The Truth About Nigella Lawson's Ex-Husbands

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Celebrity cook and British television personality Nigella Lawson's books and shows are focused on making cooking a pleasure for even those averse to the kitchen. It would be fair to say her chicken soup is good for the soul. But Lawson, who debuted on television with the show "Nigella Bites" in 1999, became known for more than just her pavlovas and cream puddings — her style of sensuously savoring the dishes she made was enough to boost her show's ratings (via CBS News). Her personal life always made the news, not just because of her television presence, but also because of the men she was married to. 

Lawson was married twice, and both her husbands were brilliant in their own fields — her first husband, John Diamond, was a renowned journalist, and second, Charles Saatchi, was a multi-millionaire art tycoon. Per The Guardian, both were Jewish, and neither, apparently, could really relish what Lawson created in her kitchen. Diamond's cancer made him incapable of swallowing food towards the end of his life, and Saatchi said that Lawson's cooking was "wasted on him" (via Evening Standard). 

Here's the truth about Lawson's ex-husbands.

Nigella Lawson met her first husband, John Diamond, at work

It was the late '80s. Nigella Lawson was yet to earn her crown as television's "Domestic Goddess." Nevertheless, she was a busy bee. After studying medieval and modern languages at Oxford, Lawson went on to pen a restaurant column for The Spectator in 1985, and from there jumped to the deputy literary editor position at The Sunday Times. According to Massey Hall, she was just 26 years old. Per the BBC, the fact that her dad, Nigel Lawson, was a big shot — a former conservative chancellor who once served in the cabinet of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — made her entry into the professional world pretty easy. But also, little Cupid might have had a role to play; Lawson met her first husband John Diamond while working at The Sunday Times.

Diamond was a writer at The Sunday Times then. The Guardian reports that before fate brought him to Lawson, he had dipped his feet in a range of professions including working as a solicitor's clerk, teaching drama at a girl's school, and writing columns about property business. But for Lawson, the writer shined like a diamond because of the way he carried himself. "He had this sense of ease in himself, and that made the air around him comfortable," she told The Guardian. What started off as romance at work matured into a lifetime commitment. The two said 'I do' three years after they met.

John Diamond encouraged Nigella to pursue a food career

Cooking was always part of Nigella Lawson's life. During her university days, she would cook for her peers, and during her career working for The Sunday Times, she would cook for her colleagues (via Express). John Diamond, an op-ed writer and radio and television presenter, saw the potential for a full-fledged book in his wife's love for cooking. Diamond encouraged her to switch to food writing, and come out with a book. Lawson, after some hesitation, wrote "How to Eat," a 544-page tome with cooking tips and recipe ideas written in a witty and honest tone. Published in 1998, the book became the launchpad for Lawson's journey to becoming the household name that she is today. 

Besides recognizing Lawson's magic with words, Diamond gave her confidence and pushed her to stand up for herself (via BBC). Lawson was a shy kid, and even after all these years of fame, she still finds it "daunting" to walk into a room sometimes, she told BBC. Most importantly, Diamond made her feel good about herself. She stuck by him until Diamond succumbed to cancer, leaving her with these last words: "How proud I am of you and what you have become. The great thing about us is that we have made us who we are" (via The Guardian).

John Diamond and Nigella Lawson seemed like the perfect couple

John Diamond and Nigella Lawson complemented each other as a couple; he was an extrovert and was always surrounded by friends, while she preferred a sense of solitude — which is also how she kept her balance, as she told Good Housekeeping in an interview. He loved his pizza with pineapple, and she didn't. The couple had different opinions, but none were deal-breakers. Like with the pineapple pizza — though she was "horrified" by the Hawaiian pie, she also found it "quite endearing" that Diamond liked it, she told The Guardian. "It never bothered me that he liked different kinds of food. I quite like that in a man, actually," she said.

The couple was known to host parties that were attended by the crème de la crème of society. Among their friends list were architect Lord Rogers, best known for the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Lloyd's building in London; and the famous author Salman Rushdie who wrote in his memoir, "Where John [Diamond] was there would always be laughter." Some parties had as many as 200 people show up, as reported in The Guardian.

John Diamond died of throat cancer

John Diamond was diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 43 — this was especially brutal for the journalist and commentator as his whole career revolved around using his voice. As chronicled extensively in his The Sunday Times column, and documented in a movie called "A Lump In My Throat," Diamond lost his ability to talk. Lawson, the more silent one between the two, had to step up and be his translator. As Lawson's friend, actor Maria McErlane, said, "He was her gregarious side and she was his calm, and then those roles had to switch" (via The Guardian). 

Diamond passed away from cancer at 47 — just like Lawson's mother, who died of liver cancer in her 40s, and her sister, who died of breast cancer in her 30s. Lawson told the BBC that while she would make jokes about being Typhoid Mary (a nickname given to cook Mary Mallon, who was believed to have infected many people with typhoid fever in the early 1900s), she did go through a mixture of "guilt and anger". "Survivor's guilt is quite well documented, it is quite difficult seeing other people suffer," she said. "There is no control ... but you learn that all the important things in life are beyond one's control," she added. 

After Diamond's death, she "spent a lot of time under a duvet," per The Guardian. But with two small children, Cosima, 7, and Bruno, 4, to look after, she pushed on.

After John passed away, Nigella Lawson moved in with art tycoon Charles Saatchi

A little over two weeks after Nigella Lawson's husband John Diamond's passing, photos of Lawson and the advertising mogul and owner of the Saatchi online gallery, Charles Saatchi, surfaced in The Mail on Sunday (via Vanity Fair). Some found it scandalous that Lawson was seen with another man in just a few months following her husband's death. But, as per a friend of Lawson's, Diamond had an inkling about Saatchi's crush on his wife and didn't mind them getting together. Who did mind was Saatchi's wife back then, Kay Saatchi, who in the days following Diamond's funeral, had reportedly, said: "Reading about the Domestic Goddess every day has not been easy for me." Lawson though claimed that Saatchi's marriage with his wife was on shaky grounds even before she and Saatchi had gotten together.   

Lawson was, in fact, introduced to Saatchi by her first husband. They had bonded over several rounds of Scrabble, playing for about $300 per game, and were close friends. "He [Saatchi] just adored John," Lawson told Vanity Fair. And the fact that Lawson moved into Saatchi's posher home in less than a year of Diamond's passing seems to indicate that she adored him too.

Nigella Lawson loved that Charles Saatchi was 'full of life"

Charles Saatchi had several prized possessions (like artwork by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin), but he probably valued his privacy the most. In a 2002 interview, Lawson told Vanity Fair, "Charles hasn't posed for a photograph in 30 years." Some found him a little austere — a friend of Saatchi described him as "dominating, demanding, irresistible". One of his employees recounted how he would throw furniture around the room when his temper flared. Per his first wife, Kay Saatchi, "When the light shines on you, he is charming and amazing and special. I know, because he shone it on me ... Then the light fades and there is darkness" (via Vanity Fair).

For Lawson, however, he was a warm person and had a "passionate energy," as she told the BBC. "He's full of life and very clever and funny and very cozy. Just a nice north London boy," she said in an interview with The Guardian in 2002. Lawson and Saatchi got hitched in September 2003. As a couple, they were worlds apart. 

While Lawson was a public figure with an interest in socializing, Saatchi was a private person who found it tedious to sit through a party. Though the couple hosted parties attended by the likes of author Salman Rushdie and singer Mick Jagger, Saatchi always had an air of disinterest. Worse, he put a limit on how many parties she could host, Lawson claimed (via National Post).

They didn't have a happy marriage

While married to Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson continued her show "Nigella Bites" and launched new ones such as "Nigella Feasts," "Nigella Express," and "Nigella Kitchen" (via IMDB). While her life looked great from the outside, the celebrity felt petty low through most part of her second marriage. Lawson's friend Nathaniel Goldberg told Mirror, "They clearly adored each other but the atmosphere always depended on his mood. And his mood was variable." He added, "Hers was no longer the house you just dropped into and Charles was not one to sit around the kitchen table cracking jokes."

In June 2013, almost a decade after their wedding, a shocking incident gave the first clue to the public that maybe Lawson was in an unhappy marriage (via Vanity Fair). A photo of Saatchi grabbing her throat in a seemingly violent manner while in a restaurant made the rounds, spurring a series of events that led to the end of their marriage. Lawson moved out of the house, along with her kids, soon after the newspapers picked up the photo. Saatchi voluntarily accepted "a caution for assault" from the police. 

Though Saatchi waved the incident off as "a playful tiff," the couple divorced just over a month later (via BBC).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

The relationship came to an ugly end

As part of the divorce settlement, Nigella Lawson wanted nothing from her second husband Charles Saatchi but the contents of their kitchen (via Hello Magazine). But if Lawson thought she could let bygones be bygones by just moving out the pans and ladles, she couldn't have been more wrong. In the months following the divorce, the couple's marriage and private life were ripped open and dissected to their bare bones in public. After the photo of Saatchi choking Lawson had damaged Saatchi's reputation, Lawson said, there were attempts to sabotage hers. Per the BBC, a PR blog accused of taking drugs. She said that the write-ups were "dedicated to salvaging Mr. Saatchi's reputation and destroying mine."

Meanwhile, Saatchi and Lawson's personal assistants, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, were on trial for fraud. Saatchi insisted that Lawson give a statement and help clear Saatchi's name, and if not, Lawson claimed, he threatened to "destroy" her. Saatchi blamed Lawson for allowing the assistants to spend the money in return for remaining quiet about her drug use. Though Lawson did admit to using drugs to cope with her first husband's illness and once to deal with Saatchi's "intimate terrorism," she insisted that she didn't have a drug problem. "I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable," she said (via Vanity Fair). 

Nigella Lawson may or may not be single, but she is happy now

After the nightmare following the split with her second husband Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson needed time to heal. A year after she had called Saatchi a "brilliant but brutal man," Lawson appeared on ABC News, saying, "I have to be honest, to have not only your private life but distortions of your private life put on display is mortifying." She added, "But there are people going through an awful lot worse and to dwell on any of it would be self-pity and I don't like to do that." Lawson did move on. She put out a book about clean eating ("Simply Nigella"), appeared on MasterChef Australia, and launched a show called "Nigella: At my Table" in the years that followed.

During the 2020 pandemic, she spent her days alone, living an easy routine of writing in the mornings and drinking Campari and soda in the afternoons. "I'm very happy not having to fill up my life going to things. I very much like having no public life," she told The Guardian. While she refrained from answering if she was seeing someone, she confirmed, "I'm very happy at last." 

She added, "I don't know if it was the calm of lockdown, or getting older, but I've stopped looking back on the past an awful lot. And after 60 years of being a ruminator, it's an amazing thing. I guess."

She misses her first husband John Diamond

The year 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of Nigella Lawson's first book, "How to Eat." It was the book that made her realize "I could express my thoughts about life through writing about food" (via The Cut). It wouldn't have happened if her first husband, John Diamond, was not so confident about Lawson's skills. She told The Cut, "My husband said to me, 'You're always so definite on your likes and dislikes and what you think about food, and most people don't have that confidence. And you should explain how you get to those views.'" Lawson was hesitant to write a cookbook for the fear that she would "be looked down on." She had always seen herself as someone who would "write the great novel of the 20th century." With her husband's support, and her editor's insistence, she wrote her debut book, which went on to sell 300,000 copies by 2001.

To celebrate the book's 20 years, Lawson launched an audiobook version of it and remembered her late husband in an Instagram post (via The New York Times). She wrote,"This time 20 years ago, I was at the launch party for my first book, How To Eat. Looking at this photo makes me happy, but also very sad. I wish I could be in John's arms now."