Queen saved Princess Diana’s friend from prison sentence by sharing this simple memory

The Queen ended the criminal trial of Princess Diana's friend after she stepped forward with some crucial evidence

Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool /Getty Images
(Image credit: Geoff Pugh - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

The Queen saved a close friend of Princess Diana’s from a serious criminal conviction after she remembered a key conversation with the accused.

  • A former royal butler was charged with stealing from Princess Diana following her death, despite insisting he had permission to keep her possessions.
  • Paul Burrell, who had been a close friend to Diana, was facing a lengthy prison sentence when the Queen stepped forward with a life-saving piece of evidence. 
  • In other Royal News, a new book reveals Prince William wrote an angry letter to the paparazzi to protect Kate's privacy.

The Queen saved Princess Diana's friend from prison - simply by sharing one distant memory. 

In an unprecedented move, Her Majesty used her monarchical powers to intervene in the 2002 court case of Paul Burrell, after he was charged with stealing from the late Princess of Wales. 

The former royal butler’s ordeal began when he objected to the princess’s family’s wish to destroy her possessions following her tragic death in 1997. As a close confidant to Lady Diana for over ten years, Paul did not believe she would have approved of this approach. 

He insisted that her belongings should be safeguarded for her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to have when they were older. 

In June 1998, he was spotted by police entering Buckingham Palace at 3.30am and emerging with a mahogany box and two dresses. Three years later, during an investigation into the unlawful sale of Princess Diana’s possessions in the US, Paul’s Cheshire home was raided by authorities. 

File Photo Showing Diana, The Princess Of Wales, In London With Her Butler, Paul Burrell, In 1994. (Photo by Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)

Paul Burrell with Princess Diana in 1994 

(Image credit: Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)

Police found over 300 items belonging to the late princess, including a writing desk, a Versace dress, and personal letters. Despite his insistence that Princess Diana had wanted him to take them, he was arrested and charged with theft. 

"When the police came to my family home that day, the bottom of my world fell out,” Paul said on Channel 5’s Secrets of the Royal Palaces. "I felt completely helpless and hopeless."

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Paul was suddenly facing a lengthy prison sentence - a reality he couldn’t fathom following decades of royal service. “I was heading straight to prison,” he said, after explaining that nobody bought his defense that he was rightfully protecting Diana’s possessions for her children.

"The police wanted my head on a spike. They wanted me in prison because then I would have never been believed again."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Paul Burrell (C) is escorted from the Central Criminal Court after the case against him of stealing from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and Prince William, in London 01 November 2002. The trial against the former butler came to a premature end because of the sudden involvement of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. It emerged that Burrell told The Queen he had been keeping items belonging to Diana for safe keeping. AFP PHOTO Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Paul Burrell is escorted from the Central Criminal Court after the case against him of stealing from the estate of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and Prince William, in London 01 November 2002.

(Image credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

But just when he thought the game was over, a major player arrived on the scene. The Queen came forward with a piece of evidence that completely shifted the trial in his favour. Her Majesty had a memory of her conversation with Paul about Diana following her death, in which he explained he was keeping her possessions for safeguarding. 

"We were standing in her sitting room, just the two of us, and we had an open and frank discussion,” Paul recalled on Channel 5. 

"I told her everything that had happened. I said I had taken it upon myself to keep things the princess had given to me for safekeeping, and I've protected them."

"She understood that." 

After she was made aware of Paul’s charges, the Queen brought this information to the court. The evidence, which showed that Her Majesty had approved of Diana’s former butler’s actions, was enough to collapse the entire trial. 

“I couldn't believe that I was free to walk out of the Old Bailey instead of into a prison sentence,” Paul revealed. 

Some might wonder why Paul hadn’t shared the conversation with the Queen with his defence team. Unfortunately, revealing details of a private discussion with a monarch defies royal protocol. Whether the sovereign divulges what was said is entirely up to them, meaning Paul had no choice but to hope and pray for the Queen’s intervention. 

“She saved me from what I thought was my fate,” he said. “I think she saved me because she knew me, and I was her boy for 11 years.” 

Paul believes Her Majesty ‘cared’ about his future after watching him grow and start his own family. The former royal staffer has shared multiple tidbits on the Queen in the past, including her love of household chores and her close relationship with Prince Philip. He is rumoured to soon star in a new series called ‘From Servant to Celebrity’, which will explore his journey from royal butler to national celebrity. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.