As Kirsty Bertarelli – newly crowned Britain’s most eligible divorcee – surveys the £400 million settlement that marks the end of her 21-year-long marriage to Swiss businessman and America’s Cup boss Ernesto Bertarelli, one could be forgiven for wondering what – or who – comes next.
Bertarelli, 50, has everything one could want – looks, talent, children, money, a 97-metre superyacht with pop-up yoga deck, and a £20m glass house in Gstaad. But can her future live up to her past? And who can live up to her ex?
In interviews, Bertarelli often describes her life as “amazing”, and it would be tough to disagree. The former beauty queen was – until this week – one half of Britain’s wealthiest couple, richer than the Queen by several billion pounds.
Her perfect life played out against endless glamorous backdrops from Hawaii to Belgravia. Her social life was the stuff of gossip columns, full of the rich and famous, swanky parties, private jets, priceless jewels and designer clothes.
However, as she has always pointed out, her story was not one of rags to riches. Nor has it always been charmed.
Kirsty Bertarelli was born Kirsty Roper and raised with her brother and sister in Stone, Staffordshire where her family established and still part-owns Churchill China. You may not have heard of it, but you’re bound to have eaten from one of its Blue Willow china plates with that distinctive Chinoiserie pattern; absolutely everyone has a piece of that somewhere.Top of Form
So far, so perfect. But shortly after taking seven O-Levels as a boarder at the now-defunct Denbigh school Howell’s, Bertarelli contracted bacterial meningitis. Her parents were later told she was an hour away from death.
The shock and subsequent survival of her illness acted, Bertarelli has said, as a spur at the time. Sixth form was abandoned and – perhaps because of a regular holiday job in the ceramics factory – she decided that the family business was not for her. Instead, all she wanted to do was carpe diem and sing.
First, however came modelling. And in 1988, aged just 17, Bertarelli was crowned first Miss Manchester and then Miss UK, eventually coming runner-up in the Miss World contest.
(Powell writes in Daily Telegraph UK. Republished for public interest with credit)