Art of getting one's own back

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Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, according to the Italians. This was not the approach taken by the first Mrs TS Eliot, who poured hot melted chocolate through her husband's office letter box when his secretary refused to pass on her calls.

But the most recent practitioners of getting one's own back, like the Princess of Wales, have allowed themselves time to plot. Destroying clothing, planting mustard seed on an unfaithful partner's soaked carpet, and hiding rotten fish inside curtain rails are now commonplace.

Lady Sarah Graham-Moon, whose husband, Sir Peter, went off with another woman, cut off the sleeves of his Savile Row suits, daubed paint over his BMW and delivered his vintage wine to doorsteps around the village like bottles of milk.

Diane Sladek decided a "cold" revenge would not suffice and poured boiling wax over her the penis of her unfaithful husband's penis. Ms Sladek has been compared with Lorena Bobbit, the American woman who hacked off the penis of her husband, John Wayne Bobbit, and threw it in the road in revenge for an alleged rape attack.

Men have also taken to more direct forms of retributions. Kevin Wilton snatched a picture of his ex-girlfriend Tamany Baker in the bath and then had it made into Christmas cards, which he sent out to a wide circle of friends. And Mike Owen nailed up a for sale sign which read "adulterous wife" in foot-high red letters outside his pounds 250,000 house after his wife ran off with their builder.

Seeking vengeance is as old as civilisation. Samson lost his strength when Delilah cut off his hair.

But it is not only domestic revenge that flourishes. The most memorable political revenge was the blow Geoffrey (now Lord) Howe dealt against Margaret (now Baroness) Thatcher in his resignation speech as deputy prime minister. "The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long," he said, felling her with the best tool of revenge of all, the one the Princess of Wales is about to take up - words.