Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s trusted bodyguard whom she referred to as “my rock,” has announced that he is gay and will be marrying his boyfriend later this year.
Diana was for a long time the only person who knew the truth about his sexuality, according to a report in British newspaper the Sun on Tuesday.
Six months ago, after 32 years of marriage, Burrell, 57, divorced his wife, Maria, whom he met when she was working for Prince Philip.
He has long been a victim of attempts to use his sexuality against him, with newspaper stories and rumors of gay relationships frequently exploited by the press and his enemies in royal circles.
Burrell is said to have been in a relationship with lawyer Graham Cooper, 58, for several years, and to be planning a circus-themed wedding in April.
Burrell now lives in the U.K. and runs a florist shop, while his wife still lives in Florida in a house they bought with the proceeds of Burrell’s tell-all memoir, A Royal Duty, which went into intimate detail about his time serving the Prince and Princess of Wales, and featured letters to him from Diana.
Burrell was accused and subsequently cleared of stealing 352 items—which included Diana’s dresses, shoes, hats, a pair of her pajamas, and highly personal letters from her to Prince William—from Princess Diana’s estate after she died.
The trial collapsed in extraordinary fashion when Queen Elizabeth stepped in, revealing that Burrell had told her he was keeping some of Diana’s possessions.
Burrell’s legal team slammed police blunders and the “stubborn refusal” of detectives to believe that the former butler was “the Princess’s most loyal and close confidant.”
However, some critics of the royal family saw more suspicious motives.
Labour MP Paul Flynn said at the time: “The most likely reason is that when Paul Burrell came to give evidence, he was going to provide extremely damaging new information which would be damaging to the royal family. This was the reason the trial was halted prematurely on this entirely unconvincing pretext.”
It subsequently emerged that Diana had entrusted Burrell with her private papers during her divorce from Charles.
William and Harry, who jealously protect their privacy, are known to despise Burrell for betraying family secrets in his books and in paid appearances in numerous TV shows and documentaries about the princess that have followed her death.
However he has been defended by some of Diana’s close friends. One friend, Rosa Monckton, said at the time of the case’s collapse: “Paul is very discreet, that’s why he was so good at his job. He was the ultimate discreet person.”
A source today told the Sun, “Paul’s friends and family all know, but for a long time he kept it a closely guarded secret. And for a time, literally nobody knew.
“He did share it with Diana while he worked with her because they were so close. But at the time she was the only woman he felt he could tell.”
A spokesman for Burrell confirmed to The Sun that he would be marrying his partner this year.