Paul Burrell: ‘It would be the greatest birthday gift if her boys made amends’

Princess Diana’s former butler and closest friend Paul Burrell tells Closer how Prince William and Prince Harry’s fallout echoes their childhood dynamic – and reveals his hopes her memorial will create a truce

princess diana 60 paul burrell

by Lily Smith |
Updated on

While people around the world will remember the late Princess Diana on what would have been her 60th this week, the milestone birthday has been overshadowed in recent weeks by the feud between her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

The brothers – seemingly inseparable as children and in their twenties – have been embroiled in a deepening rift over the last three years, with reports claiming they have barely communicated since they last came face-to-face at their grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral in April.

Diana sons reunion

As Closer went to press, Harry had been pictured being driven to LAX airport to fly to the UK, to appear alongside his brother at Kensington Palace on 1 July, where they – and William’s wife Kate – will unveil a statue of their late mother. His wife, Meghan Markle – who recently gave birth to their daughter Lilibet, sparking a storm after using the Queen’s family nickname– remains in California.

However, her former butler and closest confidante Paul Burrell tells Closer that while it’ll be heart-warming to honour the late Princess, tension between the brothers will “taint” the day.

Paul, 63, says, “It’s wonderful that this statue – the first ever of Diana – is going to be unveiled and that she’s going to be celebrated on her 60th. But this isn’t going to be a typical royal family affair. The focus will be just as much on the two brothers coming together. What should be a poignant and powerful moment will be tainted. I get the impression that it will be tightly controlled and that everyone will be tip-toeing around Harry.”

Diana sons reunion

While close family and friends are unable to attend, Harry is believed to have hand-picked a journalist to report on the event due to his mistrust of the media and his fear of being misrepresented. Paul, who Diana once described as her “rock”, says he wouldn’t be surprised by this move because, even as a child, Harry was always desperate to have his say.

“He was always fighting for his voice to be heard – because William was the focus,” says Paul. “Harry had a mischievous streak and was a little naughty, playing up for attention. That seems to have echoed in later life.”

Diana sons reunion

Paul – who first met William when he was five and Harry when he was three – reveals that while the brothers were extremely close then, they had very different personalities.

Paul says, “William was always stoic, strong-willed and incredibly mature for his age. He grew up very quickly – he had to, as people were always reminding him that he would one day be King. He was aware of his responsibility and his duty – and he was always the main focus.

“Harry, on the other hand, was, I felt, almost treated as second best in some ways. In childhood games, William would be the star and Harry would be the support.

“Of course, Diana adored them both. She was so proud of William’s leadership and maturity, but she loved how Harry had the common touch – she thought he was going to be the voice of the people, like her. She would have been brokenhearted to see their relationship now.”

CHECK OUT Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's relationship from the start


Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's relationship timeline

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met in London in July 2016.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

They were introduced by mutual friend Markus Anderson, who is the director of Soho House.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In October 2016, the Express became the first newspaper to publish news that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

On November 8th 2016, Kensington Palace released an unprecedented statement which referring to Markle as Harry's girlfriend for the first time.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In the statement, Prince Harry condemned the 'wave of abuse and harrassment' faced by Markle, saying that he was 'worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.'

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Prince Harry and Meghan Marklec

'It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm,' the statement continued.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple were papped together for the first time in December 2016, shopping for a Christmas tree in London at the Pines and Needles store.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Later that week, they were seen on London's West End, catching a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In February, Prince Harry wore a his 'n' hers bracelet on the cover of Town & Country magazine, just weeks after Markle was pictured wearing the same one on Instagram.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In March 2017, Meghan joined Prince Harry in the Caribbean for the wedding of his friend's Tom 'Skippy' Inskip and Lara Hughes-Young.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

It was the first time that Markle accompanied Harry to a wedding, marking another milestone occasion for the couple.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The first public event attended by the couple was the polo at Coworth Park in May 2017.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Later in May, Markle attended the party portion of Pippa Middleton's wedding to James Middelton.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry was seen driving her to the event after the church ceremony.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple were photographed together the following day at the wheelchair tennis.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple 'broke with royal protocol' by holding hands and appearing affectionate while at the Invictus Games.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan referred to Harry as her boyfriend numerous times, saying: 'We're a couple. We're in love. I'm sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people understand is that this is our time.'

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In early November 2017, it was reported that Meghan Markle was leaving Suits after seven series.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Much was made of Markle's choice of outfit: ripped jeans and a white blouse called 'The Husband'.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Although Prince Harry was sat next to First Lady Melania Trump at the event, rather than his girlfriend, she was only seated a few rows behind him.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple made their first official public appearance in September, when Markle attended the opening of Prince Harry's Invictus Games.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In mid-November 2017, bookies suspending betting on an impending royal engagement, as speculation grew that an announcement was about to be made.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

On November 27th 2017, Prince Charles announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after 15 months of dating.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple later appeared at a photocall, with Markle wearing a white dress coat by Canadian brand Line The Label. The website has subsequently crashed.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The engagement ring, by Cleave and Company, was reportedly designed by Prince Harry himself, using two stones that belonged to Princess Diana.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

When asked by waiting photographers if the proposal was romantic, Harry joked 'of course!'

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

The couple indulged in some PDA at the closing ceremony.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Meghan wore a maroon midi dress with a pleated chiffon skirt by one of her favourite Canadian brands Aritzia.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

She teamed it with a matching burgundy biker jacket by Mackage.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry reportedly spent time with Meghan's mother Doria while at the Games too.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry was photographed kissing Meghan.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

In late September 2017, it was reported that Meghan had met the Queen, prompting speculation that the relationship was getting serious.

Diana sons reunion

Rumours of tension began in 2018 when it was reported that William, 39, had warned Harry, 36, about his fast-moving relationship with Meghan, 39, to which Harry had gone “ballistic”.

It then emerged that Harry and Meghan were branching away from the Kensington Palace household to form their own household. In author Robert Lacey’s book Battle Of Brothers, he claims that William initiated the split after household staff made “bullying claims” against Meghan.

The rumours gathered pace in 2018 when it emerged that Meghan and Kate, 39, had fallen out over bridesmaids dresses in the build-up to Meghan and Harry’s wedding.

The reports were confirmed when Prince Harry revealed later that year that the brothers were headed in different directions, saying, “We’ll always be brothers. But we’re certainly on different paths at the moment.”

Diana sons reunion

Since their move to the States, Harry and former Suits actress Meghan have made a number of incendiary attacks on the royals in interviews.

Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in March, they alleged racism within the Palace, saying a royal had questioned the colour of unborn Archie’s skin, as well as suggesting Meghan’s calls for help over her suicidal thoughts were left unanswered. The royals were reportedly left “livid” over the allegations.

While there was hope in April when the brothers interacted at Prince Philip’s funeral – with encouragement from Kate – reports claimed attempts at “peace talks” between Harry and William and his dad Prince Charles were futile.

Closer mag
Read more in this week's Closer mag, out now ©Closer mag


Paul Burrell: 'Diana's grandchildren would have been her world'

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Princess Diana's pal: 'Harry's destroying himself & hurting his family. Only Meghan Markle can stop him'

However, Paul now hopes that Diana’s 60th will spark a truce once and for all – and he believes Kate could help.

He adds, “I really hope that being back at Kensington Palace, their former home, with the statue of their mother will bring it all home to William and Harry. They were once so close. Kate is somewhat of a peacemaker, so I think her being there will be integral, if there’s any hope of the boys reconciling.

“It would be the best birthday gift to Diana if they were to make amends and move forward as family, rather than enemies.”

Read more in this week's Closer mag, out now

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