They were granted a divorce in a 70-second hearing, but the aftermath and a very public trial resulted in one of the messiest splits the UK has ever seen.
Divorce finalized on July 31, 2013.
When images of Charles Saatchi apparently choking Nigella Lawson at the pair’s favorite restaurant emerged in June 2013, the UK was shocked. Little did anyone guess that one of Britain’s most high-profile couple’s marriage might be in trouble.
They met when Nigella’s first husband John was battling cancer and Charles Saatchi was still married to his second wife Kay. John Diamond passed away in March 2001. Charles was divorced from Kay Hartenstein in 2001. But both events seem rather unrelated, though Charles consoled Nigella after her loss and the two quickly became close.
They married in 2003. Both brought children from their previous marriages with them, Nigella had daughter Cosima (“Mimi”) and son Bruno, Charles had daughter Penelope. They all lived together in one home.
Whilst most considered them an odd couple, who had next to nothing in common and were nearly 17 years apart in age, the two seemed genuinely happy and affectionate with each other. Perhaps they needed each other. There have been suggestions that the two became dependent on each other, but what that dependence might have been rooted in is another question entirely.
Nigella Lawson certainly appears to be a formidable woman. Her public persona is (and has been for a long time) strong and confident, but also charming, endearing and warm. Underneath it all, however, she is complicated, insecure and perhaps even fragile, someone who needs approval and has used drugs in the past to cope with situations that were simply too overwhelming (she admitted to drug use when her first husband was battling cancer).
Clearly there is more than one side to this remarkable woman. We have all seen the images of her haunted face, candidly shot during the fraud trial last year. Just as we have seen her stride confidently and impeccably dressed to attend court. Those two images certainly seem at odds with one another.
Charles Saatchi on the other hand is not a friend of publicity. He has been described as having a temper and is seen as someone, who should not be crossed. He is neither charming, nor attractive, but definitely charismatic and powerful.
After the “choking incident”, he immediately denied that it was an act of violence, but rather declared it a “playful tiff”. He voluntarily went to a police interview and accepted a police caution for assault in order to prevent further investigations. But Nigella became an involuntary poster child for domestic abuse, though she never commented on the incident herself.
She reportedly cut off any communication with her then-husband and moved out of their home, taking her children with her. Four weeks later Saatchi announced that he and Nigella were divorcing, but it was Nigella who eventually filed for divorce, citing “unreasonable behavior”. In a 70-second hearing on the 31st July, 2013, the two were granted a quick divorce, something quite unthinkable had it happened in the US.
But things were far from over.
They settled their finances privately and Nigella wanted nothing from Charles but her personal possession, notably the contents of her kitchen. Given how hugely successful she is, she didn’t need his money anyway. He kept the house.
In November the two were dragged back into the limelight due to a criminal case brought against two of their personal assistants, Italian sisters Elisabetta (Lisa) and Francesca Grillo. Elisabetta had been working for Nigella since 1999; Francesca joined the Saatchi-Lawson household in 2003. The sisters were accused of defrauding their former employees between 2008 and 2011 of nearly £700,000 ($1.1 Million).
In a “bad character” defence relating to Nigella Lawson, she was forced into cross-examination in the case. The sisters alleged that Nigella had been abusing drugs, mostly cocaine and cannabis over the course of ten years, and in return for their silence were permitted the use of a company credit card, ultimately resulting in the spending of £685,000 between the two.
Nigella, of course, denied these claims. She did admit at some point that she had used cocaine on several occasions during her first husband’s illness as a manner of coping and once in 2010, also admitting to occasional cannabis use. But she asserted to be completely drug free at the time of the trial.
Charles Saatchi was also called as a witness. During his questioning an email he had written to Nigella came to light. He called her “Higella” in it, his tone distinctly spiteful, and seemed to believe the allegations made against her. In court, however, he very much regretted that this personal email had surfaced and that he had no knowledge of any drug use in his house and never believed that Nigella had indeed abused any drugs. He also declared himself heartbroken over the loss of his wife and said that he still adored her very much.
The sisters were ultimately acquitted of the charges.
Interestingly, Charles Saatchi began dating Trinny Woodall only eight weeks after his divorce from Nigella, well before his statements in court. The two are still together now.
Whilst Nigella’s popularity was somewhat tarnished during the fraud trial and its subsequent allegations against her, she did not suffer too much backlash, bouncing back quickly. Even UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared himself to be on “Team Nigella”.
Today she is as successful as always, but does not appear to be dating anyone. It will probably take a little time for her, before she’s open to finding happiness again. Busy with her career, she may very well have other priorities for now.