Elisabeth, daughter of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, and PR man Matthew Freud, central figures of the elite ‘Chipping Norton set’ which has included key members of the cosy upper reaches of centre-right politics and media are believed to be in their final stages of divorce proceedings, with a legal decree nisi expected this week.
This was the second marriage of both parties, and is coming to an end after some thirteen years. Although the reasons for the split have not been officially disclosed, speculation reported by the Daily Mail suggests former Prime Minister Tony Blair may have been the cause, as he created an irreconcilable rift between Freud and his father in law, in what was already thought to be a difficult relationship. In 2010, Freud said he was “ashamed and sickened” by the editorial stance of U.S. network Fox, which is owned by the Murdoch family.
Blair apparently fell from grace in the eyes of the Australian media billionaire and News International owner Rupert Murdoch in the course of his divorce last year from Wendi Deng, as he discovered Mr. Blair had been visiting his wife behind his back. That his son in law Matthew Freud was a long-time friend of the Blairs and had come out in their defence at the time caused a souring in relations with the Murdochs which apparently led to the eventual collapse of the marriage.
The so-called Chipping Norton set, which includes David Cameron and his family is the collective term for a concentration of super-powerful figures of the British establishment who live in and around the eponymous Cotswolds town. Many key figures of the set have apparently fallen from grace in recent years, including former News International titles editor Rebekah Brooks who found notoriety as a big name in the recent phone hacking scandals, Tory arch-moderniser Steve Hilton, and motor-journalist Jeremy Clarkson, who has just been hounded from Argentina for a perceived slight against the nation.
The departure of the Murdoch – Freud duo may spell the end for the magic of Chipping Norton as an important junction in the political-media complex. Murdoch’s late-night parties at their grade-I listed, 22-bedroom Burford Priory home have been the stuff of media legend, and endless speculation for some years. Once thought of as the most powerful medial couple in the country, they are estimated to be worth £250 million.
In British law, the grant of a decree nisi in divorce cases signifies that the court officiating has no objection to the divorce proceeding and indicates the marriage may be legally over in mid-November at the earliest.