I gave Diana her voice and made Margaret Thatcher sound like a leader, coach Stewart Pearce tells JAN MOIR after helping countless stars with public speaking
His most famous client was Diana, Princess of Wales. In his books and promotional materials, Mr Pearce claims to have been her Voice & Presence Coach from late 1995 until her death in 1997
Author Stewart Pearce lives in a small jewel box of a flat right on Sloane Square in Central London.
This is where he sees his clients, the stars of stage and screen who flock to him for voice and life coaching, to find their Signature Note, their Divine Inspiration and boost their own store of Personal Charisma.
For Stewart is a Master of Voice, an Angel Whisperer, clearly a Lover of Initial Capital Letters and, oh crikey, an Alchemist, too.
‘Welcome to my residence,’ he booms, ushering me into a richly decorated room complete with crystals (‘to keep the energy pure’), a pair of bergere chairs and a velvet Buddha attended by flickering candles.
He pours freshly brewed green tea into exquisite cups, points to where he wants me to sit and I obey.
On this grey January morning Mr Pearce, 68, is ablaze inside a purple velvet waistcoat and matching breeches which he designed himself ‘because I love the 18th century’. This precise suavity, along with his glittering, pale eyes and controlled intensity make him seem like the star of a film called Hannibal Lecter: The Regency Years.
Although as a man who also claims to be a Seer, an Angel Healer and a Soul Emissary he clearly has psychic rather than psychopathic tendencies. At least let’s hope so, for I appear to be sitting next to some sort of altar, draped in a blood red cloth and adorned with two more candlesticks. Sacrificial or spiritual? Stop it, I’m scaring myself.
In pre-Covid times, this is where Mr Pearce’s celebrity and corporate clients would come for their 60-minute sessions: one-on-one classes that would involve breathwork, developing peak performance presentation skills and finding their own authentic voice, both physically and mentally.
‘A lot of it is in the ribs, darling,’ he says, patting his own trim diaphragm and then his left temple. ‘But most of it is in the head.’
An actor turned speech and drama teacher, he is the author of five books and is a former Master of Voice at the Globe Theatre in London.
‘No, Mr Kinnock. Oh, NO, Mr KinnOCK. No, no MISTER Kinn-ock.’ We worked on that. To give it resonance,’ he says. Did they really? ‘Yes we did. I liked Mrs Thatcher enormously. She was very kind, gentle and gracious.’
He has worked with actors such as Mark Rylance, Hugh Bonneville, Eddie Redmayne and Minnie Driver; and politicians such as Benazir Bhutto, Mo Mowlam and Margaret Thatcher.
He was hired for six months by the Saatchi brothers to make Mrs Thatcher more electable; to make her sound less like a middle-class Lincolnshire housewife and more like a global stateswoman.
‘She was all terribly overly articulated 1930s diction,’ he says, putting on a Joyce Grenfell voice. ‘So I was asked to give her weight and also just to smooth her out, to reassure her.’
He did this, he says, by taking Mrs Thatcher into the empty House of Commons chamber late at night and making her recite passages of romantic poetry and Shakespearean tracts as he walked backwards away from her. How does that work, I wonder?
Did he encourage her to shout louder and LOUDER as he disappeared up the back benches, like a retreating footman? He gives me a withering look.
‘Shouting is a cardinal sin,’ he says. ‘If you have to shout in the theatre, your audience leaves you. No, you have to go broader and deeper.’
She Walks In Beauty by Lord Byron was one of their favourite practice poems, along with the ‘Once more unto the breach’ speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. One can only marvel at the thought of Mrs T gamely bawling on about cloudless climes and stiffened sinews to an audience of one.
Pray, Mr Pearce, let us ponder if yonder Peter Piper was also called upon to pick a peck of pickled peppers in diction-improving discourse? No he was not, but together master and pupil did perfect some more useful everyday phrases.
‘No, Mr Kinnock. Oh, NO, Mr KinnOCK. No, no MISTER Kinn-ock.’ We worked on that. To give it resonance,’ he says. Did they really?
‘Yes we did. I liked Mrs Thatcher enormously. She was very kind, gentle and gracious.’
Of course, his most famous client was Diana, Princess of Wales. In his books and promotional materials, Mr Pearce claims to have been her Voice & Presence Coach from late 1995 until her death in 1997.
He even publishes a charming testimony from her on his website, in which a grateful Diana writes: ‘He is an inspiration to us all, and has helped me personally with such lovely generosity. We all need Stewart in our lives.’
‘I helped Diana with three things,’ he explains. ‘Firstly, the right to be who she was and not to feel aggrieved. Secondly, an ability to determine where her voice could be positioned and I don’t just mean physically. I mean in terms of being a voice of change. And thirdly, giving her the courage to carry that out.’
After being introduced by a mutual friend (the restaurateur Mara Berni) Pearce was clandestinely hired by Diana to bring forth her Vocal Power, to help ‘birth’ her into fulfilling her Unique Purpose and unleash her Renaissance Being.
In his latest self-help book, Diana The Voice Of Change, the author shows us mere mortals how we can experience the Radiance of Diana by practising a series of breathing techniques and confidence boosters which he calls The Diana Heart Path.
‘This is Diana’s legacy, this is what she wanted,’ he says.
Is it really? I am beginning to have my doubts. They first met in the private dining room at Mrs Berni’s San Lorenzo restaurant in London. It was one of Diana’s favourite lunch spots and also where regular diner Mr Pearce appreciated ‘the extraordinary Pasta and Sauces’.
The meeting took place shortly after the Princess’s bombshell Martin Bashir television interview had been broadcast in November 1995.
‘I walked in and there’s Mara and Diana sitting at the table, and Diana grabbed my arms and said: ‘You will work with me, won’t you?’ He recalls that she wanted nothing less than ‘a complete overhaul’.
But why? At that point in her life, Diana was through the worst and had already made several powerful public speeches. There was the HIV speech in 1991. The Eating Disorders Speech in 1993. The Leaving Public Life Speech in earlier that year. She seemed fully formed in that area.
Not so, according to Pearce. The ‘psychic wounding’ caused by Prince Charles’s infidelity had left its sonic echo deep in her vocal cords.
‘In many situations Diana spoke with a tight-lipped, breathy voice as a result of living in anxiety and this kept her in a radical state of panic,’ he writes in one chapter.
‘If you look at that Bashir interview today she is all like this,’ he says, crumpling himself into his chair, arranging his features into a pantomime of doe-eyed dejection. ‘So she saw herself and recognised that she’d been immensely courageous and bold, but she also looked at herself and realised that this had to stop.’
What had to stop?
‘Do I need to spell it out?’
I’m afraid you do. He theatrically crumples up again. ‘Look at this. She was a beautiful woman in her 30s, but she did not look or sound like a person of power. I had to rearrange her alignment for a start, because when the spine is aligned we can communicate confidently.’
Author Stewart Pearce lives in a small jewel box of a flat right on Sloane Square in Central London. This is where he sees his clients, the stars of stage and screen who flock to him for voice and life coaching, to find their Signature Note, their Divine Inspiration and boost their own store of Personal Charisma
In Mr Pearce’s favour, Diana’s public voice did broaden and deepen in some of her later speeches. And the fact that he has waited over 20 years to publish this discreet and worshipful book suggests that he has no wish to cash in on her memory, like so many before him.
Yet, despite the fact that their professional relationship has been widely reported upon, it holds some mystery. I mean, did they meet once a week or once a month? ‘I saw her when she needed it,’ he says.
Invoices? None exist because she apparently paid for her sessions in cash. There appear to be no photographs of them together, despite his claims that he saw her being confronted with mobs of paparazzi on at least two occasions.
‘They called her a terrible name and made Prince Harry cry.’
Does he perhaps have a personal snap of them together? ‘I did, but it was stolen from my car.’
What this does prove, however, is that even though Diana died almost a quarter of a century ago, her ability to fascinate, enthral and inspire does not dim.
And I can see that Mr Pearce’s Diana book might help those who continue to identify with her problems and struggle with difficulties of their own, along with an inability to express themselves.
Meanwhile, Diana-based books, films, documentaries, conspiracy theories, plots, accusations, feuds, websites and podcasts all continue to thunder forth; a volcanic testament to her enduring allure. In America, Prince Harry uses her image and legacy to add lustre and cachet to his efforts to establish himself as some kind of all-in international guru.
Here, we are steeling ourselves for the debut of the thirtysomething Diana in Netflix’s latest series of The Crown, as played by actress Elizabeth Debicki.
On and on it goes. A book called Diana: Style Icon was published in October. A 2021 Princess Of Hearts wall calendar is available, along with a tea tin embossed with her image and a new set of commemorative stamps.
As far as Diana is concerned, death has not parted us, only created a void into which everything from adoration to psychic rubble can be poured.
Her presence is so strong that sometimes I even think she still walks among us, never far away from a headline or a scandal.
The recent disgrace regarding the BBC’s Martin Bashir creating falsehoods to lure her into taking part in his television interview only underlines her power and potency from beyond the grave.
And now here is the velvet-voiced Stewart Pearce, a man whose public speaking association with Diana leaves no trace to speak of — but perhaps that is what she wanted?
He certainly is a gifted teacher and many will appreciate his supernatural powers which find him communicating with angels and speaking to the dead, which he has been doing since he was a child. Does he speak to Diana? ‘I feel her presence,’ he says warily.
Pearce has a royal background himself, as his father Joseph was a valet to Prince Philip, and he grew up with his mother and brother in tied accommodation just behind St James’s Palace in London. As a little boy he frequently met the Queen, whom he adored.
‘I remember the beauty of the young Queen and shaking her hand and not washing my own hands for a week afterwards because she was just so beautiful and exquisite.’
By now, the light in the sitting room dims as rain clouds gather in the Chelsea skies. My green tea has grown cold and the atmosphere frosts a little as my very own Hannibal lightly suggests it would be ‘destructive’ to hint about a lack of legitimacy to his claims.
‘In my life,’ he says, ‘I just go with the light.’
Yet I still wonder who he really is: this fascinating, glint-eyed angel whisperer and Thatcher-wrangler, confidant of Diana in both corporeal and spiritual forms, a vocal coach who puts the ow in ‘How now brown cow’.
‘If I get asked what I do, I reply that I empower people,’ he says. Amen to that.
n Diana The Voice of Change by Stewart Pearce. To order a copy, call 01458 831216, Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm. Online orders on fragrantearth.com.
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