Princess Diana 'nearly didn't go' to Vanity Fair party where she wore revenge dress, ex-butler reveals

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read

Princess Diana “nearly didn’t go” to the Vanity Fair ball where she wore her ‘revenge dress’ according to her former butler Paul Burrell.

The late Princess of Wales attended the party, at the Serpentine in Hyde Park, as Prince Charles spoke publicly about his affair with Camilla, then Parker-Bowles.

The dress was auctioned off in 1997 and fetched $3.25 million.

Burrell, 61, shared a video on Instagram in which he said the picture of her arriving at the event in 1994 was one of his favourite of the princess.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 20:  Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a stunning black dress commissioned from Christina Stambolian, attends the Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery on November 20, 1994 in London, England.  The famous black "revenge dress" was a spectacular coup by the Princess, worn on the very evening that Prince Charles made his notorious adultery admission on television. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994. (Getty Images)

He also revealed she nearly didn’t go, and that he was the one to choose the dress and send her out on her way.

He said: “This was my favourite dress. I remember this evening well, the princess turned to me and said ‘I'm not going, I can't face the world. Not after Prince Charles has just been on national TV discussing his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles’.”

He says he told her she was going because they were expecting her, to which she replied: “I’ve got nothing to wear.”

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Burrell, who is from Cheshire, continued: “So I went to her wardrobe, pulled out this dress, zipped her up and the finishing touches were the pull choker and high heels.

“As she left I said to her ‘Remember to say this to yourself: I am Diana, the Princess of Wales, I am here to stay and I am the mother of the future King of England’.”

He concluded by saying: “She did it, and I was so proud of her.”

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LONDON - JANUARY 14:  Paul Burrell, the former butler of Princess Diana, poses for the press outside the High Court on January 14, 2007 in London, England. Burrell is due to give evidence today at the Diana inquest.  (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Paul Burrell was Princess Diana's butler. (Getty Images)

Diana’s dress that evening became known as the ‘revenge dress’ as she wowed partygoers in Kensington despite the focus on her former husband’s interview.

Charles was confessing to Jonathan Dimbleby that he had been unfaithful with Camilla, who he eventually married in 2005.

British fashion journalist and stylist Alex Longmore told HuffPost in 2018: “It was the first time people had been introduced to the new Diana, the one who didn’t need the royal family, especially Prince Charles.

“In that minidress, she oozed confidence, an air of happiness and independence.”

Diana’s former stylist Anna Harvey said the princess dug the necklace out of her closet at the last minute, having been ready to wear something else that night.

Harvey said the former royal had wanted to “look a million dollars”.

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Burrell worked for the Queen and then Diana for 10 years, and has written a memoir and spoken extensively about his relationship with the late princess.

Paul Burrell (left, in the background in the white shirt and black trousers, butler to Diana, Princess of Wales as she makes a three day visit to Bosnia - Herzegovina as part of her campaign to raise awareness about the devastating effects landmines have on peoples lives and to call for a complete ban on the production, sale and use of land mines. The trip was organised by the American-based Landmine Survivors Network. Picture taken 10th August 1997. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Paul Burrell travelled extensively with Diana after she left her royal position. (Getty Images)

He worked with her both while she was a senior royal and after she stepped back when he marriage broke down.

Burrell says she described him as “the only man she ever trusted” but it’s only his own writing which backs that up.

He recently defended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step back from senior royal duties too, telling Good Morning Britain “that is a very strange family to marry into”.

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