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Patrick Jephson shares memories of work as Princess Diana's chief of staff

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Members of the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia had a tangential brush with royalty when Patrick Jephson, former equerry (military aide) and the only private secretary/chief of staff to Princess Diana (1988-96) spoke at the annual meeting at Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale May 29.

CBN is an independent, non-profit organization of businesses and individual professionals who come together to represent community interests and advance Catholic morality, values and ethics in the workplace.

The meeting opened with a performance of the Linton Hall Fife and Drum Corps from Bristow, including songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Jephson’s presentation was followed by the installation of CBN’s new board of directors.

“It has been an honor to serve as president for the last two years while working with an astute team of leaders to rejuvenate the organization for a stronger and more vibrant future,” said outgoing President Georgia Graves. “I hope (the meeting) will encourage Catholics from all walks of life to participate with us in fellowship and in support of Catholic education.”

Jephson presented “Leading from the Heart: Princess Diana’s Global Humanitarian Vision.” He shared photographs of his time in the Royal Navy and how he came to the job with the princess.

“I never thought I’d get the job. The selection process was lunch with Princess Diana at Kensington Palace and there were six candidates,” he said. “I was on loan from the Navy for two years. At the end of those two years she and Prince Charles were splitting up. She asked me to leave the Navy and work for her full time, setting up her household, support organization and office. She said, ‘Then Patrick, we’re going to go conquer the world.’ I thought it would be the rest of my life, but fate had other plans.”

Jephson said Princess Diana was a royal professional.

“She had an innate sense of regal behavior about her. She had the ability to see into people’s hearts and read their moves and minds,” he said.

Jephson said it was a very high-profile, but also a very high-stress job. “Running Princess Diana’s organization, setting it up and running it, in the late ‘80s and ‘90s when so much else in the royal household seemed to be falling apart, was a very huge honor but also extremely hard work,” he said. “I spent a lot of time trying to look calm but making sure everything went smoothly.”

One of the times he had to look calm while calculating the next step was during a meeting of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.

“Diana was always acutely aware of her need for wisdom and guidance,” he said. “We were invited to share in prayer in Mother Teresa’s private chapel in Rome. How special it felt to be praying with them.  We were kneeling and praying but soon I prayed it ended soon to catch the airplane.”

Mother Teresa’s prayer ended right on time.

Princess Diana understood image, said Jephson. “She had a natural understanding of the fact that if you want to promote a humanitarian cause, give people a picture to look at. So much of my job was setting up the picture, so that one glance would tell people what Diana was doing and why, and why it mattered.”

Jephson is a consultant, journalist, broadcaster and New York Times and London Sunday Times bestselling author. A naturalized U.S. citizen based in Washington, he is founding partner in the specialist communications consultancy JephsonBeaman LLC. His latest book is “The Meghan Factor: A Royal Expert’s Insight on America's New Princess — and How She Could Change the Windsor Dynasty Forever.” He also wrote “Shadows of a Princess.”

“One felt when working with Diana you were serving the greater good, which was all the reward you could possibly ask,” said Jephson.

Find out more

Go to cbnnova.org or jephsonbeaman.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019