Nigella wants our love – and Charles Saatchi will use us to hurt her

Forget fraud: Nigella Lawson and her ex are doing battle for custody of the public’s approval

Nigella Lawson: she looked vulnerable, a beauty mired in scandal. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Nigella Lawson: she looked vulnerable, a beauty mired in scandal. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 01:00

As far as we know Nigella Lawson has never tried to throttle anybody in a restaurant or to commit fraud with another person’s credit card, yet it was her life that was up for dissection in a London court this week. This case, ostensibly about the alleged efforts of a pair of personal assistants to defraud Nigella Lawson’s ex-husband, Charles Saatchi, of large sums of money, is actually about something else altogether.

It is a custody battle, fought to see who gets to keep the good opinion of the general public. On Thursday, after almost two days in the witness box, Nigella was ahead on points.

And the public is working hard for her, trying to rewrite the Nigella story, incorporating what we have learned this week. On the Daily Telegraph website – the Daily Telegraph could be the house magazine of the Lawson-Saatchi families, with Saatchi such a key figure in the Thatcher election victories, and Nigella’s brother, Dominic, once editor of the Sunday Telegraph – readers were already describing Charles Saatchi as Lurch, the Addams Family servant.

One reader passionately declared: “This woman has lost a husband she dearly loved and ended up married to a maniac of whom she is now well rid.”

It may seem remarkable to the rest of us that two people as rich and sophisticated as Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi should end up in what amounts to a courtroom brawl – or indeed that they should allow themselves to come to court at all, instead of quietly accepting the alleged loss of £685,000, a sum it took them some time to miss. And one question not asked in court is: why didn’t they simply pay the Grillos a lot more?

But we recognise one thing. Nigella wants our love and Saatchi will use us in order to hurt Nigella. It is a classic custody scenario.

This is the most modern of trials, with media attention itself being used both as a weapon and as a punishment.

Some of the detail revealed at Isleworth Crown Court was irresistible: the judge stopped the defence counsel’s cross-examination of Nigella when she was asked about receiving a Mother’s Day card with a marijuana spliff attached to it.

The trial is not about Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo but about us having the opportunity to snoop around the life that Nigella and Saatchi shared. This it has most certainly done. Never mind Nigella’s alleged drug use: who knew about the room devoted to the silver collection, or that the silver cost £9,600 to clean? Who knew that Saatchi has weak tea and burnt toast for breakfast? Or that he allowed his wife to have only one dinner party in two years? “I was not happy about that,” said Nigella.

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