Stephen Twigg, Princess Diana's Life Coach, Talks About His New Book

He gives his first interview about his new book to The Morton Report.

By , Columnist

Stephen Twigg was Diana’s life coach and masseur. Twenty years ago, he was one of the named sources in Andrew Morton’s controversial book, Diana: Her True Story. Now Stephen has written his own book, Diana: Her Transformation, in which he reveals the secrets of Diana’s personality and how she changed from being a suicidal, bulimic young woman trapped in a loveless marriage and a suffocating royal system to a strong, solo performer on the world stage. From December 1988 until her death on 31 August 1997 Diana, Princess of Wales, was engaged on a quest for self-improvement. Fifteen years after her death, Stephen, tells the story of her powerful journey.

Here he gives his first interview about his book to The Morton Report.

Why did you decide to write your book Diana: Her Transformation after such a long time?

I believe in right timing. A year or so after her death I’d outlined in detail that part of the story which dealt with my work with Diana because I believed no one else could explain accurately what her personality was or how it affected the events people thought they understood. I also knew she was an amazingly courageous woman whose journey could inspire others. Every time I considered actually writing the book, however, it didn’t feel right to do so, until the end of last year when it just felt clear to go ahead. I’m glad I did, not least because I’ve been able to counter the long standing idea that Diana was mentally unstable — something which is still being perpetuated even now.

Your book details the part you played in that transformation. How would you sum up your role?

STwigg1.JPGInitially I was a catalyst who helped Diana see possibilities beyond the trap she felt she was in and enabled her to take the first steps towards freedom. Over the seven years we worked together I was a guide and coach in the process and techniques we used to help her change what she believed about herself and her life.

You describe Diana as having "INFP" personality traits. What does this term mean and how does this help us to understand the complexities in Diana?

INFP refers to Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving, a term used to describe idealists who are focused on making the world a better place. INFPs are highly intuitive about people, they make decisions by reference to their feelings and their intuition which makes it difficult for them to make impersonal judgements. To those who discount emotions and think things through in a linear fashion INFP individuals like Diana are difficult to understand or take seriously.

You describe her life in 1988 when you first treated her as in a trap. Did you ever imagine she would escape from it? Didn’t she repeatedly see a new man, e.g. James Hewitt, Oliver Hoare, Hasnat Khan, as a potential way forward?

It was Diana who believed she was trapped. One of the first things I did was reframe that belief so she could see she had much more ability to influence the situation she was in than she thought. It took her a long time though to alter her deeply held belief that a man, who she could support by providing a home and family, would give her life purpose. Prince Charles in fact was the first in the line of those she thought might be the one to do so, but over time her perception of herself and relationships changed. Hewitt and Hoare were archetypal rescuers she was attracted to because of their sympathy for her situation. She believed her powerful feelings for them were genuine love rather than dependency.

Hasnat Khan was not a rescuer. He was the first man who offered her the possibility of a relationship based on a more equal partnership and similar aspirations — to help and care for the sick and dying. By the time she met and fell in love with him she was a powerful woman in her own right on the world stage as an acknowledged humanitarian campaigner. He had no time for the high media profile she had, something she’d already begun to question the need for. Diana saw with Hasnat the possibility of a life continuing her work with a lower profile alongside someone with whom she could share the intimate family home with more children her psychological make-up demanded.

Diana’s eating disorder, bulimia, almost ruined her health. Your treatment helped her recover from it, but you indicated she was never totally cured. Why was this so?

Bulimia is a complex condition which has at its core a strategy around food that enables sufferers to cope with situations that provoke feelings of helplessness, poor self-image, frustration and anger. These feelings are largely based on underlying beliefs and assumptions about the self acquired without volition in childhood and early life. Even when new beliefs and feelings are acquired by choice later on in adult life, and the coping strategies become more appropriate as a result, there is always the possibility that certain extremely stressful situations will trigger the old responses. Diana was wise enough to know this and throughout her life sought help and insight from leaders in the field — both as a way to reinforce her own recovery and ascendance over the condition, but also as a way of acquiring information she could share with other bulimics and anorexia sufferers she met during her work.

Do you think Charles and Diana were incompatible on a personal level? Was there a chance that the public level of the royal marriage could have continued if both had tacitly agreed to having other partners in private? Did her jealousy of Camilla rule this out?

Yes, they were incompatible. Diana would have to have been a completely different personality type to have been able to acquiesce to a marriage of convenience. Such an idea went entirely counter to everything she was. Diana’s entire make-up demanded total and genuine commitment from her partner in a mutually loving relationship with a husband she could support by making a home and having a family for him. Diana’s feelings about Camilla ranged from jealousy against the woman who was recipient of the love she was not entitled to, and intense anger and resentment at both Camilla and Charles because she believed they had colluded to cynically mislead her and so tricked her into the marriage.

Although Diana felt tremendous concern for other people, she showed no real sympathy for Charles. He didn’t have the happiest of childhoods and he hated being sent to Gordonstoun, a Scottish boarding school. Why couldn’t she give Charles the kindness she showed others?

See above. All the time she was in a sham of a marriage because of what she believed Charles had done to mislead her she could not let go of her anger at him, although she was able to show him sympathy later when they were divorced.

Why were you sacked by Charles’s office after your contribution to Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story in 1992? Why did Diana recall you into her life?

Almost certainly I was sacked because I had openly contributed to press articles about Diana just after the book was published and which supported what it revealed. By doing so I provided the opportunity for those who opposed Diana to force my departure. As beleaguered as she was at that time, Diana would have been unable to resist their demand that she should let go of someone who, in their eyes, was the source of much of her rebelliousness and strength. As soon as the details of her separation from Charles were agreed at the end of 1992 she had the freedom to act more independently and one of her first acts of independence was to telephone me and ask me back to work with her so she could have my support and help in the process of transformation she was experiencing.

Oliver Hoare, a married art dealer, was the subject of many silent phone calls, later traced to Diana. You are sure that she temporarily quit public life in December 1993, not because of sneak pictures of her taken at a gym as everyone was led to believe, but because she wanted to free herself for more time with Oliver Hoare. What makes you so sure?

It’s important to be specific about the events such as these from Diana’s life. Calls to Oliver Hoare were traced to phones in and around Kensington Palace that Diana could have had access to and she undoubtedly made some, even many, of the silent calls. But given the activities of the British security services and the animosity towards Diana from many highly placed individuals at that time, it is entirely within the bounds of possibility that she was, as she always maintained, not responsible for all of the calls, nor were there anything like as many as was reported in the press.

Spending more time with Hoare was to be the first step to eventually making a life with him. When I saw Diana immediately after her "time and space" speech—when she withdrew temporarily from public life at the end of 1993—she remarked, "Well, now he knows I'm willing to give up everything for him." At the time Oliver Hoare, was living apart from his wife. Although Diana's dreams began to crumble when he returned to his wife a few weeks later, at which time the silent calls to the Hoares' family home resumed.

How would you describe Diana’s relationship with Fergie (Sarah, Duchess of York)? Friends or rivals?

The period they were both in the royal family together encompassed the years during which Diana was engaged in an intense process which was transforming her physically and mentally. As a result their relationship was complex and shifted over that time, from friendship through an alliance, to rivalry and back again until Sarah became a source of great comfort and support for Diana until their final break.

Why did Diana fall out with so many people — loyal friends, family? Personality or stress or both?

There were two main reasons. One was that Diana’s situation in the royal family, especially in the year leading up to her divorce when she fell out with many of those who had been close to her, had resulted in her feeling extremely vulnerable, even at risk. It was an unbelievably stressful time for her and her need was for complete and unquestioning support from those who professed to have her interests at heart. If she sensed she was not receiving that support or was being criticised, she reacted badly.

The second reason was that by then she had been in her process of transformation for seven years. Despite the stress and occasional periods of doubt she was mentally and physically stronger than ever before and could see her escape from her situation becoming a reality. Many of those with whom she fell out found it difficult to acknowledge her strength and determination and they simply fell by the wayside, unable to alter their own attitudes towards the new Diana. This was something I had warned her would happen.

How would you describe her journey from when you met her in 1988, and then parted company in 1995? Did you follow her progress from 1995 through 1997? Can you describe your feelings when you heard of her death? What is Diana’s lasting legacy?

Diana’s journey was an amazing achievement of courage, strength of will and determination in circumstances so difficult and complex they can barely be imagined by most people. Diana’s transformation continued after I stepped away but I was not aware of the details until I researched my book Diana: Her Transformation this year. On 31 August 1997 I was in Spain writing The Kensington Diet and its companion cookbook when a client from London telephoned me in the early hours to tell me about the crash in Paris. When I heard of Diana’s death a few hours later I was deeply saddened and disappointed that she had not created the life she’d envisioned for herself when we were working together, although I subsequently discovered that only a few hours before she died she described the plans she had just made to fulfill the vision she had set out to create.

Diana’s real legacy lies in the subtle changes she brought about in the minds of so many of those who recognised the genuine love and compassion she brought to her role. In simple terms she inspired people to love more and gave them permission to share their love more. That legacy is subtly but emphatically altering our society as surely as the new beliefs she acquired during our work together altered her own outlook and life as a result.

As a final thought, do you think she could have had a future with Dodi Fayed?

It's possible, their psychological makeup was almost certainly very similar and I believe they shared an immediate empathetic connection because of that. By the time they met Diana was very confident in her ability to make any humanitarian role work but she was still looking for the other side of her ideal life — a partner who would be entirely committed to her and who had the resources to provide her with the physical, emotional and financial security she needed to be able to live happily and safely outside the royal family. In my opinion it's likely that Dodi, with the Fayed resources at his disposal, made available from an adoring father, would have been able to be the partner Diana wanted.

In turn, the work she was driven to do would have given Dodi’s life the purpose and meaning it lacked. Six hours before she died Diana implied a committed relationship with Dodi, when she described her plans in a phone call to her friend the journalist Richard Kay: she was going to withdraw from all high profile humanitarian work, Fayed would fund a charity to help victims of land mines, the campaign Diana was involved in at the time. Dodi and his father would also help her raise the funds to sponsor and support a series of hospices around the world. In effect it was a scenario which fitted precisely what she had envisioned, the life of a private person enjoying a loving relationship while she did low profile but meaningful humanitarian work which would make the world a better place — work completely suited to her empathetic and caring nature.

"Diana: Her Transformation reads very well. It is clear, uncluttered and objective and a valuable contribution to the understanding of the enigmatic Princess Diana by a man who was literally a hands on participant in the unfolding royal drama."  — Andrew Morton, author of Diana: Her True Story.

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Margaret Holder has been writing about the Royal Family in newspapers and magazines for thirty years. She also broadcasts frequently on the BBC, both radio and television. She reckons she has now written more royal documentaries than anyone else in the world. Some are still being shown on channels in…

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