‘High drama, with the lowest stakes’ – what really happened at the Wagatha Christie trial

Vardy v Rooney wasn’t just a story about tabloids, celebrity and social media; it was an insight into modern Britain itself. I took a front-row seat for seven wild days at the high court

“This is not entertainment,” Rebekah Vardy’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, declared at the opening of the trial referred to at the Royal Courts of Justice as Vardy v Rooney, but known everywhere else as the Wagatha Christie trial.

To borrow a favourite linguistic flourish of Vardy’s: not being funny, but what are you on, my learned friend? For seven days, I sat in the front row of the multimillion-pound libel trial and, to be honest with you – another favourite phrase of Vardy’s (a phrase that led Coleen Rooney’s barrister, David Sherborne QC, to retort, “Well, I’d much rather you’re honest because you are sitting in a witness box”) in all my many years of covering fashion and celebrities in this paper, this was the purest form of entertainment I have ever seen. Celebrity trials, from OJ Simpson to Johnny Depp, are always fascinating because seeing a famous person in the dock, exposed and vulnerable, forced to answer the most awkward of questions, is like catching them on the toilet. Who can look away? Yet most celebrity trials involve allegations about serious crimes – murder, domestic abuse, sexual assault – which puts a kink in the enjoyability factor. This is where Wagatha triumphs over all previous celebrity trials, and possibly every other celebrity story ever: it is high drama, but with the lowest possible of stakes.

‘Vardy dressed in an emphatically un-Waggy way, all centre partings and jackets with too sharp shoulders. Rooney stayed truer to her usual style, in girlish dresses and high street suits.’ Photographs: Neil Mockford/GC Images; Karwai Tang/WireImage

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