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Paul Burrell Revelations: Diana's home. She's a Spencer now.. EARL TAUNT TO CHARLES; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: COFFIN FLAG SNUB TO THE ROYALS.

Byline: STEVE DENNIS The journalist who Paul Burrell REALLY trusts

THE royal banner on Princess Diana's coffin was swapped for the Spencer family flag minutes before she was laid to rest in her island grave, butler Paul Burrell sensationally reveals today.

Then Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, told Prince Charles and princes William and Harry over lunch at his ancestral mansion: "Diana is home...she's a Spencer now."

For five years millions have believed Diana was buried as the world last saw her, in an oak casket covered in honour by the maroon, gold and blue banner.

But Paul - Diana's butler and the man she trusted to her dying day - says the orchestrated dignity of that day was fatally marred by the earl's selfish defiance.

He told the Daily Mirror: "With that act, her brother was depriving the princess of her proper status of which she was proud.

"She was proud to have been HRH. Her sons were princes. She was not being buried as a princess which is what she wanted.

"I thought how sad that the Prince of Wales and the two young princes had to witness, at such a difficult time, a rather pathetic family declaration.

"It seemed it had more to do with the Spencer v Windsor war than what Diana would have wanted. But no one said or did anything. We were on the earl's territory."

And a source close to the earl last night confirmed the banner was changed at the last moment. They said: "I believe the coffin was covered in a Spencer flag once it arrived at Althorp."

The source said it was done with the consent of Charles, William and Harry who would have been "absolutely content" for this to happen.

Paul, 44, spoke out as rattled Earl Spencer tried to scorn damning revelations by the devoted butler with the comment: "There's more dignity in silence."

Yesterday Paul had revealed the Spencers found Diana "unacceptable in life". He said the princess never spoke to her mother Frances Shand Kydd again after a poisonous personal phone call months before her death.

Spencer's comment was rich coming from a man who chose Diana's funeral to attack the royals and who provided statements to police in a failed attempt to bring down the aide he knew Diana loved. Paul, who was cleared of stealing items from Diana, Charles and William, said: "I know the indignity of being dragged through court. Wouldn't it be convenient for them if I kept silent now?"

Spencer yesterday piled on the hypocrisy when he drove to Northampton to unveil a plaque to Diana, and said: "I know that we, as a family are deeply proud of what she did in her life."

On Day Three of his exclusive revelations to the Daily Mirror Paul also reveals it was Diana's wish that her 1981 wedding dress should join the National Dress Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Instead, it now takes pride of place at the museum on the Spencer estate at Althorp, Northants.

AFTER Diana's funeral service at Westminster Abbey, Paul joined the Windsors and Spencers on the royal train to Althorp while the hearse followed by road.

At lunch at Althorp, Paul sat next to Charles. They chatted about old times at Highgrove. Grieving William and Harry occasionally joined in.

Earl Spencer sat at the head of the table. At the end of the meal, a member of staff came in and whispered in his ear.

Paul said: "The earl left, returned five minutes later and announced 'Diana is home'." What he did not realise then was that during those five minutes, the royal banner was swapped for the Spencer flag.

As he followed Charles and the young princes down a black and white marbled hallway, Paul saw Diana's coffin outside.

He said: "The coffin had been unloaded. Then I realised that the splendid blue, red and gold banner was replaced with the black and white Spencer flag. The earl said 'She's a Spencer now'. The royal banner was large and covered the coffin. But the Spencer family standard barely covered it. I just thought 'How sad'.

"If it was about respecting Diana's wishes, the banner should have remained. After the earl's anti-monarchy speech from the pulpit at Westminster Abbey, this was his final insult at the worst of times. It was inappropriate and disrespectful."

Paul has no wish reveal details of the service at Diana's island grave. But he did say his own farewell. As the others drifted away at the end of the ceremony, he remained.

He crouched down, scooped up a handful of earth and dropped it on to the coffin lid with the words "Goodbye, your Royal Highness". Then he stood to attention, turned and left.

He has already told how he disapproves of the princess's final resting spot because it is such a "cold, isolated place". He said: "I hate to think of her alone."

The Windsors stripped Diana of her HRH title after her divorce from Charles. But Paul said they still recognised her unique status by giving her a state funeral with her coffin shrouded in the banner.

He said: "On that day, despite everything that went on before, the Royal Family had the sensitivity to afford Diana her proper status on her final journey. It was not the day to make a point." Because he was so close to Diana, Paul truly knows what she would have wanted.

SPEAKING with passion, he said: "Knowing what Diana wanted was second nature. I knew before she did herself.

"That's why she called me Psychic Paul and her 'third eye'. I've heard her call her brother some things, too - but not in the same tone! He could never profess to know her wishes.

"What happened at her burial was the worst thing he could have done." Status was important to Diana and Paul remembers her hurt when she was stripped of the HRH title.

He said: "I said to her 'It doesn't matter, you'll always be Your Royal Highness in my eyes, boss...you were born with a title, anyway - Lady Di'. She smiled. Wherever we went around the world she was known as Lady Di."

Paul disclosed that Diana wanted her 1981 wedding dress to go on display at the Royal Albert and Victoria Museum, in Knightsbridge. "Not at Althorp," he said.

He also revealed that the treasured biblical text he read at an all-night vigil for the princess on the eve of her funeral was one item police thought he had stolen. He said: "That was precious to me."

Many people have pretended to have been Diana's "rock". But there was only ever one true rock in Diana's life. It was, and is, Paul Burrell - Diana's friends confirm it. That is why he was allowed to be present at the princess's funeral and at her graveside.

Even the Spencers recognised his loyalty and varied Diana's will to give him pounds 50,000 in recognition of his service.

Paul is saddened by the breakdown of his relationship with the Spencers. He said: "I thought they were friends until I was arrested. Then they willingly gave evidence against me."

He rarely opens up about the tragic events of 1997 - "the most distressing period of my life". At difficult moments, he sighed deeply and raised his eyes. He said: "This is something I'm not used to doing. It goes against everything I believe in.

"But if the truth is to be told it's something I must do. Certain things must be known. But there are many private moments which I hope people will understand are too intimate to go into."

CAPTION(S):

ATTACK: Spencer yesterday; FAMILY CREST: Spencer's flag was put on for burial; SAD JOURNEY: Paul Burrell, circled, leaves the railway station near Althorp with Prince Charles and Prince Harry on their way to Diana's burial on an island at her family estate; PROUD: Royal banner covering Diana's coffin as it is carried from Westminster Abbey by Welsh Guards
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2002
Words:1336
Previous Article:Paul Burrell Revelations: Diana's home. She's a Spencer now.. EARL TAUNT TO CHARLES; WORLD EXCLUSIVE: COFFIN FLAG SNUB TO THE ROYALS.
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