PRINCESS DIANA was known to “cross invisible lines” that divided royalty from their servants, according to a throwback documentary.
Buckingham Palace operates to strict protocol and the Queen apparently insists that it never be broken. However, when the Princess of Wales came along in 1981, she did things differently. She would get very friendly with her staff, visiting them down in the kitchens and even having them eat in her room with her, which was forbidden.
In the documentary ‘Royal Servants’, uploaded to YouTube in 2011, royal chef Darren McGrady reflected on how different Diana was in this way. He said: “The princess would just come down into the kitchen, just walk down the stairs and say ‘Hi Darren!’ “And that was just wonderful, you just looked shocked, whatever you were doing, and stopped what you were doing and looked up and Princess Diana was there.” However, this did not go down well with the more traditional royals or staff.
Mr McGrady added: “Part of the old brigade just didn’t think it was right that the royals came down to the kitchen. “And then there were the others that were a little bit jealous that someone like Princess Diana would come down and, instead of going to the senior member of staff, she would look out for the friendly faces that she knew.” The atmosphere among royal servants is often very competitive, as the opportunities for promotion are very rare. Often people stay in their position for decades, so younger staff members have to wait for people to retire ‒ or even die ‒ for vacancies to appear.
Former royal butler Paul Kidd branded the top jobs “dead man’s shoes” for this reason. However, when Diana first moved into Buckingham Palace she was served by two relatively young servants ‒ Paul Burrell and Mark Simpson. She instantly hit up a relationship with them that, in the eyes of the Palace, would have stepped over the line between staff and royal by asking them to run a special errand for her ‒ and then joining in with the reward. Steve Dennis, a journalist who co-authored a book by Paul Burrell about his time in the employment of the Royal Family, told the documentary what happened in the weeks before Diana’s wedding to Charles.
He said: “Mark Simpson and Paul Burrell trot out of Buckingham Palace and go down one of the side roads to McDonald’s and bring back three Big Macs, some fries and some coke. “It’s sneaky and it’s almost like this Pink Panther-esque escapade, tiptoeing down the carpet, knowing they’ll be in huge trouble if found. “They drop off this Big Mac and they have this little Big Mac Party. “And it was the first time Paul saw how breathtakingly normal, down-to-earth and genuine the princess was ‒ and how lost she was.”
According to royal protection officer Ken Wharfe, Diana was so friendly with him that she even offered to wash his shirts for him while they were staying at her mother’s house in Scotland. He told the Daily Mail that at first he had brushed it off, telling her it would be “ridiculous” for her to do his laundry, but that she insisted she liked doing it. The next morning, he came in and she was ironing his shirts. He explained that Diana was very informal even from his very first day in the job, saying: “It was like speaking to a friend I’d known for a long time.
“Everyone had said, ‘You’ll take a long time to understand the royals, they can be quite distant and difficult’ and yet Diana was the complete opposite.”