LONDON (AP) - In his first extensive comments since Queen Elizabeth II brought a surprise end to his theft trial, Princess Diana's former butler said the monarch warned him to beware of shadowy forces that might resent his close ties to the royal family.
During a three-hour meeting soon after Diana's death, "The queen said, 'No one, Paul, has been as close to a member of my family as you have,' " Paul Burrell said in an interview published Wednesday in The Daily Mirror, which reportedly paid him $620,000 for the interview.
"There are powers at work in this country which we have no knowledge about," Burrell quoted the queen as saying.
"I had no idea who she was talking about. There were many she could have been referring to. But she was clearly warning me to be vigilant."
Buckingham Palace said it had no comment on the interview.
Burrell - whom Diana called "my rock" - was acquitted Friday of stealing more than 300 items from the princess and other members of the royal family.
His trial came to a dramatic end when the queen told prosecutors Burrell had informed her at the 1997 meeting that he was holding some of Diana's belongings for safekeeping.
Burrell told the Daily Mirror that the queen had corresponded with Diana until her daughter-in-law's 1997 death in a Paris car crash. The two had a famously frosty relationship, but Diana's former butler said the monarch had tried to repair it.
"I tried to reach out to Diana so many times," he quoted the monarch as saying. "I wrote many, many letters to her, Paul."
The butler said he told the queen he'd seen her letters.
"But the trouble was, your majesty, that you spoke in black and white. The princess spoke in color," he recalled saying.
Many wondered why the queen waited so long to make the revelation that cleared Burrell. Some suggested she eventually acted to stop Burrell from revealing potentially embarrassing details if he testified.
Burrell said the queen should not take any blame for her actions.
"I'm not having the queen's reputation destroyed, I'm not having it," he reportedly protested. "She is a woman of truth and honesty."
Burrell said he knew from the start that a trial could damage the royal family by forcing him to reveal secrets and said he never understood why it was going forward.
"I could see the potential damage," he was quoted as saying. "Why couldn't everyone else?"
Burrell reportedly said he had failed himself to realize that the conversation would clear him, saying he'd only mentioned it to his lawyer last week.
"He nearly fell off his chair, but the truth is that its significance was lost on me," Burrell was quoted as saying. "My own barrister thought I was nuts. I told him 'No, I'm just loyal.' … In the royal household, it is unthinkable to recount any conversation with her majesty."
Burrell reportedly said he'd taken some of Diana's papers and belongings for safekeeping because he feared her mother - from whom she had been estranged - and her sister wanted to erase the princess's legacy. "I thought it was my duty to protect those documents and keep them safe," the paper quoted him as saying.
Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.