IRREPLACEABLE!

IRREPLACEABLE!

Photo credit: Nick Klein

“Irreplaceable” is what Patrick Jephson, Chief of Staff to Diana, Princess of Wales, told Hollywood on the Potomac without hesitation when asked to describe his ‘boss’ in one word at a celebration in his honor for the re-release of his New York Times best seller Shadows of a Princess at The Watergate home of Michelle Kim, co-hosted by Janie Kim & John McCarthy.

“I didn’t keep a diary, but I did remember the important stuff. Every fact in there is true.”  Patrick Jephson

Here’s what else we learned: They were both young with very little age difference (five years to be exact), but their relationship was always strictly professional, as it should be. That he hopes that his service to Diana was useful: “I was in an unusual position. There was no precedent for what I was doing. I was head of the newest royal household and I had to work very hard during difficult times to make sure that the other households, so far as possible, knew what we were doing and what our intentions were.”  On leaving the royal service: “One of the things about royal service is that when you leave you have left.  The turnover of courtiers throughout history has been fairly regular. It’s one of those jobs that you are grateful for. It’s an immense honor, and there are those who feel they cannot cut the tie, but it is an opportunity after royal service to use an extraordinary yardstick with which to measure all other opportunities that come in your life.”  He doesn’t have any current relationship with the royal family members: “I served my eight years. I was grateful for the honor. It was very intense and it has continued to give me an extraordinary personal and professional resource on which to draw, but I don’t have any current relations, contact with the royal family.”  On who he would like to take over the monarchy: “I made my choice by immigrating to the United States. I am a grateful and proud American citizen, and I will observe with close interest what happens in the future of the royal family.”

“What I learned the hard way was that anything that goes wrong is your fault. Anything that goes right, of course, is thanks to your boss. You have to be a bit of a masochist.”

About the book: “Reissued for the twentieth anniversary of Diana’s death, this sensational and controversial bestseller is an explosive account of her life, from the man who was by her side throughout its most turbulent period. In 1981 Lady Diana Spencer was seen by many as a lifeline for the outdated Windsor line. But Diana didn’t follow the script. Instead she brought a revolution. Patrick Jephson was Diana’s closest aide and adviser during her years of greatest public fame and deepest personal crisis. He witnessed the disintegration of her marriage to Prince Charles and the negotiation of the royal divorce. Rooted in unique first-hand experience, Shadows of a Princess is an authoritative, balanced account of one of the world’s most famous and tragic women.” Google Books

Michelle Kim, Michael Tiedemann, Michael Greenwald, and Janie Kim

The author’s conversation with the guests:  “I was taken from the Royal Navy, plucked really, to work for Princess Diana. I didn’t volunteer for the job. There were two candidates from each of the armed services put off to be military aid to Princess Diana. I was told by my navy bosses, ‘Look, you’re not going to get the job, but we have to put your name up.’  I said, ‘How do you know I’m not going to get the job?’  They said,  ‘Well, let’s face it. You’re not tall enough. You’re not handsome enough. You’re not rich enough. Anyway, it’s the army’s turn.’  I went to my interview, which was  with Princess Diana. Of course, before meeting royalty, it’s important to have a very stiff gin and tonic. Because this was an important meeting, I had two stiff gin and tonics. I realized I was never going to see this woman again. I might as well make the most of my time. Much to my surprise and other people’s surprise, to be honest, she chose me to be her military aid for two years. Then I was supposed to go back to the navy and defend democracy. Instead, after two years, she and Prince Charles, sadly their marriage was splitting up. They were on diverging paths, and Diana said, ‘I want my own office. I want my own organization.’  In other words I became the producer of The Diana Show, as her chief of staff, private secretary.”

“You must apply your own judgment to what you read and hear about her today and in the future.”

“This was an extraordinarily enormous honor, but it was also an enormous challenge,” Jephson added.  “Nobody had ever seen a Prince and Princess of Wales separate before, or divorce. We were always told this was impossible, and yet the impossible was happening. That may be my first take away for tonight. The impossible will happen, even for something as historically permanent as the British royal family. Who knows what further challenges and, maybe, crises lie ahead of me? This was something that suddenly I found myself in the middle of. I was very fortunate in that my boss, who was the first to say that she was not academically gifted,  was incredibly savvy. She was streetwise. She could read people. She was empathetic. She was savvy. She was sassy. She was, yes, a Princess, but even better than that, she was a Spencer. She was from one of the noblest, aristocratic houses in the country. Way more noble, it has to be said, than the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, who changed their name to Windsor in1917. Diana had and extraordinary, innate, regal quality. Plus, she was a rebel. I used to think of her sometimes like the ancient British queen Boadicea, Boudica, who made life tough the Romans. She was very astute. She was gifted with an extraordinary moral compass, even when we were in uncharted territory as we were, particularly once she and Charles split up.”

Raul Alvillar, John McCarthy, Riley Kilburg

“She already had an idea that she felt drawn to humanitarian work that involve people who were outsiders, that means excluded. She would discuss it with me and say, ‘Patrick, I know I’m a princess. I live in a palace and I ride around in limousines and private jets. It’s all very splendid, but, actually, I feel like I’m in outsider.’  She was. She was excluded for reasons that we don’t have time to go into today from the family into which she had married, into whose care and trust she had committed herself as a teenager. She suddenly found that she had to forge her own path. She was going to do it in her own way for her own causes. The causes she chose, and I helped her then go on and work with, were not traditional royalty charity causes. There were no dogs and kittens and donkeys. She said to me, ‘Patrick, we’ll do animal charities when we run out of people charities.’ That was her attitude. She said because she felt like an outsider, she had an affinity like AIDS victims, lepers, the criminally insane, victims of domestic violence, addicts, the mentally ill. It was a long and gritty list. It was not traditional. It took a lot out of her. She put her whole body and soul into it, and I have to say, so did her royal support team, which I had the privilege of leading.”

Alexandra Chalupa, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Hon. Scott Evertz, Congressman Bart Stupak

“It was a very, very intense, stressful time, because what we were also living through was a great constitutional crisis because nobody knew what was going to happen. What about the Prince of Wales? Was he going to be king? What about Camilla Parker Bowles? Was she going to be queen? What about Diana? What happens to her? For an organization that exists on tradition and precedent, this was very, very scary times. When she died tragically, and I was offered the opportunity to write this book, initially I thought … my mother, God rest her, was from the western isles of Scotland. In her eyes, the worst sin that any little boy could commit, is to show off. The truth is, writing a book is showing off in a big way. When Harper Collins sent the cover of this book, I showed it to Mary Jo. I said, ‘What do you think of this?’ She said, ‘Your name needs to be bigger.’ I don’t know. My name needs to be smaller. It is a bit of an ego trip. It dawned on me that Diana had been a controversial figure, and that those who want us to forget her, which is a lot of people, those particularly who are invested in Queen Camilla for example, would like to control what we remember of Diana. Control of information, this is another take away from today. I now have a communications consultant and I’ve learned the hard way through working with the Princess, but also with my clients, that control of information is something that everybody aspires to, particularly if you’re in the business of formulating a public opinion. It was very important to me that those who were trying to control what we remember of Diana should have a little bit of opposition from somebody who was there, who saw what happened, and who lived through some of the darkest times with her. Plus, being Irish, I don’t like being told I can’t do things.”

Christopher D’arcy and Mac D’Arcy

“In case anybody’s concerned, the first thing I did was check that the Queen’s solicitors, that I was legally clear to do it. I checked also the Queen’s office. There was no opposition there. That gave me the encouragement I needed to sit down and write what I could remember about those eight tempestuous years when I was her senior adviser, closest aide, and responsible for The Diana show. l will tell you one funny story. It’s appropriate because it happened in America during Diana’s first visit to America, my first visit to America with her. This was her first solo overseas tour. The first time that she had been out on her own without Prince Charles. We were invited to New York through a series of charitable events. New York went nuts for the princess, and she was really taken up with New York. There are lots of funny stories I could tell you, but this one concerns her secret service detail. U.S. Secret Service assigned a detail to protect Diana and those riding in cars with her, and were very, very good at it. Diana always had a wonderful relationship with her protection people. The head of her detail was a very taciturn guy, wonderful agent. He was called Doug. He didn’t say much. He was listening to voices in his ear most of the time. We were due to go to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for a performance for a performance of “Faust” by the Welsh National Opera. Doug and I were waiting outside of the princess’s suite in the Plaza Athenee. Dead on time, because she was very, very punctual, the door opened and there was Diana ready to go to the opera. She was wearing the most spectacular ball gown, long, black, way off the shoulder. All I registered was acres of lightly tan royal skin, quite stunning. The heels, the hair and everything, it was quite a vision. Doug, the secret service agent, gaped at this and staggered back a pace. She said to him,’Good evening, Doug.’ He said, ‘Good evening, your Royal Highness.’ She leaned forward, and she just touched him here under his tuxedo. You could just see there was a shape. She said, ‘What are you wearing here, Doug?’ He said, ‘Bulletproof vest, ma’am.’ She said, ‘Shouldn’t I be wearing that?’ “

TV Talk Show Host Dennis Wholey with Patrick Jephson  Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“One more story, and it’s not so funny, but it is one that I would like to leave with you. Also in New York, several years later, seven years later, a lifetime later in many ways. It’s a very poignant one for me because it was the last overseas engagement I ever did with the Princess. She had been invited back to the AIDS Center in Harlem where she had first historically picked up that little African American baby dying of AIDS, and in the words of the hospital director, been the first person in the public light in the United States to even mention AIDS. We went back there, and there were some cultural things, and a big dinner at the Hilton where she was given the humanitarian of the year award by Henry Kissinger. She and Dr. K had a bit of a mutual admiration society. It was fun to watch them. Beforehand I told the organization, I said, ‘The Princess doesn’t accept awards. She gives awards.’  But she agreed. She was given the award, and she made a pretty speech. We went back to her hotel. As she often did, because she was a great boss, she invited me into her suite. She said, ‘Pour us both a glass of champagne, Patrick.’ We would discuss the day’s events, and I would brief her about the next day, and we’d have a bit of a laugh. I said to her, being her chief of staff, ‘You know, ma’am, I’m really glad you agreed to accept this award, because I think you deserve it.’ She said,’What?’ I said, ‘I think you deserve this award so I’m really glad you accepted this one.’ She said, ‘No, Patrick, you’re wrong. I don’t deserve it, but I am working on it.’ That is, perhaps, the one memory of Diana that I’d like to leave with you tonight.”

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