They were all addicts... of the folding stuff

People under the prolonged influence of too much money tend to behave in ways that would cause them to shudder in other circumstances

Share
Related Topics

As Tolstoy famously wrote at the opening of Anna Karenina “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, which I suppose is another way of saying that one never knows what goes on behind closed doors. And this is probably why I lack the moral certitude that allowed the Prime Minister to declare in favour of Team Nigella.

The verdict reached; there have been no winners; just a lot of prurient detail. However, it was not so much the consumption or otherwise of narcotics, the "shouty" or otherwise nature of an unhappy marriage that held my attention; I find it hard to work up too much indignation or partisan "team" feeling about this sort of thing. It is just sad. However – and sorry to be vulgar – the sheer volume of money, and the unfettered manner it sloshed around the household and washed through the credit cards has been mesmerising.

It is an oft-stated modern-truism that the new international superclass is rendering the educated bourgeoisie, to which Nigella once belonged, extinct; and in Crown vs Grillo we can see the inexorable Darwinian laws of financial selection at work. Except that of course you have made the Faustian pact that relieves you of the need to make a selection: when faced with a choice of cashmere knitwear and unsure about colour and style, you order them all.

For those with the means to access life's VIP zone there is nothing unusual in five-figure flower bills and learning that one of your staff has sent an SOS from St Tropez concerned that her credit card will not be able to take the strain of daily cab and clubbing expenses.

Money, especially in the quantities that Saatchi and Lawson were using it, can be highly addictive, its users becoming rapidly habituated to ever increasing amounts. In this context it was decided that the Grillos were not manipulative swindlers but just a couple of girls from Calabria who adapted to life in a household where taxis seem to have been on permanent standby and where credit-card expenditure of hundreds of thousands went unscrutinised.

Money, like alcohol or cocaine, is a dangerous intoxicant, it makes people do things that would cause them to shudder under other circumstances. And when the Saatchi/Lawson financial/emotional rollercoaster derailed; actions taken under the influence of money looked, at the very least, embarrassing when examined in court and held up to the unflattering light of public opinion.

To view married life as a golden cage, as Nigella is, a trifle unoriginally, reported to have said, is tragic. But most of us are prisoners of our circumstances and the habits of "prison" life become ingrained. While she has broken free from her damaged marriage, it remains to be seen if Nigella can, or indeed wants to, escape from the superclass way of life: the secure, gated community in which she has lived for so many years.

Her choice of consoling intellectual dinner companion during the trial, Sir Salman Rushdie, a rich person's idea of a clever person, reminds me of an account given by Cecil Beaton of a cruise along the Cote d'Azur that he took with some rich American friends. Having sailed to St Tropez to buy dresses (presumably in every colour) they "sailed for Portofino, ... to entertain 'some intellectuals', the Berlins and Maurice Bowra", much as if they were just a different class of shopping.

Gracious Patina: The life of Jackie Onassis, while married to Aristotle, epitomised an era of flamboyance Gracious Patina: The life of Jackie Onassis, while married to Aristotle, epitomised an era of flamboyance

I included this vignette in a book I have just written about the jet set between 1956 and 1973, a period when only a very few people had money, and things like yachts and private planes were far rarer than they are today. The distance of time has lent the lives of Onassis, Niarchos, Agnelli et al with their beautiful yachts, their beautiful art and their beautiful wives a picturesque patina of graciousness. It was an era of flamboyance for the few, for instance Gloria Guinness, widely accepted as the most tasteful woman of her time – you might even say a domestic goddess – is said to have furnished her husband's plane with Louis XVI furniture at a time when even scheduled air travel was an elite pastime. But the bars on the golden cage were just as strong then as they are now, as Cecil Beaton observed when he described Gloria as "rising above all difficulties and making the best of her soul-destroying life, married to one of the richest, but most selfish of men".

The Mephistophelean nature of a transaction that traded soul for material abundance was also apparent to Noël Coward, who went for a cruise on Niarchos's yacht, the Creole, in the 1950s. "The Niarchoses are kind and hospitable, but curiously remote, particularly Stavros ... Everyone is terrified of him, and the staff cringes and trembles with tears at his frown. To me he is charming, but his Napoleonic quality forbids intimacy and he flies into tantrums easily." The playwright and actor enjoyed the "super-luxe, air-conditioned cabin", and the "white-coated Italian stewards fluttering around me like moths" but did not envy the Niarchoses. It almost sounds as if he pitied them. "The life of the very rich is not for me," he wrote in his diary, "although it is enjoyable to observe at close quarters for a brief spell, it is strangely deadening to the heart."

And the revelations that came out of Isleworth Crown Court reminded us that life can look very empty, even when it appears to have everything in it.

Nicholas Foulkes is the author of 'Swans, Legends of the Jet Society'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
 

The economics of the stock market is simple really: buy and hold

Ben Chu
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935