Autobiography

By Paul Burrell

Printable Version

uring my twenty-two years of service to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince and Princess of Wales, I have been fortunate to witness the ultimate in stylish and elegant entertaining, from private and intimate family occasions at Sandringham and Highgrove to grand and lavish State Banquets for presidents, kings and queens. My memories of such events have led me to write my books, and share with you my experiences.

My upbringing was a far cry from the luxury of Buckingham Palace. I was born into an ordinary working-class family and lived in a small terraced house in the village of Grassmoor, a coal-mining community in the north of England. I vividly remember visiting London for the first time with my family when I was eight years old. Over the years I have often been reminded that while watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, I turned to my parents and said, "One day I'm going to work here."

However, it was not until recently that I discovered that it was my mother who chose my destiny, for which I will always be grateful. At her funeral, standing by her graveside, my younger brother turned to me and said, “There is something you should know. Paul…”

He told me of an incident which had happened many years previously, while I was away at college. I had asked my mother to open all my mail during my absence. Two letters arrived on the same day, one bearing the Royal crest and offering me a position as a footman in the Royal household, the other from the Cunard offering me a position as steward on board the QEII. Fearing that I might choose a life at sea, my mother burned the letter from Cunard on the coal fire, swearing my brother to secrecy for the rest of her life. It was a very poignant moment.

And so it was at the age of eighteen I joined the staff of Buckingham Palace as a household footman, and my new life and career began.

After only a year, I became the Queen's personal footman, and soon began traveling with her and Prince Philip to almost every corner or the world. My experiences of Royal tours will remain with me for the rest of my life. From walking along the Great Wall of China with the Queen, to a visit to the remote South Pacific Island of Tuvalu aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, or a visit to Tutankhamun exhibition in Cairo with the Princess of Wales - each tour was unique and holds very special memories.

On one official visit to Saudi Arabia the Sultan’s advisers ushered me into a cupboard in the Royal apartments before the Sultan and the Queen arrived. Apparently it was not protocol for staff to be in the Royal presence. Imagine Her Majesty’s surprise when she had occasion to open the cupboard door, only to find me inside looking totally bemused!

On all our visits we were treated to sumptuous banquets where exotic foods such as truffles and caviar would be served on the finest china and silver. However, in complete contrast and in line with local traditions and customs, we were also encouraged to sample the more acquired taste of delicacies - the most memorable being sheep’s eyes and monkey’s brains served on banana leaves and coconut palms.

Entertaining in the Royal Household was more conventional. I attended and participated in the organization of Her Majesty’s State Banquests and receptions for world leaders and heads of state, including the visits of President and Mrs. Reagan at Windsor Castle, and the visit of his Holiness Pope John Paul II at Buckingham Palace.

In 1987, I was asked by the Prince and Princess of Wales to join their household at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. I became butler to the most famous couple in the world and responsible for their private entertaining both at home and abroad, and on official and private visits. Five years later, when the Royal couple sadly separated, the Princess was ask to compile a list of everything she would wish to take from Highgrove to her apartment in Kensington Palace. Much later I learned that at the top of her “wish list” was my name.

For me, the Princess was the personification of style, and it was my privilege to serve and know such a unique and inspirational human being. From her I learnt that simplicity is often the most tasteful and attractive approach to entertaining. I remained in her service until her tragic death in the late summer of 1997.

My career with the Royal Households was extraordinary. I was given so many opportunities to see the world and experience situations which I could otherwise only imagined. I poured vintage wines into crystal glasses, served delicious food from silver platters on to fine bone china, and decorated rooms and tables with beautiful flowers.

As recognition of my service to the Royal Family, I was decorated by the Queen with the Royal Victorian Medal at the investiture at Buckingham Palace in November 1997. I will treasure this proud moment, which I shared with my family, for the rest of my life, in the knowledge that I am the only person to have been awarded the RVM for service to Diana, Princess of Wales.

 

Enjoy my Official Website!

Paul


  • Full Name
    Paul Burrell

  • Date of Birth
    June 6, 1958

  • Place of Birth
    Chesterfield, England

  • Education
    William Rhodes Secondary School
    Chesterfield, England

    High Peak College
    Buxton, England

  • Awards
    VERDIENSTMEDAILLE from President Scheel of Germany in 1978

    Silver Medal from The King of Sweden in 1983

    The Medal of The Order of The Lion of Malawi by President Banda of Malawi in 1985

    Royal Victorian Medal
    Awarded by Her Majesty the Queen in 1997

  • Books

"The Way We Were"

"A Royal Duty"

  • Other Books
    "In the Royal Manner : Expert Advice on Etiquette and Entertaining from the Former Butler to Diana, Princess of Wales"

    "Entertaining with Style"
  • Current Home
    Farndon, Cheshire, England



  • Loving Family
    Maria - Wife
    Alex - Oldest Son
    Nick - Youngest Son
    Belle - Family Pet
    West Highland Terrier

  • Charitable Activities
    Special Olympics

 
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