PAUL Burrell has spent a life in service. From working as a footman at Buckingham Palace to helping run his florist in Farndon near Chester, he has always been there to help others.

"I've lived here quite a considerable time, 12 years, and it's been wonderful to have a shop in the community where we live. We've become a little cornerstone of the village.

"I'm very big into village life and the village shops - it's much better quality than supermarkets and it's the personal service that makes the difference.

"In a funny way, I've come full circle - I'm still serving people."

From working class beginnings in a coal-mining town, to serving the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace - life has certainly been extraordinary for the world's most famous butler.

In fact, as he himself admits, Paul Burrell has probably had one of the most unique careers you could possibly imagine.

Yet his life has been turbulent, and for all the glamour and excitement attached to working for the Queen and Princess Diana - exotic royal tours and regal functions - a great deal of personal tragedy followed in the wake of the Princess' death.

From a high profile theft court case, which collapsed in 2002, to the current inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales, much of his private life has been played out in public view.

But, while he has found this upsetting at times, he is resolute in his determination to forge his way forward in life and embrace the opportunities that his former occupation has afforded him.

"It has been a bumpy road some of the way. I'm doing the best I can to make it better," he said.

"Life is about living, you've got to get on with it whatever hand you're dealt."

Born and raised in Grasmoor, the 49-year-old said his desire help has always driven him.

"I always wanted to look after people and wanted to serve, make people happy and put a smile on their faces."

It was on his very first visit to London at the age of eight that he decided what his destiny would be.

"Over the years I have often been reminded that while watching the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, I turned to my parents and said, One day I'm going to work here'," he said.

Ten years later he joined the staff of Buckingham Palace as a household footman. Within a year he became the Queen's personal footman, accompanying her and Prince Philip across the world on Royal tours.

He walked along the Great Wall of China with the Queen, visited the remote South Pacific island of Tuvalu aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and visited the Tutankhamun exhibition in Cairo with the Princess of Wales.

"Each tour was unique and holds very special memories," he said.

"My career with the royal households was extraordinary. I was given so many opportunities to see the world and experience situations, which I could otherwise only have imagined. I poured vintage wine into crystal glasses, served delicious food from silver platters on to fine bone china and decorated rooms and tables with beautiful flowers.

"I've had two lifetimes in one already and if God took me tomorrow I couldn't really grumble," he added.

"I've been a very lucky man. To have just a day doing what I've done, and seeing what I've seen, would be amazing for anyone."

It is impossible to talk to Paul Burrell without asking him about the Princess and the events following her death, something he accepts with remarkable good grace for a man who must have been quizzed on this subject hundreds of times.

"It is incredible to have been so close to a woman who was undoubtedly an icon of modern times," he said.

"I miss her kindness. I have never known another human being give so much to so many unconditionally. She never asked for anything in return, I wanted to give her more and more, I wanted to look after her and give her the best anyone could possible."

The period after his former employee's death was tough for him and his family even though he was acquitted in 2002 of stealing from Princess Diana's estate.

"My life was in ruins," he said.

Of the inquest into her death, at which he grabbed some negative headlines, he said: "Who in their right minds would want to go back into a court situation? It's going to bring back some pretty horrible memories.

"But it has been 10 years and we all need closure. We all want to move on, I want to move on into a different world."

In recent years he has forged a career in television on shows such as Australian Princess, American Princess and Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes.

Despite critics accusing him of cashing in on his relationship with the People's Princess, he hopes to carry on with his career in the spotlight.

He believes that it was his appearance in 2004's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here that improved his public image.

"I think that changed people's opinion," he said.

"My wife didn't want me to do it but my sons said dad if you do it people will get to see the real you. I'm glad I did that programme. It was a watershed time for me and it was a difficult time for me.

"But it's very difficult to criticise someone if they are being honest and true themselves, which I was."