Paul Burrell: What Really Happened – Review

by Lynn Connolly


Last night’s investigation from Jacques Peretti into the media phenomenon that is Paul Burrell was fascinating from start to finish. I’ve never liked Paul Burrell and have always believed he’s a two-faced hypocrite who should crawl under a rock to make friends with other parasites, but he’s done the next best thing; he’s moved to Florida.

The film started with us hearing about Paul’s journey from being Diana’s butler and her ‘rock’ to appearing as a reality star on American and British TV, producing two revelatory books about the princess and how he faced imprisonment in a high-profile trial for theft.

Jacques interviewed Paul’s friends, family and those who have become ‘enemies’ of the man for this documentary including Greg Pead who worked with Paul at the palace and claims to have been his lover. One of the most touching interviews however was with Paul’s brother Anthony who talked openly about how the family had been ‘left behind’ by Paul.

Anthony and Paul’s father Graham talked to Jacques about his famous son for the first time ever on TV, and the picture he painted of Paul as a child was that of studious loner and mummy’s boy who felt he was very different to the rest of the family.

Graham was clearly very proud of Paul and his achievements which, Graham said, were all down to Paul’s mother Beryl who encouraged Paul in his ambition to work at Buckingham Palace. And in fact we heard that on a family outing there when Paul was a child, he’d gazed up at the palace and portentously told his father that he would work there one day.

Graham and Anthony still live in the Derbyshire village of Grassmoor and continue to lead the working class lives that they always have, but there was much sadness for the two men that Paul had become estranged from them. Graham said that he’d never been invited to Paul’s new home in Florida and didn’t expect he ever would. What a sad revelation from an aging gentleman who was clearly an extremely nice person.

Anthony believes that it’s Paul’s “fame and money” that are at the root of why Paul has cut himself off from his once close family. It’s a fact that Anthony finds distressing and he tearfully talked about his disappointment that Paul has turned his back on the family.

We then heard from Greg Pead who claims he had a love affair with Paul that lasted three years. He told Jacques that Paul’s palace quarters were a “shrine to the Queen” and the setting for their sexual encounters. Greg then produced letters and photographs from Paul which began with “My dearest darling Greg” and went on to mention how in one letter, Paul made reference to the fact that he wanted to marry Greg.

Burrell has always denied rumours that he’s gay but from the letters and photographs that Greg allowed to be shown, he very clearly was/is. The end of their relationship came when a scandal aboard the Royal yacht Britannia rocked the palace and ended in eleven male staff being sacked for homosexual activity. For the same reason, Paul was called to a disciplinary hearing and was in fact going to be fired however the Queen personally reinstated him. She later allegedly told him that she was “so pleased” that he’d returned to work. I wonder if she’s sorry that she made that decision now? I would be, if in her shoes.

When Jacques asked Greg why he chose to ‘out’ Paul, he said that it’s because Paul still won’t acknowledge that he even knows Greg and constantly denies that he’s gay which Greg takes as a personal insult.

However, Paul then courted and married fellow palace worker Maria who was the Duke of Edinburgh’s personal maid. Paul and Maria then became burrellrespectively footman and dresser to Charles and Diana and within a few years, they had two sons and were living in the grounds of Highgrove.

Paul and Diana became close during this period and in Charles and Diana’s divorce proceedings, Paul claims that Diana asked Charles for only one thing; to have Paul as her servant, a wish to which he acquiesced.

Maria was seen in footage from an earlier film saying that Paul and Diana’s relationship was “intense” and even she doesn’t know the full extent of their relationship and confidences. She also said that, like Diana famously said, she felt there were three people in her marriage too.

At the same time, Maria’s brother Ron sold a story to a tabloid paper alleging that Paul had boasted of having had sex with Diana, for which Maria and the rest of her family disowned Ron but he told Jacques that he stands by what he said.

We then heard from Ken Wharf who was Diana’s bodyguard about how he believes Paul was “obsessed” with the Princess. He also recounted a story of how one morning, he’d been summoned by Diana to her private rooms where he saw Paul literally kissing Diana’s feet.

dianaWhen he asked what on earth Paul was doing, Diana told him that she’d just found Paul going through private papers on her desk, so evidently kissing her feet was some form of apology or pledge of allegiance on Burrell’s part.

In the end – and against Ken’s advice to sack Paul – Diana didn’t take it any further but Jacques speculated that this was possibly not a one-off occurrence and could be how Paul seemed to have amassed this wealth of secrets that he’s bragged about so often.

When Diana tragically died, Paul was allowed to stay on at the palace for a time afterwards and this is when he famously took hundreds of items belonging to her.

Paul told the media at the time and subsequently that he felt close to her in her rooms at the palace and even that he felt her presence there. However, whether this is the truth or whether he was merely using the time to go through her things and choose what items he intended to keep will probably never truly be known.

Paul then moved to Farndon in Cheshire to open a flower shop and it was to his new home which he took the items, turning his house into a shrine to Diana. In 2001, the police arrived with a warrant to search his house to recover the items he took from the palace which he claimed he was merely the “custodian” of and which he’d taken to protect some of the items.

Jacques then told us that Ken Wharf had assisted the team of police officers who brought Paul and the evidence to court. Ken stated that it was his belief that the officers wanted to recover just one item in reality and that item was a mahogany box that contained personal letters to and from Diana as well as a tape recording that could be potentially devastating to the monarchy if its contents were ever publically heard.

The tape was a recording of conversations between Diana and George Smith – a former palace employee – during which George alleged he had been raped by a male “member of the household” in 1989. Diana went to the Priory Clinic where George was receiving treatment for depression and alcohol dependency to make the tape. This tape has never been found, so is this the ‘ace’ card that Paul Burrell has up his sleeve?

Jacques put this question to many of the people he interviewed for the documentary but nobody could say yes or no; nobody knows if this tape exists and if it does, if Paul has it.

However, many have speculated that the Queen fears he does indeed have this tape or is aware of its contents and that’s why she so famously intervened in his trial before he could be ordered burrellto take the stand.

During his trial for theft, Paul was working a media machine frenzy behind the scenes and he employed an agent, negotiated for the rights to his story with tabloid papers and recorded video diaries of his private thoughts regarding the trial.

In one of these video diary entries, on the night before the last day of trial, he looked very relaxed and happy even, so did he know that the Queen was about to step in to save his bacon? If so he hasn’t spoken of it. The Queen said at the time that she’d only recently recalled a conversation she’d had with Paul in which she gave permission for him to take the items so for that reason, the trial was abandoned.

Paul was freed, however, many years later when he was again involved in legal proceedings – at the inquest into Diana’s death – he told an undercover reporter for The Sun that he hadn’t told the “whole truth” during his evidence giving and was subsequently charged with perjury. Rather than face another trial, Paul took himself off to America where he remains, living in Florida.

The journalist who got the scoop of Paul’s exclusive story following his trial and acquittal for theft was Steve Dennis who works for the Mirror. Jacques asked him why it was that Paul went from being the nation’s darling to one of the most hated men in the country to which Steve answered it was simply because Paul had incurred the wrath of the rest of Fleet Street by not giving them the rights to his story.

So is it true that the media orchestrated the crucifixion of Burrell or do we as a nation just dislike him?

Well I know that the media’s portrayal of him hasn’t affected how I think of him. As I’ve said, I’ve always thought him to be an odious toad who – had he really loved Diana like he said he did – would never have gone public with any of the details of her life, if only to be loyal to her memory and her children.

It was also suggested in the film that the palace is behind the ruination of Paul Burrell in that they tipped off the police about Paul’s homosexual affair with Greg, but the truth of that is also likely to remain unknown. And if they did, so what? Quid pro quo and all that; he’s aired their dirty laundry in public enough times, why shouldn’t they bring his boxer’s activities to light?

Paul’s agent Al reckons that Paul does indeed have more secrets but he says “he’ll never tell them” but it’s a pretty big trump card to be holding if he does isn’t it? As Jacques said, Paul Burrell could well be the best poker player the world has ever seen because if he doesn’t in fact have this big secret, then he’s done a great job of calling the palace’s and the world’s bluff.

As I said and will say again, I’ve never liked the man and as his fame has increased, so has my dislike of him. With his super-white-Hollywood smile, fake emotion and bottled tan, he’s nothing more than a tattle tale; it just so happens he’s got gossip on the world’s most famous woman and isn’t backward in coming forward for his thirty pieces of silver for it. Sadly, she can never refute or affirm anything he ever says but for the sake of her sons, I think Paul should have kept his secrets to himself from the get go.

I personally think he’s an amoral money maker, a self-serving gossip monger with the integrity of a parasite who’s feeding off the memory of Diana. All this media hungry grubbing in the tabloid gutter has left him with a bloated ego and swollen bank balance that he has no real right to have.

If the Queen is protecting him, I think we can be pretty sure it’s nothing to do with him personally as he likes to pretend it is; if she is protecting anything, it’ll be her family or the monarchy in general.

Next week, Jacques asks What Really Happened about and to Dodi Al-Fayed which I’m sure will be equally fascinating and will doubtless feature interviews with his father Mohammed. Don’t miss it!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.