Aristocrat and estranged wife in row over cash ‘both financially ruined’ – judge

Brian Farmer, PA
·3-min read

An aristocrat and his estranged wife who became embroiled in a Supreme Court battle following the breakdown of their marriage are both “financially ruined”, a judge has said.

Charles Villiers, 57, said he and estranged wife Emma Villiers, 62, were divorcing in Scotland and should therefore fight over money in a Scottish court not an English court, but Supreme Court justices ruled against him.

Mr Justice Mostyn, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has now considered arguments over money at a private hearing.

Villiers divorce dispute
Emma Villiers outside the Supreme Court in London last year (PA/Yui Mok)

He concluded on Thursday that Mr Villiers could not afford to pay maintenance Mrs Villiers said she could get.

The judge said, in a written ruling on the Villiers’ money fight, that the “terrible” litigation had “endured for nearly six years”.

He said Mr and Mrs Villiers had been left “financially ruined”, and said he suspected that both were also “psychologically damaged”.

Judges have heard how Mr and Mrs Villiers had lived near Dumbarton.

They had separated in 2012 after 18 years of marriage – Mr Villiers still lives in Scotland, Mrs Villiers lives in London.

Another London-based judge, who considered the litigation at an early stage, had concluded in 2015 that Mr Villiers should pay Mrs Villiers £2,500-a-month maintenance pending the conclusion of the dispute.

Mr Villiers had not paid.

Mrs Villers said she was owed several hundred-thousand pounds.

But Mr Justice Mostyn has not ordered Mr Villiers to pay the money Mrs Villiers says she is entitled to.

He concluded that Mr Villiers was “not able to pay”.

Mr Justice Mostyn said both Mr and Mrs Villiers had made accusations against the other after “love” turned to “hatred”.

“This case has been played out in the public eye and has attracted much lurid publicity,” he said in his ruling.

“That has been a product of an exceptionally strong mutual antipathy.

“This has been a case where love has to hatred turned to an extraordinary degree.”

He said “hours” had been spent “picking over ancient grievances” during the hearing he oversaw.

“The husband has vented his spleen by alleging that the wife is a bigamist,” Mr Justice Mostyn said.

“The husband has accused the wife of being a fraudster, a fantasist and generally useless.

“The wife, with some justification, has accused the husband of being dishonest, manipulative, vindictive and bullying.

“But she is not beyond criticism herself.

“She has conducted her pursuit of the husband in this litigation in a completely disproportionate manner and has wilfully blinded herself to the reality that the vast amounts of inherited funds that she believes that the husband has at his disposal are, in fact, a chimera.”

Supreme Court
Supreme Court justices ruled against Mr Villiers last year, after analysing the dispute over jurisdiction (Yui Mok/PA)

He added: “The result of this terrible litigation, which has endured for nearly six years, is that both parties are now financially ruined and, I suspect, psychologically damaged.”

The judge had heard that Mr and Mrs Villiers were divorcing in Scotland but were at odds over whether arguments over money should be heard in an English or Scottish court.

Mr Villiers said that because divorce proceedings were taking place in Scotland, any fight over money should also be staged in Scotland.

Mrs Villiers disagreed.

Supreme Court justices ruled against Mr Villiers in July, after analysing the dispute over jurisdiction at a Supreme Court hearing in London.

He had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing fights in the High Court and Court of Appeal in London.

Mr and Mrs Villiers are listed on peerage genealogy website www.thepeerage.com.

Lawyers representing Mr Villiers say he is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall.