Well, it’s been an interesting week for the institution of marriage, hasn’t it?
There we all were ooh-ing and aah-ing over the sweet family video and carefully-chosen piccies of lurve and domestic harmony released to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
And now here we are, hit with the fell news that Bill and Melinda Gates are parting company (although not with their company, which is another kettle of financial fish altogether).
Following more than two decades in high-earning, do-gooding harness, the Microsoft founders and billionaire philanthropists have announced that they will continue to work together (try untangling that set of finances) but are unable to “continue to grow together as a couple”.
Instead, they have chummily agreed upon a “separation contract”, whatever that may be.
It’s not quite Gwyneth Paltrow and her “conscious uncoupling”, but it’s getting there, Lord love them.
Pah! to pre-nups
Speaking as someone who has also been married for that length of time, I have to say that in this house, the only things growing together after 27 years of marriage are waistlines, booze consumption and overdrafts which may not be unrelated phenomena.
There was, it appears, no Gates pre-nuptial agreement which may seem like a triumph of hope over experience.
But given that there doesn’t seem to have been much recent post-nuptial agreement either, that may not be much of a contributing factor to the final countdown.
Be that as it may, I predict that this may be one of high society’s less acrimonious divorces.
I base this on the information that Mr Gates is apparently consulting a 97-year-old lawyer which points to the fact, if nothing else, that he doesn’t expect proceedings to be that long-drawn-out.
Which is personally rather cute in its way, as, unlike that equally creative but somewhat less minted William, Mr Shakespeare, Mr Gates does not expect his wife (whom he has always described as a “true equal”) to make do with the second-best bed as her part of the settlement.
French kiss off
Ms Gates is also failing to allow the diamond-encrusted Astroturf to grow under her feet and has already re-adopted her own name into her title, now styling herself Melinda French Gates.
Which actually sounds like something that Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds might have on their wishlist for the “upmarket” refurb of Downing Street.
Of course, they couldn’t possibly be enthusiastic about anything “French” except to send a gunboat to pick it up from the manufacturer.
And any such items would probably, like our shiny new black-and-blue “British” passports, be made in Poland.
As for Ms French Gates’s soon-to-be-former spouse, this new division of labour may give him more time to stick platinum-plated pins into effigies of Donald Trump and get on with collecting and mis-using the vital information he and his evil cohorts are gleaning from the microchips implanted in us all via the Covid jag.
Just imagine what he can achieve by way of world domination with all the newly freed-up spare time he won’t have to spend on or with the wife?
Me, I’m just worried to death about all those tremulous conspiracy theorists who may now have to find a new bogey-man on whom to fixate.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
But all may not be lost. Call me a cynic, but I think we might find that the formerly anti-vaxxing, climate change-denying female of that particular species may suddenly find its collective way into the queue for the vaccine.
Obviously, on the principle that it might just be advantageous to bring their hitherto closely guarded personal information to the attention of the newly eligible Mr Gates.
I don’t imagine these ladies are exponents of the virtues of classic English literature, since many of them obviously found it taxing enough trying to spell their placards properly.
But who could have put it better than Jane Austen when she wrote: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Queen wanted: apply within
Mind you, they might have a few obstacles to overcome. Mr Gates may not have had the foresight to present his first wife with a pre-nup but he apparently did go to the length of making out a list of pros and cons – on a whiteboard – before committing himself to tying the knot.
Which brings us to the soft-focus perfections of our own dear Cambridges.
It could be argued that the canny duke advisedly chose particularly carefully from the admittedly limited field of qualified candidates for the job description of Future Queen.
Let’s face it, even the current next in line for promotion isn’t universally regarded as perfect throne-occupying fodder and may have to slum it as Princess Consort.
Along the lines of the Gates whiteboard, Prince William is said to have “auditioned” Ms Middleton for the role.
Quite how, it seems churlish, not to say prurient, to speculate.
But he certainly took longer about the audition process – occasioning his now wife’s unflattering pre-wedding nickname, Waity Katie – than his brother, who, ironically, actually married an actress…