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Who is James Colthurst? Diana's friend from 'The Crown' looks back

James Colthurst, who met Diana during a skiing trip when she was 17, acted as a go-between for the princess and her biographer.

Ever wondered what it was like to be friends with Princess Diana? Season Five of "The Crown" explores the lengths one of Diana's friends went to help her.

Introduced in the second episode of "The Crown" Season Five, Dr. James Colthurst was a longtime confidant of Diana's.

He played major role in the making of Andrew Morton's tell-all 1992 book "Diana: Her True Story." Acting as a go-between, Colthurst transported tapes of Diana sharing revelations about her life and marriage to Charles.

Speaking to TODAY, biographer Morton recalled the stress of writing the book, a process of which Colthurst was a part.

“I’ve always felt that doing the Diana biography was a royal version of ‘All the President’s Men.’ You saw danger in shadows, you were kind of nervous. When you were on the subway, you stood back from the platform edge. I was nursing a secret and the secret was a dangerous one: The Prince and Princess of Wales were living separate lives. The Prince of Wales was enjoying a life with Camilla Parker Bowles. And this was knowledge kept from the British people and the world,” Morton said.

Colthurst, portrayed by Oliver Chris in the latest season of the show, which follows the royal family through the 1990s, has sat down for several interviews to discuss his connection to the last Princess of Wales.

Here's what we know about the doctor.

How Colthurst met Diana

Based on an interview with MSNBC’s Deborah Norville in 2004, Colthurst first met Diana on a ski trip when she was around age 17. "We sort of kept in touch for a while after that, really, until she got married," Colthurst said.

In a 2017 essay for the Telegraph, Colthurst went into more detail about their meeting. They were brought together because of his medical background.

"She knew several of the friends I was with, and they brought her back to our apartment when she twisted her ankle, telling her I would look at it as I was a medical student at the time. Good fun, bright and mischievous, it was hard not to hit it off with Diana straight away, and so began the friendship she and I maintained for the rest of her short, eventful life," he said.

Diana married the former Prince Charles, heir to the throne, in 1981 at the age of 20. Speaking to MSNBC, Colthurst called the period of time that the two didn't stay in touch following Diana's marriage "the quiet years."

"Then a number of friends slowly but surely began to get back in touch with her," he told MSNBC. "And that gradually reopened the acquaintance."

Princess Diana visiting St. Thomas' Hospital. Dr. James Colthurst (white coat) in Oct. 1986.
Princess Diana visiting St. Thomas' Hospital. Dr. James Colthurst (white coat) in Oct. 1986.Mike Forster / Daily Mail via Shutterstock

Why he recorded the secret tapes for Diana's biography

The 1992 book "Diana: Her True Story" went into detail about Diana's childhood, her unhappy marriage, her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles and her struggles with an eating disorder and mental health.

Until her death in 1997, Morton and Diana denied that she was a source for the book. Then, Morton revealed Diana had been the primary source.

In fact, according to Colthurst, the book was her idea.

“I think it was a gradual realization by her that she needed to have some control over what was said … and that wasn‘t going to be possible in a newspaper. It was better, in fact, to do that through a book. And really that was a decision that she gradually came to over some months,” Colthurst told MSNBC.

The creation of the book was headline-worthy on its own. Colthurst would arrive to Kensington Palace under the guise of having lunch with the princess, carrying Morton's questions. Diana answered questions on tapes, which Colthurst delivered to Morton.

Dr James Colthurst
Dr. James Colthurst on a bike.Steve Back / Daily Mail via Shutterstock

“I peddled in with a briefcase in the bicycle basket,” Colthurst said. “And you know, initially, I sat and I read out the questions, but that was too slow for Diana. She snatched the questions away from me and then clipped the microphone on to herself and the tape recorder was on and away she went.”

Colthurst told MSNBC that the whole process was actually “much simpler than people imagine," and "not so James Bond." As Morton explained in a 2017 with the Belfast Telegraph, the process ensured he and Diana were never "face-to-face," in order to "give her deniability."

He remembered his last conversation with Diana

Diana died in August 1997. She was invited to Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed's St. Tropez villa, where she met his son Dodi Fayed. After traveling together, Dodi Fayed and Diana ended up in Paris, where they would die in a fatal car accident.

In an essay for the Telegraph, Colthurst recalled the last words he exchanged with the late princess.

"Despite her well publicized troubles, she seemed happy to me in her final months. She was enjoying a decent summer break and wasn’t in too bad a place.

"I remember the last conversation I had with her, not long before her death. She was laughing almost uncontrollably down the other end of the phone. Someone had gifted her a poem engraved on a silver tablet, and she was howling with mirth at their unusual taste," he said.

His connection to the Blarney Stone

Colthurst was born in Ireland to an aristocratic family — one tied to a famous Irish legend of the Blarney Stone.

Legend has it that the world-famous stone, set in the wall of the Blarney castle, has magical powers that grant the “gift of gab." Once belonging to his father, Colhurst's older brother, Sir Charles St John Colthurst, is now the owner of the Blarney castle.