Princess Diana’s private secretary visits Erin Napier

Erin Napier


HGTV’s Erin Napier

Erin and Ben Napier turned their small town of Laurel, Mississippi into an unlikely tourist destination thanks to their hit HGTV show “Home Town” and the work they’ve done with community members to revitalize the town over the past decade.

May 2021, local news channel WDAM reports that 15,000 visitors had walked through the doors of in the previous month the Laurel Mercantile Co., the now famous shop owned by the Napiers and a group of enterprising friends. So the Napiers are used to fans touring the city and flocking to their shops, like Ben’s Scotsman Co.’s wood workshop and the new Scent Library celebrating that its grand opening this weekend.

But this week, Erin Napier almost missed meeting a couple who are now among her all-time favorite tourists. If her best friend, Mallorie Rasberry, hadn’t told her to hurry to the lumber shop to meet Patrick Jephson and Mary Jo Jacobi, she might have missed her chance, she said.

In an Instagram post Napier shared on March 8, 2023 that the lifelong Princess Diana fan was still giddy to meet and date Patrick Jephson, who served as Diana’s personal secretary for years, and his wife, Mary Jo Jacobi, who served as her assistant speak two US Presidents. Thrilled that the couple decided to visit “little Laurel,” Napier shared her exciting day with fans, attracting thousands of comments from people who were happy for her and intrigued by the couple’s story.


Napier has been a fan of Princess Diana and British history for as long as she can remember, even refurbishing her new country house – a centuries-old Tudor house on the outskirts of Laurel – to fill it with old-world British charm, including a kitchen inspired by Downton Abbey.

“One reason we had to buy this house was its very British look,” she said said Southern Living in the fall of 2022. “It feels like you’ve crossed the ocean and you’re no longer in Mississippi. For us it is like vacation.”

In April 2020, when she and her husband first appeared on the cover of People magazine Napier wrote on Instagram, “Growing up, I remember stealing Mama’s @people magazines when Princess Diana was on the cover.”

When Rasberry, Napier’s best friend and frequent Home Town collaborator, heard that Diana’s former private secretary was in town as a tourist and visiting the lumber shop, she immediately called Napier to let her know.

“I didn’t know Patrick Jephson’s name until he walked into our store today with his lovely wife Mary Jo,” Napier wrote on Instagram. “And I wouldn’t have known them if they hadn’t bumped into Mallorie and if she hadn’t called me to tell me to run to the lumber shop, I would never have met two people so closely connected to world events are history.”

Thrilled by her experiences in the service of a princess and two presidents, Napier wrote: “You have seen the whole world and today you still choose to visit little Laurel.”

Jephson was responsible for “every aspect of Diana’s public life and private organization.” according to the Lucas Law Firm, where he works as a PR consultant. His bio on the company’s website says he has traveled with Princess Diana to five continents, worked with world leaders and supported her during “the period of Princess Diana’s greatest popularity, as well as the constitutional controversy surrounding her separation from Prince Charles.” supports.

In the meantime, according to the British government, Jacobi was an advisor to former US President Ronald Reagan and appointed her Deputy Secretary of Commerce following the election of President George HW Bush in the early 1990s. She later moved to the UK where she was a civil service officer from 2005 to 2010 and held several senior positions in the banking and financial services industry there and in the US

Erin Napier says she got tears in her eyes meeting special guests

In Napier’s post about meeting Jephson and Jacobi, she shared memories of idolizing Princess Diana, who died in a car accident on August 31, 1997 – the night of Napier’s 12th birthday.

“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been totally mesmerized by Princess Diana when everywhere we went people were telling me my mom looked just like her,” she shared, posting a photo of her mom next to a photo of Diana added. “That made me so proud. I stood up when I was with her. And the night Diana died was my 12th birthday. It was the first death of someone I thought I sort of knew, although of course we had never met.”

“I tearfully told him that story,” Napier wrote of her discussion with Jephson, “and then I laughed at how ridiculous I felt, and he said to me, ‘Diana always wanted a daughter!’ Today, two Mississippi kids got to shake hands with living history. I’ll never forget it.”

Thousands of fans flooded Napier’s post with “likes” and comments. Her sister-in-law, Allison Napier, wrote that she recognized Jephson’s name because she had seen the Netflix series The Crown, which he was responsible for working as a consultant in 2019.

She wrote: “How cool! I knew his name from The Crown, but what stories must the real Patrick have! And his wife too!”

A childhood friend of Napier’s, Kenneth Livingston-Redmond, recalled celebrating her 12th birthday before news of Diana’s death broke.

He wrote: “I remember! We just got home from the cinema to celebrate your birthday. That’s great.”

Napier replied, “Yes! it makes the world feel so very very small! if we played Princess Diana’s 6 Degrees, Holy Smokes 😂”

In the meantime, famous woodworker Andrew Reid, who is a friend of the Napiers and sometimes works with Ben on projects, revealed that he and his wife were also present at the momentous gathering.

He wrote: “What a day!! 🙌🏼 Jenny and I can’t stop talking about this! 😮” Princess Diana’s private secretary visits Erin Napier

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