Moment that mattered: Prince William marries Kate Middleton
“I was quite moved by the Royal Wedding. I remember Diana and Charles’s wedding, how grand and romantic it was, and how sad the era that followed was as the dream unravelled and was exposed as a fiction. This felt like the close of that era and the beginning of a new one. This was so obviously a man and woman who knew each other well, who in their relationship had experienced a degree of thick and thin and who had broken up and chosen to be together again. It felt real and modern and human. To me it marked, at an inevitably symbolic level, the quantum shift that has taken place in relationships in our society to an era of more openness, more equality and more focus on real partnership. The whole event rang with new energy, positivity, life and, at the risk of sounding soppy, genuine love.
That said, I would have advised Kate and Prince William to sign a prenuptial agreement. Just from the point of view of having clarity and certainty and the opportunity to determine things for themselves rather than handing their affairs over to the state in the event of divorce. It’s impossible to pin down how much Prince William could potentially lose were he to divorce from the Duchess of Cambridge. Suffice it to say she would not be getting half his assets or anything like that – this would be a needs-based case because his property is inherited; that is unless they made a lot of money during the marriage, which would be divided. She would get an award that was based on meeting her needs and that of any children they might have, to enable her to have a good place to live with their children, something suitable to heirs to the throne. She might also have use of one of the palaces as Diana did Kensington. It would be a lump sum capable of generating enough income to meet her needs for a luxurious lifestyle for the rest of her life and very generous maintenance for her children.
I believe the Palace has stated that there is no prenup, but I don’t think prenups are seen as particularly unromantic nowadays. Just as couples need to work out who’s putting what into the bank accounts they’re using, who’s paying which expenses, etc, they need to think about how they would arrange things if they chose to separate. Being able to do that is a sign of a healthy and mature marriage of equals.
Since the Radmacher vs Granatino case, which set a precedent that British courts will now uphold prenuptial agreements, there’s been an exponential growth in prenups. It feels as if the cultural zeitgeist has really changed and there’s a sense of couples taking back control of their own affairs in a very sane and realistic way, understanding that marriage is an economic as well as a sexual partnership, and being thoroughly grown-up about it all.
We have had extremely high-level prenup work – there’s a lot more going on under the radar than becomes publicly known. There was so much positive reception when we won Radmacher and made the prenup stick that it seems to have altered the general perception of prenups. Incidentally, we’re also seeing a lot of post-nup work, in some cases as an alternative to divorce where there has been a real breach of trust, to be able to give the marriage another go but in a slightly less exposed manner. It’s hugely satisfying when we manage to save a marriage in that way. I think the run of huge payouts in the English courts over the past five years or so, which haven’t accorded with a public perception of fairness, have made marriage without a prenup somewhat unattractive.
Prenups can be done cheaply. It’s all a question of how complex the asset base is, how much there is at stake and how tricky the thing is that either side wants to achieve. If you’re looking to save someone £50 million it might well be a pricey exercise. If you’re just agreeing that the house you inherited from your mother is out of the equation and not up for grabs if you divorce, that should be pretty straightforward. These are the kinds of things that people care about at all levels of wealth.
I think promising to love, to have, to hold, etc ‘until death do us part’ is a tough one nowadays. I think one can promise that one intends that and wants that. That is in itself a huge commitment, and I think it means much more because it’s more likely to be true. One can’t know what will happen, what the other party will do – one may have no choice but to let go. I think it would be helpful if the marriage vows were updated to reflect the real promise that people make to each other.
I adore my own beloved and have every hope and intention of remaining with him permanently. With three concluded marriages and five children between us we’re very conscious of trying to get it right, and much wiser and more appreciative of each other for the experiences. I think being aware of relationships ending can make you value them even more highly when they seem fundamentally to be good. In my law firm, too, we broker reconciliation when we can, when it seems that what has happened is a disconnection, a blip, and not a real structural defect. We feel good about saving marriages. So, yes, I’m a complete gushy romantic. Embarrassingly so.”
Ayesha Vardag has been described by The Law Society and the Huffington Post as ‘Britain’s Top Divorce Lawyer’.
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