Princess Diana's Former Aide Says Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Echo Past Royal Family Rifts
Speaking with CNN ahead of the highly-anticipated CBS sit-down, Patrick Jephson said he sees similarities between the couple and Harry's late mother.
"Thirty years ago we were in a comparable situation where rifts were opening up within the royal family and it was starting to escalate," he said, referring to Diana's estrangement from the royal family after her split from Prince Charles. "There were a lot of unhappy people involved then, I'm quite sure there are a lot of unhappy people involved now."
"First and foremost, we should understand that this is a family rift," Jephson added. "It has taken on a lot of the trapping of a big media PR story, but at the heart of this are real people really hurting and I hope that somewhere in the midst of the current back and forth somebody is putting down the seeds for eventual reconciliation, which has to come."
Pointing to other parallels in royal history, Jephson noted that tell-all interviews don't always have their intended effect.
"The precedence for royal interviews of this kind are not very encouraging," he said. "Both Prince Charles and Princess Diana and more recently Prince Andrew have tried to put their sides of the story on TV through these sorts of interviews and in all cases, it has backfired."
As for healing any rifts within the family, Jephson said responsibility lies "with senior palace management" — which includes Harry's father.
Jephson, Diana's onetime most senior aide, said Charles has "examples from his own history of how these things can be made worse, and how they can be made better."
"I hope that it will be intervention from all well-intentioned people to help Harry and Meghan settle in their new lives and help heal the wounds that arose through the way they departed," Jephson added.
Jephson was also asked to comment on the timing of a new report published by The Times in the U.K. that Meghan faced a bullying complaint made by one of her close advisers during her time as a working royal — something her office has strongly refuted.
"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."
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Asked whether the palace ever played "hardball," Jephson replied, "I suppose if you start to employ PR experts they will do what their job is."
"This is the way in which, combined with social media, what is essentially a family squabble turns into something potentially much more damaging," he continued. "It is a matter of judgement how both sides use the media."
"I hope some sort of investigation to establish how many factors went into creating this problem in the first place so that it can be avoided in future," he added.
In response to the legal letter to The Times, which reportedly said the newspaper was "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative" before the Oprah interview, a source told PEOPLE, "It is unfair, untrue and disingenuous to say that the palace is coordinating this."
There "are far more important things we are focusing on," a source added, referring to Prince Philip's illness and his ongoing care following a heart procedure, the calls that the Queen has been making about vaccinations and the ongoing business of state.
Apart from confirming that they didn't know about the Oprah interview before the news was broken, the palace hasn't commented on what is in the interview.
The CBS interview is expected to cover Meghan's journey from stepping into life as a royal to marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work and facing intense public pressure. Harry will then join his wife to talk about their historic move to the U.S.
Oprah with Meghan and Harry airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.