Princess Diana’s former butler has claimed he was the “hub in the wheel” of the late royal’s life.

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Paul Burrell, who worked for the princess for 10 years until she was killed in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, today (14.01.08) told the inquest into Diana’s death that he was one of the princess’ most trusted friends and at the centre of her private life.

Asked by Ian Burnett QC – who is representing the inquest – whether he was “exceptionally close” to Diana and if he was one of her “intimate confidants”, Burrell replied: “I think that’s fair.”

He added: “I was at the hub of the wheel, everybody was at the spokes, I connected all the princess’s friends and all her world.

“All the princess’ friends didn’t know each other. The princess would confide in certain people with certain issues and not everyone would know everything, people would know certain amounts.

“It became increasingly obvious as the princess dispensed with her staff, I took on more and more responsibility.”

The former royal butler also revealed the princess specifically asked for him to remain as her servant after she split from husband Prince Charles in 1992.

Burrell said: “The prince asked the princess to compile a list of everything she needed to fulfil her life in London and on that list was my name.”

Burrell had previously told friends he will reveal a bombshell at the inquest. Friends say he will not be holding anything back in his criticism of senior members of the royal family, given the way they have treated him in the past.

One friend told the Daily Express: “He was very close to Diana and this is his chance to say how he really feels. He has told us to watch the headlines for the next few days as he says he will be making them.

“Paul is very bitter over the way he has been treated by the royal family. As far as he is concerned this is major payback time.”

After Diana’s death, Burrell was accused by the royal family of stealing some of the princess’ belongings so he could sell them and make a profit.