In his new one-man show, Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, said Sunday night at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, “I don’t think we will ever see King Charles III and Queen Camilla.”
The show, titled Paul Burrell in His Own Words, had the former butler speaking to an audience that his publicist estimated to be 950 people (the huge theater’s orchestra section was only slightly more than half full – with middle-aged women, mostly – while the mezzanine, balcony and boxes, including the royal box, were empty).
Dressed in a tuxedo with no tie and wearing cufflinks that had been given him by the late princess, who was killed in a 1997 car crash, Burrell, 46, spent the first half of the two-hour show reminiscing about getting a job at Buckingham Palace and offering anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth and Diana.
He recalled Diana watching soaps and eating dinner off a TV tray, or curled up on her sofa watching the ’40s British movie romance about unrequited love, Brief Encounter.
“She called me her emotional washing machine,” he said of their relationship. “I remember that infectious laughter, I remember a girlish giggle,” he said, and finished the first half of his program to the sounds of the Rachmaninoff piano concerto No. 2, which he said Diana would play on the piano (and which was also the theme to Brief Encounter).
After the intermission, Burrell took questions. Asked how upset Charles was when he came to the Paris hospital where Diana had died, Burrell recalled the prince approached him and stroked his suit lapel, saying, “‘Poor old thing.’ That’s all he said to me.”
“I don’t think that he ever loved the princess,” he said in response to another question.
Predicting that Charles would never be king, he said: “The Queen will live to be a very old lady. … I would say in 20 years’ time when the Queen dies, ask the people.” He added: “It’s going to cost an awful lot of money to change the stamps…why not just go with a younger king, and then the princess’s legacy would be complete.” The audience applauded.
Most questions were friendly, but a few were hostile. Asked how much he was making from the evening, Burrell said he was earning nothing from ticket sales and that the event was to promote the paperback version of his book, A Royal Duty.
Told by another member of the audience that his manner was “sugary” and “you’re leaving a nasty taste in my mouth,” Burrell replied: “You weren’t there; I was.”
Afterwards, he told PEOPLE he was “petrified” beforehand but ended up pleased with the event, which moves to New York this Thursday and Friday.
“I think it was a very warm, loving tribute,” he said, adding that he took the bit of hostility in stride: “I live with a controversial subject, a modern-day icon.”
As for the negative view of Charles he portrayed, he said: “I don’t think there’s any love lost there.”