Just a month after Prince Harry threw cold water on the romanticized story of how his brother, William, ended up with Princess Diana’s famous sapphire engagement ring, the source of that story — Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell — is on the counterattack.
In his best-selling tell-all memoir, Spare, Prince Harry had dismissed as “absolutely rubbish” the popular myth that he inherited his late mother Princess Diana’s iconic ring, but then selflessly offered it to his older brother, Prince William, to use for his proposal to Kate Middleton in 2010.
“The papers published florid stories about the moment I realized Willy and Kate were well matched, the moment I appreciated the depth of their love and thus decided to gift Willy the ring I’d inherited from Mummy, the legendary sapphire,” he wrote.
“A tender moment between brothers, a bonding moment for all three of us, and absolute rubbish. None of it ever happened. I never gave Willy that ring because it wasn’t mine to give. He already had it. He’d asked for it after Mummy died, and I’d been more than happy to let it go.”
Burrell, who served as Diana’s personal butler, remembered the scene much differently.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, the 64-year-old Burrell said he actually watched the boys pick the pieces of jewelry they wanted to keep after her death. William and Harry were 15 and 12, respectively, when their mom tragically died in a car accident in 1997.
“When the boys came to Kensington Palace, I said to them, ‘You must take something of your mother’s. You must take something to remind yourself of your time here at Kensington Palace and your mother’s life.'”
“So William piped up, ‘I’d like the Cartier tank watch, which Grandpa Spencer gave her for her 21st birthday because I remember mummy wearing that, keeping the time.'”
“Harry said, ‘Well, can I have mummy’s engagement ring? Because that’s the ring I remember from my childhood.'”
“So the boys went away with two very different prizes from their mother’s life.”
Burrell went on to explain that when William became engaged to Kate, some deal must have been done behind the scenes because Harry had the ring.
“Harry obviously gave up his treasure to his brother so that it could be on the ring finger of his wife who would one day be Queen,” Burrell said.
Burrell recalled that when the boys were choosing items from their mom’s collection, William did not push back on his younger brother taking the engagement ring.
“William was happy with the arrangement,” Burrell said. “William is not materialistic, so he didn’t look for the flashiest jewel in mummy’s collection. He didn’t.”
“What they chose were the two very simple things really, a ring and a watch. Not fantastic jewels. But they meant something to the boys.”
In 1981, the then-20-year-old Lady Diana shocked some members of the British royal family when she picked her engagement ring from the Garrard catalog.
In Diana’s eyes, the 18-karat white gold ring set with a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded by a halo of 14 round white diamonds was perfect. She loved it so much that she didn’t request any modifications or customizations.
Today, it remains one of the most famous and recognizable engagement rings of all time.
Credits: Paul Burrell screen capture via Instagram / officialpaulburrell. Prince Harry image by E. J. Hersom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Princess Diana ring replica by Ann Porteus from Tasmania, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Princess Diana with President Ronald Reagan photo by White House/ Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.