Princess Dianaâs former chief of staff has blasted King Charlesâ courtiers â some of whom still remain with him â for spreading lies that she was mentally ill.
Patrick Jephson, who worked closely alongside Diana for eight years, alleges that Charlesâ staff smeared his first wife in a âsystematic campaignâ â while it was an open secret within the âestablishmentâ that he was having an affair with longtime mistress Camilla Parker Bowles.
Jephson also hits out at the royal family for being âcomplicitâ and for neglecting Diana out of petty jealousy because she was the new royal âsuperstar.â
He said: âThis is not just some casual gossip, it was a systematic campaign. Okay, it was a long time ago, but the people involved are still around, the man they were supporting is now our king and these things should not be buried, they should not be conveniently pushed to one side.
âThey happened, in theory they could happen again, and certainly they shouldnât pass without censure.â
Jephson, 68, is speaking out on âThe Scandal Mongersâ podcast with Phil Craig, which streams on Spotify next week.
Asked about a now common perception that Diana, who died aged just 36 in a tragic car crash in Paris in August 1997, was âa bit crazyâ and âprobably impossible,â Jephson hit back: âI get very frustrated. That has become the official line.
âIf you ask people close to the current royal establishment â if you dare bring up the subject of Princess Diana, which very few people would â then I think that is the answer you would get; that it was a tragic story and that she was essentially troubled mentally, and the implication being that she was not entirely up the job, which essentially then she failed at.â
Referring to the new Queen Consort Camilla, he said: âAnd the unspoken addition is that everything is alright now because we have her replacement, who is wonderfully down-to-earth and grounded and not at all flakey or paranoid.â
Jephson added: âWhen I hear people follow this line, when I see it not being challenged, I think, well, wait a minute. I knew Princess Diana probably better than almost anybody â certainly professionally â and she was one of the most sane people I ever met.
âConsidering the life she lived, considering the pressures she was under, she wasnât just sane, she had a kind of ability to restore sanity to crazy situations.
âAs an eye witness, she could be a bit of a handful sometimes, but she was always extremely aware, sane, grounded, and funny.â
Jephson, who left Diana’s employ in January 1996, admitted there was a change in Dianaâs personality after her split from Charles, now 74, who took the throne following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September. He said: âShe went from being, as far as the world was concerned, a happily married wife and mother to being a discarded ex-wife…thatâs a heck of a change in anyone’s book.â
Watching her close up, Jephson said he was more qualified than most to give a view on Dianaâs mental health during that time, adding that she turned things to her advantage âonce it became apparent her critics were trying to smear her with allegations of mental instability.â
âShe said âYes, I do have an eating disorder,â for example, and she gave a speech about eating disorders. I canât think of a better definition of sanity than [to] have people accuse you of being nuts, and stand up and make a speech about the condition that you do have,â and explain how it âaffects a lot of people, particularly young women. I think that is a sign of extraordinary strength and shows the essential pettiness of her accuser,â Jephson added.
He said the stories about her mental health were spread âby and large, by men, about a woman in a marriage with the intention to help another man.
âIt was also no wonder that Diana turned to Andrew Morton to tell her story in a book âand no wonder that she fell for Martin Bashirâs lies,â he said.
Bashir, a now-disgraced BBC reporter, made a series of claims that the royal machine was âout to get Dianaâ in order to secure his now-famous interview with the princess. He also commissioned forged bank statements that purportedly showed how payments were made into Jephsonâs account by intelligence services monitoring Dianaâs movements.
In May, the BBC paid Jephson âsubstantial damagesâ and made an âunreserved apologyâ for the 1995 interview.
He said Diana canât be blamed for giving Bashir âcredence,â adding: âThere was plenty of evidence that people were briefing against her, they were tapping her phone, they were hostile to her in many ways and determined to clip her wings as a princess. There were reasonable grounds also to think that her connection to her children might be at risk during the divorce negotiations.
âBashir knew what he was doing, he undermined her confidence in her ability to form decisions that she could have confidence in, in those circumstances, to act in a cautious way. If she believed what he told her, it was a perfectly reasonable response to do what she did.â
Buckingham Palace has so far not responded to The Postâs request for comment.
Diana turned to Morton to write the book: âDiana: Her True Story,â when she knew that âher marriage was dead, that her husband was pursuing a very efficient and successful long-term relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. She also knew sadly that her own attempts at extramarital happiness were pretty useless.â
He added: âShe was also far too aware that nobody was calling the prince to account for his conduct, nobody in his family was calling him to account. They seemed to be complicit in what to her was a betrayal. The establishment was complicit, the affair with Camilla was well known in establishment circles and all they did was to talk about Diana behind her back, to whisper about her.
âNobody offered her support, nobody took her to one side and said ânow look this is all very unfortunate, but it happens in all families, but but youâre going to get through it and weâre going to support you and youâre doing a great job and we want you to do more of it â but no.
âShe was left isolated, she was left with no acknowledgment of the situation she was in, the stress she was under, the challenges she faced every day to raise her children in these circumstances, plus she had to prepare them for a life of service. And she thought, âHow am I going to get my side of this out?ââ
Despite everything, Diana was âvery, very good at her job,â Jephson said, and was âno fool,â adding: âA lot of people underestimated her to their cost.â
Even the UK ambassador in Moscow wanted Diana to pay a visit, saying she would draw senior members of the Kremlin who would not come out for anyone else, Jephson said.
âUnfortunately, instead of embracing Diana as a fabulous asset, as somebody who could be an essential part of the modern royal family, they chose instead to be suspicious of her, to resent her, to undermine her and to dislike her,â Jephson added.
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