It had all the ingredients of a fairytale wedding - the wealthy Charles Edward Maurice, the ninth earl, to Victoria Lockwood, the beautiful model. But just eight years later, the couple were slugging it out in one of the ugliest divorce cases of recent years. Their battle finally came to a close last night when they announced that a settlement had been reached after a meeting lasting most of the afternoon and evening.
In a statement released jointly on their behalf, the Spencers said they would be divorced in South Africa shortly, and that they withdrew all allegations made in relation to each other in court. The deal was believed to be a pounds 2m clean-break settlement for the Countess.
"For the greater part of the three years for which we have been separated, we have had an amicable relationship. This has been primarily for the sake of our children," the statement read. "For that same reason, we now aim to rebuild a civilised and friendly arrangement whereby our four children will continue to prosper.
"For this reason, too, we unreservedly withdraw all allegations made in relation to each other. We recognise that we have both contributed to the sad breakdown of our marriage."
Lady Spencer was attempting to have her divorce and custody of her children settled in England where she believed she would receive a better deal. Lord Spencer was determined to that it should be settled in Cape Town.
The resolution to the case came as the hearing grew increasingly acrimonious, with each side hurling insults and allegations at the other.
The countess alleged that her husband had had affairs with 10 or 12 women during the five months she spent at the Farm Place clinic in Surrey, where she was treated for drink problems and anorexia. Her lawyer added that Lord Spencer told his wife their marriage was over as he lay in the bath, saying "he didn't love her any more and she was no good as a wife".
Then the countess revealed a powerful ally in the form of Chantal Collopy, one of the women with whom the earl was alleged to have had an affair.
Yesterday afternoon, lawyers for both sides called for a halt in the proceedings and there were hints they were working on a joint settlement.
Finally, after 10 hours, the couple emerged separately from the lawyers' chambers. Lady Spencer was smiling as she walked past the ranks of photographers but declined to comment on the settlement. Earl Spencer also slipped away without speaking but his spokeswoman Shelley-Anne Claircourt said: "The Earl is very pleased and he is delighted that Victoria will not be humiliated in the witness box."
The divorce case is expected to be heard in the next few days.Reuse content