Read an Excerpt
The Way We Were
By Paul Burrell
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
The gold Yale key turned in the lock, and my stomach lurched
as the back door of Kensington Palace opened.
I stepped inside and walked forward, as the heavy black door
slammed behind me, sending an echo throughout the emptiness
that lay ahead. It was as dark and gloomy as ever in that part
of the palace so I flicked the light switch. Nothing happened.
The bulb must have blown, I thought.
Then I looked up to the ceiling and saw that the entire light
fixture had been ripped out, leaving only dangling wires. I
walked on, my footsteps echoing, to what had been the engine
room of the 'home' I called KP, where tradesmen, staff and
deliverymen had once busied themselves. I was in the middle of
the lobby, once filled with the buzz of the refrigerator, the
whirr of the ice-making machine, the swish of the dishwasher,
the chatter of people coming and going. Now there was a void.
The mail pigeon-holes were empty; black garbage bags, empty
drawers and chairs lay about, discarded. KP looked as if it
had been ransacked by thieves. Apartments 8 and 9 had been
reduced to a shell, there wasn't a single hook for my
It was 2002, and I had gone back to the apartments of Diana,
Princess of Wales for the first time since I had left them in
July 1998 when,even then, they were being emptied. Fine
furniture was transferred to the Royal Collection. Jewellery
was returned to Buckingham Palace. As the family was entitled
to do, Princes William and Harry and the Spencer family had
taken some items, and the Crown Estates had reclaimed the
property. On the day I moved out, 24 July 1998, the apartments
were being stripped. It was too painful for me to witness. I
wanted to leave with a mental picture of what had been,
dismissing the reality of what was taking place.
In the ensuing four years I steered clear of the palace.
I never imagined I'd ever see the day when I'd need to go
back. I didn't want to go back. But it became necessary to
return 'home' when Scotland Yard and the CPS charged me with
theft from the boss's estate-the system's response to my
spontaneous protection of her legacy. In preparation for my
Old Bailey trial, which ended in acquittal in 2002, I had to
walk my legal team through the palace to build up a picture of
what life, and my role, had been like.
That day, accompanied by my barrister Lord Carlile, QC, and
solicitor Andrew Shaw, I steeled myself for what I knew I
would see-the dismantling of the princess's world had long
been complete. But I was still unprepared for the devastating
scene of erasure and decay that confronted me when I walked up
the main staircase, then went from room to room. Each had been
stripped with a disregard that said everything about how the
princess had been treated in life.
Nothing had been respected. Workmen had moved in, ripping up
carpets, tearing down the silk wall panels that had decorated
the drawing room and sitting room, leaving the doors of fitted
cupboards hanging off their hinges. Even plug sockets had been
removed. There were horizontal gaps where the odd floorboard
had been pulled up and left propped against a wall. Newspapers
were scattered on the floor. A blue mattress was propped
against one wall. Junk lay everywhere. And it was dirty. It
seemed that the place hadn't been cleaned in the four years
since 1998. A layer of dust covered the once polished
banisters, giant cobwebs were spun round grubby cornices, and
the air was musty. A once pristine home was now as dark and
unhealthy as Charles Dickens had depicted Satis House in Great
Those with no reason to care about the princess's world, and
the devastation I saw, might have shrugged and said, "Well,
she's dead. It's time to move on. Who cares?" But moving on
shouldn't mean forgetting.
I could have cried as I walked round those rooms. It was a
stark illustration of how quickly some people had wanted to
forget her, how eager some people were to remove every vestige
It also represented a lost opportunity. A potential museum of
memories had been wrecked.
After Princess Margaret's death in 2002, the administration of
her home, Apartment 1A, was transferred to the care of
Historic Royal Palaces so that part of her living quarters
could be viewed for educational and exhibition purposes.
Today, although the place has been stripped of its furniture,
the public has the chance to visualize Princess Margaret's
life, and study the photographs of her. Would it not have been
possible to do the same with Apartments 8 and 9 five years
Also, when the Queen Mother died in 2002, the Prince of Wales
ensured that there was a fitting tribute to his grandmother:
he arranged for the World of Interiors magazine to photograph
the inside of her home to show how she had lived; to capture
her way of life, her tastes and style, for posterity. It was
published in October 2003.
That is why I've decided to share with you my photographs,
taken inside Apartments 8 and 9.
I took them, with my own camera, in the weeks after the
princess's death, for purely sentimental reasons-to preserve
what had been a special place to me. They also catalogued the
precise location of her possessions, which was useful to me in
my role as guardian of her world.
Over the years, the photographs have been a comfort, and have
helped me remember details and moments that might have blurred
with time. Many people from around the world have written to
me, or asked me face to face, what life was like with the
boss, how she lived, and what her inner sanctum really looked
like. Well, the photographs in this book provide the answer;
you will enjoy a virtual tour of Apartments 8 and 9. They show
the rooms as she left them.
Excerpted from The Way We Were
by Paul Burrell
Copyright © 2006 by Paul Burrell.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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