He rose to worldwide prominence as the personal butler of Princess Diana, but Paul Burrell’s career was launched further into the spotlight following the tragic death of the Princess of Wales in 1997. More than 20 years after her death, Burrell is still Diana’s most loyal friend, which was evident in his short lived appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!
Many past celebs have said that going into the jungle has changed their lives as it gives you a break away from everyday life and allows you to re-evaluate a lot of things. How did your time in the jungle affect you?
My time in the jungle was a rollercoaster ride through a wild jungle. I did it [UK I’m A Celebrity] 17 years ago on the Gold Coast and that was a walk in the park in comparison. This time around I’m an older guy – I was probably the oldest contestant – it really took its toll on me because I was away from all my comforts, from my husband, from everyone I love. But it did change me because it changed my perception of people – who would have thought that the royal butler and a boxing legend would become friends? Never in a million [years] would I have forcast that and it actually came out of the blew and surprised me.
We spoke with Lisa Oldfield following her eviction and she gushed about you and your friendship. Were you surprised by the friendships you made with Lisa and your other campmates?
Yes, because when they came in as husband and wife. [David and Lisa Oldfield] it frightened me because they came in larger than life with all guns blazing and I didn’t like them. I have to say quite honestly that I didn’t. He was so opinionated and it was his way or the highway and she was just siding up with him all the time and I could see they were edging towards me and a battle was going to ensure, but once he left, she changed. And, I saw in her a very hard, shouty, loud, at times vulgar exterior but inside [was] a vulnerable woman and during the time I got to know her in the jungle, I liked the woman that was inside and by the time she left, I whispered in her ear ‘I will miss you’. Because I did miss her and I sort of got to know her. So, penetrate that hard exterior and inside you’ll find a very nice woman.
After your reading with John Edward, you seemed visibly shaken and you said how the experience prompted you to “let go”. How do you feel now after that experience?
Being in the camp, it’s an intense situation and every emotion is heightened and seeing him come into the jungle, I knew exactly who he was as soon as I saw him – it was John Edward from Crossing Over. I was probably one of the only people who actually knew who he was. And it confused me at the time because I thought maybe he’s done some research and he knew exactly who was going to be in the jungle and he knew exactly who to go to. That was my first instinct. It wasn’t until I came out of the jungle that everyone here [working] on I’m A Celebrity told me that he had no access to any information about anybody in the jungle – in fact, he insisted that he didn’t know who was here. He went in there blind.
So that doubled it for me because I suddenly realised that he didn’t know who I was and when he came to me and told me that my friend had died in an automobile accident, it shook me. But then, when he told me that there’d been another car accident months previous, I thought ‘this is very spooky’ because no one knows about that. And then he told me ‘there’s a half-finished tapestry’. Nobody in the world knew that [the] Princess did needlepoint when she was quiet and alone in her own room and when she died, I found her needlepoint bag with a half-finished tapestry – she was making a cushion for her sitting room. Now, I’m a healthy skeptic but
I think if this brings comfort to people who’ve lost their loved one – it’s a positive force not a negative one. For me personally, it was a force for good. I was able to say ‘yes, I came into the jungle as the royal butler. I’m leaving the jungle as Paul Burrell.’ And now, Australia has seen who Diana stood beside for all those years and why the Queen choose me.
It’s only a matter of months until Meghan Markle joins the royal family. How do you feel about the upcoming royal wedding?
I think she’s a wonderful girl to take on this challenge – it’s almost like a jungle trial taking on the royal family and taking on Harry! She’s got her hands full. But I think being 36 years old... Now, what no one’s considered is the fact that Harry has chosen a bride who is exactly the same age as his mother was when she died and that is for a reason because Harry has been searching for the right woman – not a girl – who will share his dreams and help to fulfill his mother’s legacy and Meghan is that woman. I think it’s fitting and right, I think it’s wonderful that a divorcee, mixed-race woman is entering the royal family at this particular time because with Harry by her side, the both of them will start to regenerate the royal family and make them more popular.