her in-laws, William's office said Tuesday.

It's likely to be an emotionally charged get-together.

Last week William urged his mother's one-time confidant to stop revealing family secrets and said Diana would have been "mortified" by Burrell's actions.

Clarence House, the London home of William, his younger brother Prince Harry and father Prince Charles, confirmed William would see Burrell. A official said the meeting would be "completely private" and declined to say when or where it would be held.

The official declined to say whether representatives of William and Burrell had spoken or to provide any other details.

The 21-year-old prince said in an angry statement last week that he and Harry could not believe Burrell "could abuse his position in such a cold and overt betrayal."

Clarence House added then that William and Harry -- who often played with Burrell's children at Kensington Palace when they were growing up -- were willing to meet with him to discuss their concerns.

Burrell said Monday that he would welcome the chance to see the princes. He has criticized the family for failing to offer him any sign of support during the nearly two years in which he fought accusations that he stole items belonging to Diana and other royals.

"I would like to ask (the princes) a few questions," he said in a broadcast interview. "I think I would like to give them a piece of my mind and ask them why they personally did not help me when I needed help at the worst point of my life."

A spokeswoman at Burrell's publisher, Penguin, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on whether a meeting had been arranged.

In his book, "A Royal Duty," Burrell professes admiration and respect for the royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth II, and says he meant the work to honor Diana, not spill secrets about her private life.

Burrell went to trial on charges of stealing the royal items and was acquitted in November 2002 after the queen said he had told her five years earlier that he'd taken some of Diana's papers for safekeeping after her death. Burrell expressed his thanks to the queen, but many wondered why she'd waited to so long to come to her former servant's aid.

"I expected a little something," he said Monday. "I was waiting -- all through my trial being dragged to hell and back -- I was waiting just for one lifeline, just for something from any member of the royal family."

Even the smallest sign, he said, would have stopped him from writing the book.

"A Royal Duty" was published in Britain on Monday and the United States on Saturday, capping a week in which its juiciest highlights were excerpted every day in the Daily Mirror tabloid.

The former butler, who blitzed the British media with a series of radio and television interviews on Monday, plans to travel to the United States soon for a promotional tour.

His memoir includes excerpts of letters which claim to show, among other things, that Diana feared a plot to harm her in a car accident, and that her father-in-law, Prince Philip, disapproved of Prince Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles but thought Diana's behavior might have helped drive him to it.

Burrell expresses anger at the indignities he suffered while being investigated and tried, but often lets the royals themselves off the hook.

The book quotes from a letter he wrote to Charles after his arrest, explaining that he'd received the allegedly stolen items as gifts or been given them for safekeeping. The letter asks the prince to meet him "to resolve any misunderstanding and stop this sad episode escalating beyond control."

"It was a plea that fell on deaf ears," he adds, but says he was told aides never showed Charles the letter.

Later Burrell recounts the withdrawal of an invitation he'd received to Philip's 80th birthday party, "another wound to add to our collection."

He writes that he's certain Elizabeth and Philip had not been consulted, blaming instead the "gray suits," or royal aides -- "the same suits who suffocated the spontaneity of the princess."

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