The Beatles were no slouches when it came to songwriting, but if the protracted divorce battle between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills had lasted much longer, Britain's famously inventive tabloid press risked running out of headlines: A Day in the Strife; They Can't Work It Out; Yesterday We Thought the Verdict Was Just Hours Away; Penny Strain; It's a Hard Day's Fight; Love Meat Don't (on McCartney taking up an animal rights campaign previously championed by Mills). No pun on the Fab Four's canon was deemed too groan-inducing to be pressed into service as journalists reported every twist and turn of the most high-profile divorce to come before the British courts since Charles split from Diana.
Perhaps the struggles of the headline writers were what Mills had in mind today as she emerged from London's Royal Courts of Justice to pronounce herself "very, very happy" with the 24.3 million pound ($49 million) settlement she had just been awarded, admonishing waiting media that "at least you can start getting some really good headlines on the front pages of important issues and matters, instead of our boring divorce."
The chances of her settlement failing to make tomorrow's front pages look about as slim as a last-minute reconciliation between her and her soon-to-be ex-husband. To quote another headline, "It's Been a Long and Winding Road" to reach this point and, though stock markets across the world may be falling, it's the Mills-McCartney finances that are gripping Britons. The couple announced their breakup in May 2006. Mills hired Mishcon de Reya, the law firm that acted for Diana, while McCartney plumped for Fiona Shackleton, Charles' legal eagle. Last November Mills dumped her lawyers (she maintains this split, at least, was amicable) and began to represent herself. Agreement on money was the last barrier to finalizing the divorce. The couple were married for less than four years, but Mills, a former lingerie model who lost part of her leg in a 1993 road accident, will receive a lump sum of 16.5 million pounds plus properties worth a further 7.8 million. McCartney is to pay the private school fees and costs of a nanny for their four-year-old daughter Beatrice. The couple have worked out an custody agreement, the details of which remain private.
That's a greater slice of his assets which amount to some 400 million pounds, according to a summary of the judgment published by the court than the musician felt appropriate. According to the same summary, McCartney originally proposed giving Mills 15.8 million pounds. She had asked for a whopping 125 million. When they failed to agree to a compromise, Justice Hugh Bennett was left to determine the figure.
He decided to ignore any claims of bad conduct made by either party on the ground that such claims were irrelevant. That's not a view Mills appears to share. Last fall, in a flurry of broadcast interviews in Britain and the U.S., she blamed McCartney for the breakdown of their marriage and bemoaned the coverage it has received. "I've had worse press than a pedophile or a murderer and I've done nothing but charity for 20 years," she said, adding "what did the paparazzi do to Diana? They chased her and they killed her."
Long before Mills secured a place in history as Britain's second-most-famous divorcee, she was already finding ways to emulate the country's most-famous divorcee. Mills not only used Diana's attorney; like the princess, she also campaigned against the use of landmines and used her celebrity to boost a range of causes. She appears to revel in the limelight, last year happily strutting her stuff for American audiences as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Tomorrow she intends to appeal against the planned publication of Justice Bennett's full ruling, which she says reveals too many details of her private life. It's a rare sign of bashfulness in the newly minted multimillionairess. But, as the Beatles song title tells us, everybody's got something to hide. With reporting by Eben Harrell