Author Tom Bower’s book Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles casts new light on the drama surrounding police action against Burrell, when hundreds of items belonging to Princess Diana and her sons were found in his family home. It also suggests how Prince Charles allegedly moved to try to hush up the drama, fearing that Burrell might reveal scandalous details about the royal household.
Bower describes in forensic detail what happened from the moment police arrived at Burrell’s home, with an officer asking, ‘Do you have any items from Kensington Palace in this house?’
The book describes how Burrell replied ‘No’, before detectives searched the house, finding a huge stash of items that the butler subsequently claimed were given to him by the princess ‘for safe keeping’. He said the two had such a close relationship, she entrusted him with protecting her legacy.
‘The rooms were filled with paintings, drawings, china and photographs that clearly belonged to Diana, who’d died three-and-a-half years before, and her children William and Harry,’ writes Bower.
Among those items were a mahogany desk inscribed ‘Her Royal Highness’. Burrell insisted this, too, was a gift.
According to Bower, writing in an extract published by the UK Daily Mail, police also found 2,000 photographic negatives – including what he claims were images of ‘Charles in the bath with his children, and many others showing the young princes naked.’
There were also 30 signed photos, empty silver frames, and Diana’s many personal notes to Prince William.
There were ‘wall-to-wall’ boxes of Diana’s bags, blouses, dresses, nightgowns, underwear, shoes, jumpers, suits and hats. Such was the hoard that police were apparently stunned.
Burrell reportedly became so panicked, that he was allegedly heard wailing, ‘I want white lilies on my coffin’ as he was taken to a police car.
But the prosecution was dramatically halted when the Queen had a ‘recollection’ that Burrell had told her in advance of the police action that he had taken items - papers were specifically mentioned - from Diana’s apartment, for safekeeping. Bower suggests this followed extensive agonising by Prince Charles and other senior royals over how the former butler could be prevented from spilling all of their most embarrassing secrets.
The outcome seems to have supported Burrell’s lawyer’s reported prediction that the legal case would never go to completion.
‘You’re making a terrible mistake,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘They won’t let Burrell’s secrets be splashed in the public domain. They’ll never let this come to trial.’
Charles was said to have been particularly worried about the contents of a number of missing video tapes, including one in which Diana was believed to have discussed ‘the alleged rape of one member of his staff by another of his staff.’
Although Burrell was accused of stealing 310 items worth £4.5 million (A$8.2 million), he was excused, and continues to maintain his innocence to this day – insisting he was Diana’s ‘rock’, and emphatic in his position that the late Princess wanted him to have her things.
Due to the Queen’s intervention, he was fully exonerated in the eyes of the law, of any wrongdoing.
But Diana’s sister is quoted by Bower as saying, ‘They couldn’t afford for Paul Burrell to go into the witness box. Burrell had told the Prince of Wales that he would tell all unless the trial was halted.’
Paul Burrell reportedly made about £4 million (A$7.3 million) from his ‘tell-all’ book. No one will ever know what was left out, and if Charles had anything to do with what was withheld.