Erin Napier Gets a Visit from Princess Diana's Private Secretary — and Shares Connection to the Royal
Erin Napier is sharing how Princess Diana's former private secretary ended up in her shop in the "little tiny" city of Laurel, Mississippi.
The Home Town host posted the story on her Instagram Thursday after Patrick Jephson and his wife Mary Jo showed up at Laurel Mercantile, the store belonging to Erin and her husband and co-star, Ben.
Erin, 37, said she didn't know Jephson's name "until he walked into our store," and explained her good friend and Home Town regular Mallorie Rasberry "called me to tell me to run to the wood shop" once she learned who the visitors were.
As a result, Erin says, she got to meet "two people so closely involved with events from world history." Jephson was Diana's private secretary for eight years. Mary Jo also had a high-profile career, having worked at the White House for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
"They have seen the entire world, and still chose to visit little tiny Laurel today," Erin wrote.
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In the Instagram post, Napier told her 1.4 million followers how important Diana was to her.
"I have been completely enthralled by Princess Diana since I was a little child, when everywhere we went people told me my mother looked exactly like her. It made me so proud. I stood up tall when I was with her," she wrote. She included side-by-side photos of her mom and the princess (below) in her post.
"And the night Diana died was my 12th birthday. It was the first death of someone I felt I somehow knew, though we'd of course never met. I told him this story with tears in my eyes and then I laughed at how ridiculous I felt and he told me, 'Diana always wanted a daughter!'"
The HGTV star finished the post by saying: "Today two Mississippi kids got to shake the hands of living history. I won't ever forget it."
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Erin Napier/Instagram; Ken Goff/Getty
Jephson had a complicated relationship with the British royal family and in 2021 was paid a "substantial sum" in damages by the BBC over journalist Martin Bashir's infamous Panorama interview with the princess. Jephson told media he planned to donate the money to charity.
An investigation into the 1995 interview found Bashir had used fake financial documents relating to Jephson and another staffer. The journalist showed these to Diana's brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, in order to gain access to the princess for the interview.
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In 2022 the BBC apologized "unreservedly" to Jephson for the "serious harm" caused by Bashir in securing the interview — during which the princess famously claimed there were "three of us" in her marriage to Prince Charles.
Diana's interview with Bashir generated global headlines after she admitted that both she and Prince Charles had been unfaithful during their marriage. She also revealed that she had suffered from bulimia and self-harm during her relationship with the Prince of Wales.
This swiftly led to an order from Queen Elizabeth that Charles and Diana should divorce (they had separated in 1992). Tragically, Diana died just one year after the official divorce, following a car crash in Paris in August 1997.