If the truth be told I only picked up ‘A Royal Duty’ because it was cheep. I had no particular interest in Paul Burrell, I was looking for an easy holiday read, although I did think he was innocent of the criminal charges levied against him with regard to the theft of items from Kensington Palace. My impression of him was that he was quite in love with the princess of Wales and I was probably more curious about what his wife thought about him swanning around the world with Di, being her ‘rock’.
The book starts predictably enough with a good account of Paul’s ordinary working class upbringing in Chesterfield. He is from a close family and speaks fondly of those close to him. The book takes us from Paul’s school days onto college and into his first job, where he would learn many of the skills he would later utilise for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and much later on for the Wales’s at Highgrove and then at Kensington Palace.
This is a very detailed book and Paul comes across as a very methodical and correct kind of person. His anecdotes of life at Buckingham Palace are flavoured with a sense of excitement and the reader very much gets the impression that he felt grateful to be a part of it. In one particular chapter Paul details how servants are only allowed to walk along the edge of the carpets of the royal household, not down the middle, and that you should not pass a royal in the hallway but duck into a room or cupboard and remain unseen. Now I don’t know about you, but I would feel that I have as much right to walk down the middle of the carpet as anyone else but the servants of the royal household adhere to this archaic rule and rather than come across as ‘sad’ or downtrodden Paul Burrell makes his job sound prestigious and obviously took a great deal of pride in his duties. Paul speaks of the Queen with loyalty and decorum and obviously likes and respects her enormously.
Recalling his time working for the Prince & Princess of Wales at Highgrove the atmosphere is very different and although it’s apparent that he always liked and admired Dianna It seems he found Charles difficult, sometimes rude and usually fairly unpleasant. During the Burrell family’s time at Highgrove they were given a grace and favour cottage in the grounds which was beautiful and I’m sure there was more trouble on the home front than is actually recorded in the book when the final decision was made to move full time to London with Diana.
The part of the book which records the time the Burrell’s spent working for the newly single Diana at Kensington Palace I personally found the most interesting, probably because this is the work for which he is best known. His loyalty and service to the princes was selfless and he openly admits she came before his family. One can only guess at the damage this caused to the relationship with his wife as although Maria’s disquiet is touched upon I felt much was left out about their personal relationship, call me a voyeur if you will.
By this time the line between master and servant had been well and truly crossed although he always referred to her as HRH, even after that title had been taken from her. There was little formality and the Burrell’s children often played with the young princes. Although Paul was criticised for w