'Diana: Case Solved': Princess Diana's butler speaks out on 'movement' to 'undermine' her (Exclusive)
Our editorial team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the products and deals we love. If you love them too and decide to purchase through the links below, we may receive a commission.
For as many people that Princess Diana inspired throughout her life, there were secretly just as many who she rubbed the wrong way.
Or, so says explosive new book, "Diana: Case Solved," which claims to be "the definitive account that proves what really happened" to the so-called People's Princess, who tragically died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
In an exclusive excerpt from the tell-all book, which features the first-ever interview with the man who was driving the car that reportedly hit Diana's that fateful night, available only on AOL, several experts on the late princess, including her longtime butler Paul Burell, speak out about the different sides of Diana that the public wasn't as familiar with.
Diana: Case Solved, $22.49
To understand what might have happened at Diana’s end, we have to go back to the beginning. We have to see what she was, who she became . . . and who was angered by it.
With the whole world watching, the shy young schoolteacher married her handsome prince on July 29, 1981, but this would not be her happily ever after. The relationship was plagued by secrets and infidelity from the start.
To understand Diana, we must understand the deep loneliness of Diana’s time at the palace, from her isolation from Charles to the icy royal snobbery served up to her as an outsider. We must also appreciate her bouts of depression, bulimia, and self-harming, and how after she produced the required “heir and a spare” sons, William and Harry, her usefulness was effectively over. As Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles—who was nicknamed “The Rottweiler” by Diana— resumed their affair, Diana also sought comfort in the arms of other men . . . with sometimes tragic consequences, as in the case of bodyguard-lover Barry Mannakee, who, in 1987, shortly after their affair was discovered, died in a mysterious car crash.
Outside the palace walls, however, the press provided the attention she so desperately craved and soon Diana’s every move became front-page news. The rogue princess was born—and as the paparazzi grew more insatiable, Charles’s resentment of her popularity increased.
The woman they called the “people’s princess” and the “queen of hearts” was lauded with extraordinary affection. But the final year of Diana’s life was far more complicated; behind the headlines and photos, the Princess had cultivated enemies that could have cost her life. Yet, for most of the public, these enemies were invisible and unknown. The legions of admirers knew only Diana, and could not fathom that anyone would or could want to harm such a loving and dedicated woman.
As Diana’s biographer Tina Brown put it in an exclusive interview, “Diana had charisma. . . . She had this great accessibility in which she always made everyone she spoke to feel as if she were only connecting with them.”
Put another way, people took Diana personally. She meant something to them. It went beyond being relatable; there was empathy and sympathy. She was painfully shy and had been thrust into the limelight of the world’s stage. There had been royals before—and would be royals after—but Diana was the first true superstar. What must this burden have been like? Many shuddered to imagine the burden on the poor girl’s shoulders. They felt protective of her.
And Diana touched millions in this way. Her adoring public hung on every word that she said, every item that she wore, every time she changed her hairstyle. Even her facial expressions in newsreels were powerfully meaningful to many. Explains Tina Brown:
You could tell what she thought from the flush of her face and her big, huge, luminous blue eyes that welled with emotion when she looked at you, and made you feel completely connected. She had this great accessibility in which she always meant everybody she spoke to feel as if she was connecting only to them. That was who she was. That combination of her stature, her incredibly refined beauty, that wonderful peachy skin that was just flawless. Then, this great accessibility and kindness where she was able to connect with people in this very human way. In a rope line, she would get down on her knees and bend down and talk to the children as if she was their mom, and she would have great personal conversations with people and made them feel very special.
Indeed, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Diana’s beauty far surpassed those of other royals. She was literally stunning, sometimes rendering those who met her utterly speechless. Her grin could disarm the powerful and make people forget themselves utterly. On television it was one thing; but in person and up close, it was truly a kind of magic.
Yet the magic died forever in the early hours of August 31, 1997. Diana’s light was snuffed out forever, and in highly suspicious circumstances.
Among many other things, Diana’s death had the effect of freezing her in time. She would never grow wrinkled or old, or suffer any of the indignities that come with age. Her failing and foibles would be, mostly, concealed. She would not make a slip of the tongue or rash statement in anger that might betray a secret. She would stay as she was—as she had been in people’s minds—forever.
As Ingrid Seward, royal expert and editor of Majesty magazine, said:
It was like a Greek tragedy, the whole of her life. . . . Diana was so many different people whirled into one that she was endlessly fascinating. She was one thing to me, and she would’ve been one thing to somebody else, and it depended on her mood of the day. Because her life ended in such a terrible tragedy, she will be like Marilyn Monroe. She will be an icon forever. . . . Because certain people in certain parts of the world are determined to believe that there was a conspiracy theory, the rumblings will always go on.
But to tell the story in this book, we are forced to tell the story of another Diana. The one behind closed doors. The one whose life was—to put it indelicately—a complete mess. Diana doubted herself. She was self-conscious about her own body, and feared that those who admired her were insincere. Further, she believed she had alienated herself from the very people she desired to be closest to, including husband Charles, Prince of Wales (the heir apparent to the British throne), whose wandering eye—and hands—would stab Diana in the heart.
Interviewed exclusively for this book, Diana’s butler of many years, Paul Burrell, expounded on the alienation Diana felt.
I think the royal family take the view that things happen. The queen knows. She’s never interfered in any of her children’s relationships. Her attitude is they make their beds, they lie on them, and they have to get on with it.
These things aren’t spoken about. They happen but they happen in private and very quietly.
I stood beside the queen for a long time. I know how she performs, and I know what her attitude would be. The queen would say to Diana, “It’s your husband. You have to sort out this situation. It’s nothing to do with me.”
She does not interfere until it upsets the apple cart, until it comes to a situation where it involves the constitution of the monarchy—or the country.
The one area where Diana really came into her own was in her tireless devotion to charity work. Millions benefited in real, tangible ways from her crusades against land mines and the spread of HIV. And Diana always insisted that she should not be a figurehead only. She insisted on being in the trenches, sometimes literally.
As Burrell noted, “I remember the Red Cross once said to her, ‘We would like you to become an executive member of the board,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s not what I want. I want to be on the factory floor. I don’t want to be in the boardroom.’”
And truly, Diana moved mountains in the course of her charity work. But not everyone in power was pleased by the particular causes she championed. And some felt that such work might not be the proper place for a princess at all.
Observed Tina Brown:
There were people who felt that this is not what a royal person should be doing. She was constantly changing the rules and breaking the rules, and I would argue they were upset. [They felt] the rules that should not have been broken. Of course, since Diana, we have seen so many celebrities try to leverage their own fame in the same way that Diana did . . . but no one has had the same kind of global effect that Diana had.
Put bluntly, Diana’s charity work—the most rewarding and straightforward part of her life—eventually became yet another place where she ruffled feathers and made enemies.
According to Paul Burrell:
There were factions around the world who said that Diana was meddling in something she didn’t understand because the land mine campaign was worth billions to certain countries, and the manufacturer of these land mines, and she was getting into very hot political and diplomatic water.
Land mines. HIV. These were highly sensitive areas with huge sums of money tied up on them. And Diana was successful at what she set out to do. This made her dangerous to the brokers of power.
But if Diana was making enemies in the powerful international arms trade, she was also angering those at the very top of the British establishment. When her feud with Prince Charles spilled from the private to the public arena, Diana became an embarrassment . . . and a liability.
Adds Paul Burrell:
Immediately, there was Team Prince of Wales and Team Diana. I was happily—by now—on Team Diana, and I thought I was on the winning side. I thought I was on the side that mattered most, but a lady-in-waiting whispered in my ear, “Oh, don’t you realize? Diana will be gone and forgotten within a couple of years, so you’re backing the loser. Remember who pays your wages. Remember where the money comes from. Remember who’s going to be king.”
All of that was being drilled into me as I gave my allegiance to Diana. Soon Diana was being undermined, seriously undermined, by Charles’s people. There was a movement.
For any person in a royal family, going through marital difficulties would come with the added strains of being in the public eye.
But to say Diana was merely “in the public eye” would be a gross understatement. She was the most photographed woman in the world, probably the most photographed in all of human history. Media outlets were building an empire on her. She had created an entirely new level of interest in and adulation for the royal family. Even the most hardened journalists and photographer realized that something uncannily special was going on.
Darryn Lyons owned one of the largest international photo agencies in the world and photographed Diana personally many times. Testifying as to the eerie power of the princess, he said:
Really, the hairs on the back of your neck stood up when the princess of Wales was in your presence. . . . It was just an extraordinary experience. . . . She was truly hypnotic for a photographer, and truly an extraordinary experience to photograph.
It was a penny for her thoughts, the world around her. Although, the penny turned into a multimillion-dollar business of photographing her every movement, of every minute of every day. I think she was the first of the great royal supermodels as well.
Yet crucial to understanding her life and death is to understand that Diana was not only under the surveillance of photographers looking to get the next great cover shot. She was under almost constant surveillance by the secret services. She received the kind of security attention usually reserved for the leader of a nation. We know for certain that agencies such as the CIA kept files on her, but those spy agencies have always refused to make any of their collected information public.
For more, order "Diana: Case Solved" here.