London, Nov. 11 (Reuters): An English butler is meant to be the soul of discretion, so the revelations of Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Diana, have shocked other members of this tight-lipped profession.
“We are all of the opinion that what Burrell is doing is terribly wrong. It is sowing the seeds of doubt in people’s minds all over the world about what the butler will do,” butler trainer Robert Watson said.
“Burrell may well get rich out of this, but he will still have to look at himself in the mirror each morning when he shaves. Personally, I couldn’t live with myself,” said Watson, who runs the Guild of Professional English Butlers.
In a series of exclusive interviews with the Mirror newspaper — which boasted of paying him up to £500,000 — Burrell told of the strains on the princess’s marriage to Prince Charles.
He also revealed that the Queen had warned him about “dark forces” at work in her realm, her failed efforts to make personal contact with the estranged Diana and the efforts of her own mother and sister and Diana’s brother to rewrite the Queen’s history for their own ends.
The revelations began days after a case in which Burrell was accused of stealing Diana’s possessions was dropped at the 11th hour after the queen intervened.
“I would never disclose any information,” 26-year-old student butler Alex Morgan said during a training session by the renowned Ivor Spencer International School for Butlers. “I was hired to be discreet and will remain so.”
Fellow trainee Kirsten Schroeder, also 26, said she was deeply proud of her profession and would never betray the trust vested in her by her employer.
“This is a job you have to do with passion. There is a pact of confidence between a butler and her employer. We are butlers. We are not waiters in butler’s uniform,” she snorted.
Ivor Spencer himself said discretion was all for butlers: “I have been offered large amounts of money by German magazines and television stations to tell my story. I have always refused. Trust is all you have. Once that is gone, you will never work again.”
Burrell, who was in the US today to market his story wider, was unrepentant. “I do not regret a word that I have said. I have not betrayed a single secret relating to Her Majesty the Queen or the princess. I have simply said what would have been said in court anyway,” Burrell told the Mirror.
But Watson said Burrell had dented English butlers’ reputation for sealed-lip savoir faire, epitomised in comic writer P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional valet Jeeves.
“I don’t understand Burrell,” he said. “He was Princess Diana’s butler. After she was killed he could have walked into a top-paying butler’s job anywhere in the world. Burrell could have easily got $150,000 or more a year — but he blew it.”