My Afternoon With Paul Burrell

On Wednesday, this week I had the absolute pleasure of heading to the Palazzo Versace Hotel on the Gold Coast for a charity fundraiser high tea which was also attended by a very special guest speaker, Paul Burrell, former butler to the late Princess Diana. A controversial figure within Royal watching circles, whilst I understand he is not everybody’s cup of tea, he did show me how to pour the perfect cup in case I ever have the pleasure of hosting her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II for tea.

The high tea was in support of Young care, an organisation which helps young people with high assisted living needs exit or avoid admissions to aged care facilities.

There were two events on the day. The Royal afternoon tea and conversation with Paul Burrell was the main event however prior to that there was a VIP event for only 12 people which I attended.
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Nervously ushered into an elevator we had no idea where we were going until we ended up in Paul’s very own room, the hotels Imperial suite, a luxurious three-room suite which boosts possibly the best view on the Gold Coast. With mellow music coming from a guitar player/singer in the corner and Versace staff circulating with trays of champagne and cucumber finger sandwiches, Paul Burrell emerged into the lounge. Just as synonymous with Diana to me as her ‘boys’ Princes William and Harry, Kensington Palace or that pearl and sapphire choker, it is quite a thrill when he appears, almost like catching up with an old friend as his image is so familiar. The presence of Diana lingers around him, almost to the point you expect her to pop through the door at any second.

Much like a cocktail party on an episode of the Bachelor, everyone breaks off into small groups where we wait for our own private ten minutes with him where we can take a photo, have him sign a copy of his bestselling biography ‘A royal duty’ and ask a few questions each.
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My first impressions of Paul Burrell, he has a smile which is larger than life, he radiates warmth and personality, he is slightly embarrassed when you ask him for a hug but always obliging, he is skilled at putting people at ease and calming their nerves, he effortlessly drawers you into conversation. His sunny disposition and megawatt smile are what directly led to him getting the job as the Queens personal footman after only two years of service at Buckingham Palace. That and an uncanny knack at being effortlessly able to pinpoint someone’s needs and fulfil them before they ask. Summoned to see the Queen from the breakfast table one morning as she was interested in the ‘footman who always smiles so much’ he thought the only thing a footman could be summoned for at this time of the day was to walk the Queens beloved corgis. Slipping 2 sausages in his back pocket he went to see the Queen. ‘Would you like to walk my Corgis?’ she asked, ‘of course’ he replied. Out in the gardens of Buckingham Palace the Queen peeked through the curtains as her 8 corgis, normally terrors to control were enthralled and chasing down the footman, or his two sausages at least. Upon his return, the Queen commented ‘They do seem to love you, I think I will keep you’ and promoted he was to be one of two of the Queens personal footman.

In a world where we are so used to seeing commentary from friends and family of Diana’s or the Royals being split firmly in two different camps and loathing the other side, it is surprising to see someone talk about both the Queen and Princess Diana with the same love and affection. But he does. Possibly the only member of Diana’s camp who didn’t want to cheer during Charles Spencer’s eulogy inside Westminster Abbey, he wanted to tell people to stop clapping, to look at the Queen, that the Queen was heartbroken. Always respectful of the entire Royal family he cannot be baited to speak poorly of even Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. When asked of his opinion of Camilla and Charles’s relationship he simply replies, ‘I can never speak warmly of Camilla, I am Diana’s man, she was not my mistress, she was somebody else’s mistress, Diana was my mistress and it is with her my love and loyalty will always lie’. In fact, I kind of get the feeling that he wishes people would stop mentioning both Camilla and Diana in the sentence. That he does not want Camilla to become as synonymous with Diana as her boys, Kensington Palace and her style. That he hopes when we focus our discussion on Diana we will focus on her legacy, her charity work, the way she changed the Royals and the world, her sons and grandchildren and not be fixated on the parts of her life which brought such pain and heartache.
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It is surprising how little gossip and scandal he does discuss. When he talks of Diana he discusses their friendship, her charity work, her love for her sons all peppered with personal memories of their day to day interactions with one another. Topics such as previous lovers including Hasnat Khan and Dodi Al Fayed, preparing for her funeral, her divorce with Charles only come up when he is asked directly and ask him we do constantly. When asked if he wishes that Diana had never married Charles he replies it is impossible ‘it was Diana’s destiny to marry Charles, to have those two boys, to change the monarchy and the world today, to pave the way and go through the hardships she did to create a better life for her boys and grandchildren, it was her destiny’.
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Ushered from the private event to the foyer outside the ballroom for the afternoon tea we are greeted by doorman dressed as Queen guards and trumpeters announce the event officially open. Walking into the ballroom we are greeted with candle light and over 5000 flowers, mostly roses in tribute to England’s rose. My own outfit, a dress from Australian brand Review, covered in a rose pattern blends in with the décor.
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After some on stage introductions Paul joins our table for a traditional afternoon, the menu includes delights such as English cucumber finger sandwiches, candied lemon and sultana scones served with balsamic strawberry jam with cream, guava and passionfruit mousse and finishes with a chocolate dome etiquette smash, so called as it contains a small take home guide book on etiquette.


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Halfway through the tea Paul takes to the stage for an hour presentation where he talks of his life pre-Royals, how he was studying a hospitality and hotel management course and dreamed of working at sea with Cunard cruise line. He applied to Cunard at the same time he applied at Buckingham Palace. In a secret, he only found out from his younger brother on the day of his mother’s funeral, his mother had received two letters on the same day, one from Cunard and one from Buckingham palace, both offering him employment. She took the letter from Cunard and tossed it on the fire telling his younger brother that if he went far away to sea they would never see him again. It seems just as much as he believes it was Diana’s destiny to marry into and change the Royal family and touch people the world over by becoming ‘the people’s princess’ it was just as much his destiny to enter a life service with the Royals and to be there for Diana, the princess needed her rock. He talks of her work, their trips overseas, her joy at connecting with the common people and making a real difference on issues such as land mines, her legacy of her sons and grandchildren. Through William, he feels the Monarchy is in safe hands and will flourish in the future. He advises he has no inside special knowledge but he sees Harry being happy in a way he hasn’t seen since before his mother’s death and he predicts another Royal wedding next year. I’m sure we all have our fingers crossed for that one! He addresses the charges of theft of Diana’s personal items and the intervention by the Queen which stopped the trial, the only time the Queen has intervened in such a legal matter. He says his favorite memory is of Diana, in her robe, her hair in a towel, playing her piano, finally having a moment to live her life like she doesn’t have cameras pointed on her at every second.

What did I learn most from my afternoon with Paul Burrell? A little kindness goes a long way, life is precious and can change at any second, a sunny disposition and a smile can get you far in life and the importance of a thank you note, in fact I am off to write one now.

Kylie XOXO

Inside My Wardrobe- The Dress That Started It All

After Prince William announced his engagement to Miss Catherine Middleton in November 2010, my level of interest in the soon to be Princess and the British Royal family was steadily increasing. I was buying every magazine that Kate graced the cover of and browsing online style galleries daily to take some general fashion inspiration from Kate. By the time the wedding rolled round I had grown my brunette locks long enough to curl the ends and would browse any shop I went in to for wedges and wrap dresses. It was not until June 2011 though that my interest in Kate would grow substantially from the point of inspiration to emulation.

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The dress that would change it all for me was the Temperley Moriah dress that Kate wore as a newly wed to Wimbledon. A stunning white, tiered tennis style dress with scalloped shoulders, the dress was a work of art. Sporting the most amazing Chelsea blow dry, debuting her newly remodeled sapphire earrings that had once belonged to Princess Diana and a new chunky bracelet that held a single charm, a disc that was engraved with Kate’s new royal insignia, she was the epitome of chic, modern, occasion dressing.

As perfect as her outfit, accessories and hair were (and they were perfect!) they were not the only things to envy that day. What was most striking about the photographs of Kate that day was how truly happy and in love her and Prince William were. Newly weds of just under two months, the two beamed and shone with happiness, with everyone in the world watching them, they only had eyes for each other. Having just gotten engaged in December 2010 and planning to marry in December 2011, it was this newly wedded blissful happiness that I most hoped I could one day emulate.

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The next day I bought my very first replikate, a Anne Klein black and white O pattern dress from E bay that was a perfect copy of a Zara dress that Kate had worn prior to her marriage and to a friends wedding, post her own marriage. It would take me a full two years though before I could get my hands on the perfect copy of Kate’s beloved white, tiered tennis dress.

I found my perfect copy on Shop Kate’s closet, a Facebook page created by Susan who runs the premier Kate fashion blog, What Kate Wore. Shop Kate’s closet is a place where any person can try and sell a Kate item or two from their own personal wardrobe as well as posting ‘in search of’ posts for beloved items they are trying to add to their own collections. The dress I purchased had been a copy that was custom made for another replikater who shortly after discovered she was pregnant and figured she would never fit into it again so she offered it for sale. Despite being a copy and not the real item, I could not more pleased with my dress and it remains one of my most favorite outfits.

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A week after it arrived was Valentines day and my husband had organised a special surprise date in Melbourne, where we went punting in the botanical gardens followed by a lovely afternoon high tea, a perfect and thoughtful date for someone as British obsessed as I am, so I like to think I have the happy marriage part of the outfit down pat as well.

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