Friday, January 30, 2015

Shadows of a Princess - Patrick D. Jephson

Shadows of a Princess:
An Intimate Account By
Her Private Secretary
Title: Shadows of a Princess: An Intimate Account By Her Private Secretary
Author: Patrick D. Jephson
Publication Date: 10/9/00
Pages: 464
Genre: Royals / Memoir / Historical
How I Found It: As a consequence of my continued obsession with the British royal family

Date Completed: January 19, 2015

Summary: Patrick Jephson worked directly for Her Royal Highness Diana, Princess of Wales for just over seven years. Serving first as her equerry and then private secretary, he shepherded the icon through the finals years of her marriage. His inside perspective on the princess offers a glimpse at her personality, her priorities, and her life behind the glamour the world saw and loved.

What I Thought: My obsession with the royals is no secret. If you know me at all, you know this area of interest might be a little out of control for me. I may or may not have used a Shutterfly coupon code to make my own Duchess of Cambridge themed calendar for 2015. Don't judge me. You wish you could look at Kate Middleton's face and fashion every day this year, too.

On that note, my interest really began long ago with one of the most iconic royals of our age: Princess Diana. Interestingly, it may all have begun for me because I have an aunt who loved Diana as much as I love Kate now. I would sit on the floor of her house and page through books and magazines with the princess's face on the covers. I did my first ever research paper in middle school on Diana's childhood. I remember distinctly the night she died and the subsequent outpouring of emotion from around the globe; I was ten.

While we all like to think of Diana as the 'People's Princess,' a bastion of compassion and class, there has long been suspicion that her private persona did not match her public one. Jephson certainly has a unique perspective to offer having worked so closely with the Princess. He portrays her as self-conscious and always longing for affection. According to Jephson, these traits often led her to be manipulative or emotionally unpredictable. He had many wonderful things to say about her, but anything positive is definitely tempered with the reality of her humanity. 

I most enjoyed reading about Diana's relationships with other royals. I think that's what captures many of us about her story. According to Jephson, she always held the Queen in high regard, something that I found very nice to hear. Also according to Jephson, her friendship with Fergie was more one-sided than Fergie may believe. Jephson's resounding theme is that Diana was very intentional in all of her actions and relationships. However, that engineering of her image and personal life did not mean she had no genuine emotions involved. 

At the end of the day, it's hard to read about a person's fallibility, particularly when that person has been placed as a cultural icon of goodness for so many years. Jephson's account must be taken with a grain of salt - after all, the Princess was his boss and they parted on shaky terms. How many of us would have all good things to day about our boss of nearly a decade? 

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Will I Re-Read: Unlikely

A Reduced Review: Yet another person formally connected to the Princess of Wales cashes in on his book deal, revealing her to be - *gasp* - a complex person and not just the mostly polished princess we saw in the press. 

As a final sidebar, I'm proud to remind you that this is the first book I've completed from the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.  I'm so excited I joined this challenge for the first time. Feels good to not be starting from behind. January: check! I selected a really wide range of books for this challenge and this has been a good start to the list.

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