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29 July 2022

The Wagatha Christie trial is over. But it lives on in our hearts

Rebekah Vardy has lost her libel case against Coleen Rooney. This irresistible feud will entertain scholars of British culture for decades to come.

By Emily Bootle

There – you just did it. You did it again. Right that moment. You clicked on this, another hot headline about Wagatha Christie, and now you’re reading it. You couldn’t help yourself, even though the trial is over and you have found out the verdict already: that Rebekah Vardy has lost the libel case she brought against Coleen Rooney. You clicked even though the only real-world impact is that Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy (the wives of the England footballer Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy) have between them sunk millions of pounds into legal fees – and, of course, that Rooney is now vindicated, and so will probably remember the moment of her victory long into old age, having momentary flashbacks, closing her eyes in sweet, sweet triumph and having to stop whatever she’s doing to do a mini fist pump. Still, you’re here, aren’t you, bubbles of glee rising from your very soul.

It is the spiralling of this tale – of corrupt gossip media, a petty grudge and some inspired detective work – into the most mythologised court case since Bleak House’s Jarndyce and Jarndyce that is the real headline. When, on 9 October 2019, Rooney revealed on Twitter that she had been investigating a curious case of stories about her being leaked to the Sun from her private Instagram account, that she had blocked all but one follower and thus had discovered that the person betraying her was Rebekah Vardy, the world changed. We may now consider history in terms of Before and After Wagatha.

The reason it was so glorious is difficult to pin down. There is the surprise factor of Rooney, an old-school Wag better known for her blow-dries and sunglasses than her abilities with a magnifying glass, undertaking such a thorough investigation. There is the juxtaposition of Noughties Brit culture with our contemporary digital age – this is nostalgic tabloid gossip for the Instagram era, with public statements shared via Notes-app screenshots. There is the dad-joke genius of its adopted name. But as it’s played out over three years, escalating from a personal feud into a libel trial in the High Court, and during which time the world has changed irrevocably, it has become clear that Wagatha Christie is simply an over-inflated, self-sustaining story that only gets funnier the more you talk about it.

I’m not about to make any grand pronouncement that the trial has been an anchor of certainty in dark times. What it has provided is a distraction, something petty and silly and gossipy that has somehow become a major story outside the world in which Wags are usually confined: Wayne Rooney put on his smart shoes specially.

[See also: The irony of the Commonwealth Games going woke]

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There’s also no way this would be happening anywhere other than Britain, this island of airport queues and ice-cream vans and pints of snakebite. Vardy’s agent’s phone, which presumably contained substantial evidence of whether or not she had indeed leaked the stories and therefore whether Rooney’s claim that she had was libellous, was mysteriously dropped from a boat into the North Sea just days after it was requested as evidence, a detail that I hope will be entertaining to historians in two centuries, sitting in the Bodleian poring over Guardian articles. And so it was that the phoene was tossed into the North Sea, from on highe, lest the machine could be recovered, never to be founde again. 

The details that were revealed day by day during the trial in May, as we watched Rooney and Vardy march past the paparazzi in their best First-Lady outfits, were increasingly ridiculous. The country’s best legal minds delivered their lines with arch seriousness: Vardy had previously told a national newspaper that Peter Andre was “hung like a small chipolata”, the court was told. Rooney’s barrister, David Sherborne, asked Vardy what the phrase “FFS”, which was used in a text message, meant. “Can I?” Vardy asked the judge. WhatsApp message history between Vardy and her husband was submitted as evidence; the meaning of emojis was dissected; the word “twat” proliferated. And the main legal precedent invoked by Rooney’s barrister was a 1722 ruling about a chimney sweep. Though the tabloids were allegedly coming for the Vardys, Rebekah was, the court heard, “Not arsed babe x”.

What was that? You wanted a hotter take? Sorry: Wagatha Christie needs no elaboration. It is, as they say, what it is. Learn it, memorise it, and after you’ve got divorced, or something, and for some reason you end up in a beach hostel trying to explain what the UK is like to a group of unsuspecting Europeans, you can pluck it from the memory bank and deliver it with relish, and then you can retire to your chamber and find yourself alone once more, and there you can close your eyes, stretch your lips into a smile, do a little fist pump all of your own and, in a whisper, repeat the punchline, those four beautiful, poetic words: “It’s…….. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

[See also: The only winners of Wagatha Christie are the tabloids]

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