Julie Burchill

The grotesque spectacle of the Wagatha Christie court case

The grotesque spectacle of the Wagatha Christie court case
Rebekah Vardy (Photo: Getty)
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Few things are as much fun as a full-on court case between two rich show-offs. Watching Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney attempt to turn each other into 12 tins of cat food at the High Court of Justice this week, while trying to keep up with the ever more astonishingly antics of Depp vs Heard, I felt like a pervy front-row spectator at Wimbledon’s centre court. Who messed the bed? Whose manhood resembled a chipolata? At times it was hard to choose between this duet of danses macabres in which only the lawyers end up happier, healthier and wealthier than when they went in.

#BeKind has taught us that it’s Not Nice to watch people with bad teeth and no money have a bash at each other; bye-bye Jeremy Kyle, see ya Jerry Springer! But no one ever said that this new clemency applies to those with more moolah than sense. And with an economic apocalypse around the corner, when many of our countrymen will be forced to choose between ‘heating or eating’ (or ‘cooking or looking’ if you factor in the forced BBC licence fee) we can feel not only amused but also outraged at this designer Bedlam in which women with too much time and too much of their husband’s money on their hands are locked together in a bonfire of the vanities which will eventually burn through millions of pounds in legal fees. To make it even more surreally stupid, the top damages Vardy might win from Rooney is thought to be around £40,000 – barely more than a decent day’s shopping for any self-respecting WAG.

The details of the dust-up are now as familiar to scandal-mongers like me as our own last squabble. In 2019 Mrs Rooney – schoolgirl sweetheart turned long-suffering wife to footballing ex-wunderkind Wayne – became suspicious that a friend was leaking stories about her to the Sun. She then tweaked her Instagram so that only Mrs Vardy’s account could view certain – fabricated – stories; a flooded mansion, a gender selection clinic in Mexico and the possibility of appearing on Strictly Come Dancing featured thus. When the grand reveal took place on Twitter a young film curator, Phoebe Bridges, came up with the classic ‘Wagatha Christie’ handle. Mrs Vardy denied being the leaker and when no public apology was forthcoming from Mrs Rooney, decided to go down the public entertainment route instead. And so a private gripe became the gaiety of the nation, with the added fun that the starring duo appear to have come dressed for a costume party; Vardy as an Amish bride, Rooney as a linebacker.

It’s telling that the wheels on this juggernaut of schadenfreude were set in motion before the pandemic and the war in Europe – what might have been shrugged off and snickered at in 2019 now looks positively immoral. When we hear that Vardy is suing Rooney for ‘destroying her reputation’ it’s not sexist to ask ‘What reputation?’ She claims that she was forced by her ex-husband to belittle poor Peter Andre in the press. I’ve got a few ex-husbands I separated from on bad terms, but if one of them had tried to force me to slander Peter Andre’s manhood, I’d have told them where to go. Vardy now says the legal battle has forced her to seek out therapy. But as Peter Andre has pointed out, his Mental Elf wasn’t exactly enhanced when Mrs Vardy told the world that he was hung like a hamster.

There’s already been enough waterworks from Vardy to fill a decent-sized hot-tub, on TV chat shows and now in court. Mrs Rooney, admirably, has kept a stern, straight face, as befits one who has to put up with four lively boys – five if you count the befuddled, brothel-creeping Wayne. Though the WAG life may seem a smorgasbord of shoe-shopping and five-star sunshine from the outside, it really isn’t all that. The best footballers are spotted in adolescence and few of them ever really mature beyond that point, while they are rewarded vastly for simply kicking a ball around. With a few exceptions their wives find themselves well-groomed minders of sexually-incontinent overgrown schoolboys. But that’s no excuse for Vardy to be what I coined (in this very magazine in 2015) as a ‘Cry Bully – a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper.’

In the past, even rich and privileged women with money to burn wouldn’t have run crying to the courts the minute a lunch-partner looked at them funny. Jacqueline Susann considered but then decided against suing Truman Capote when he said she looked ‘like a truck driver in drag’ – not even when he pretended to recant it, apologising to any truckers who may have been offended. Talking on GMB, the gorgeous Angie Best – one of the first WAGS – summed it up beautifully: ‘We didn’t (sue) in those days, we just pulled our knickers up and got on with it… nowadays everybody’s very sensitive.’

Hopefully the hard times ahead will dissuade the wealthy and privileged from their bids to compete in the Victimhood Olympics; the shunning of touchy Will Smith and the applause for stoic Chris Rock indicates this, as does the Netflix nix to the Sussexes. However Wagatha Christie ends, one verdict is clear; the sooner the rich and famous realise that the public see their troubles as nothing more or less than primetime entertainment, the sooner they’ll settle with their lawyers, shut up and go shopping.