Di Butler's Mixed Signals

This is a Aug. 9, 1997, file photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her butler, Paul Burrell, rear left, meeting Bosnian Serbs and Muslims affected by landmines near Tuzla, Bosnia during the second day of her visit to Bosnia. Princess Diana wrote in a letter months before her death that she feared someone was planning to kill her in a staged car accident, a London tabloid newspaper reported Monday Oct. 20, 2003.
AP
A tell-all memoir by Princess Diana's former butler went on sale in Britain on Monday, with its author insisting he meant it as "a loving tribute" rather than an act of revenge.

Yet in a slew of interviews, Paul Burrell also conceded that he remains angry at what he feels were royal snubs and wrote "A Royal Duty" at least in part to give his side of the story.

A week of excerpts in the Daily Mirror tabloid — which painted an intimate picture of Diana's private life — infuriated friends of the princess and brought an anguished appeal from princes William and Harry for Burrell to desist.

The ex-butler, unrepentant, says he is proud of the book and he relishes a chance to meet Diana's sons "to give them a piece of my mind."

Burrell told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that since Diana's death in a car crash in 1997, "I've been on this rollercoaster of madness — I have been here, there and everywhere ... from grieving the princess's death ... through the police knocking on my door and taking me to the highest court in the land," a reference to his collapsed trial on charges of stealing some of Diana's belongings.

"My name has been trashed, my family has been put through hell and I have been to the brink of suicide," Burrell added. "At the end of all that, I think it is important that I have a say — I am a human being, too, and I need to put the record straight."

From the serialized extracts, millions of readers learned of claims that Diana feared a plot to harm her in a car accident, and that her father-in-law, Prince Philip, disapproved of Prince Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles but thought Diana's behavior might have helped drive him to it.

A letter from Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, showed he was worried about her mental state.

Diana's sons, William, 21, and Harry, 19, called the book a "cold and overt betrayal." Clarence House, where the princes live with their father, said Friday that William had asked to meet Burrell in hopes of stopping any further revelations.

The ex-butler said he welcomed an early encounter. "I would like to ask them a few questions," he said. "I think I would like to give them a piece of my mind and ask them why they personally did not help me when I needed help at the worst point of my life."

Burrell, who was acquitted after Queen Elizabeth II confirmed that he told her he was holding some of Diana's belongings for safekeeping, said any sign of support from the royals — either during or after the trial — would have kept him from writing the book.

"I expected a little something," he said. "I was waiting — all through my trial being dragged to hell and back — I was waiting just for one lifeline, just for something from any member of the royal family."

Now, Burrell could become a rich man if his memoir sells well, and signs are good that it will.

Some 135,000 copies of the 396-page book — with its fetching cover photograph of the princess — were in British bookstores Monday, two days after a reported 1 million copies went on sale in the United States.

"The book is moving pretty fast, although it's too early to give numbers," said a spokeswoman for book and stationery chain W.H. Smith. Amazon.com ranked "A Royal Duty" at No. 3 among its 100 top-selling books.

Burrell planned to spend two days promoting the book in Britain before leaving for a lengthy U.S publicity tour.

He said Monday that he has had little income for two years, but denied that he was motivated by money. "This is about putting the princess's point of view forward — it is a loving tribute to her memory," he said.

That cut no ice with Diana's friends.

"What has turned him (Burrell) from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde?" mused veteran journalist Bill Deedes in a column in The Daily Telegraph Monday.

"He is in truth an extremely simple-minded fellow, wholly unequal to the moral responsibilities that Diana unwittingly imposed on him, tormented by a trial that should never have been allowed to take place, thus easily persuaded that he owed himself the proceeds of this book," said Deedes.

The journalist knew Burrell from a trip he'd made to Bosnia with both the princess and her butler shortly before the fatal crash.

Vivienne Parry, another friend and former trustee of Diana's memorial fund, said Burrell did not appear to have wrestled with his conscience — "the only thing he has been wrestling with is which letter to draw from the capacious file marked 'P' for pension plan," she told the BBC on Sunday.