A Svengali’s parting shot at the goddess who outgrew him

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Nigella married her Svengali – Charles Saatchi.

He revelled in her – nay, their – success. His status and millions ensured that no matter how popular his wife became, he was still the greater of the two. He plotted her career minutely, from the cheeky subversive title of her next book, How to be a Domestic Goddess, to the outfits she should wear on TV.

He took care of her media profile, too: which parties she should attend and which restaurants they should frequent. She should come across as clever but kind, sexy but nurturing; not too ambitious, not too assertive. His uncanny sense of PR polished Nigella’s image to golden perfection.

The problem was, it was just an image. The PR genius mistook illusion for reality. Nigella was not the pliable model of Saatchi’s apparent romantic fantasy. She was opinionated, clever and spirited. When he met her, tragedy had pummelled her into compliance. But time restored Nigella’s sense of self – and success was giving her a new confidence. She was no longer a British celeb, she was a global star: Americans loved her, Swedes were calling their daughters Nigella and even the snooty French were endorsing the British recipes “de Nigella”.

Charles Saatchi woke up to find he was the lesser of the two. Like so many men married to women who are more high-profile, or bigger earners, Saatchi grew resentful. In his anger he made some bad miscalculations – the kind even a PR novice would have avoided. For having dismissed the throttling incident as no more than a tiff, Saatchi then accepted a police caution and allowed Nigella to be photographed taking her belongings from their marital home.

His latest act, however, in announcing via a newspaper that he intends to divorce her, is one calculated to heap maximum humiliation on his wife. He had used the media to create Nigella, now he would use it to destroy her.

Except Nigella Lawson won’t be destroyed. Her resilience will see her through this crisis as it has seen her through all the previous ones. She will bide her time, make a new home, maybe move with her children to America, where she may well find herself a new man – a sunny, supportive figure whose star burns so much brighter than Saatchi’s.

After all, this chef knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.

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Categories: Legal, Sex

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