A news story that Princess Diana was taking instruction to convert to Roman Catholicism was "a silly spoof," says a man who claims to have invented the story.

The story about Diana's alleged conversion appeared in the Dec. 27 edition of The People, a sensational Sunday tabloid published by the Mirror Group.Anthony Gilbey said in a letter to the Spectator magazine that he invented the story to see how people would respond.

Monsignor Gilbey, 91, told London's Evening Standard newspaper: "It really is the most frightful piffle."