Billionaires’ wives club: the hidden costs of marrying the ...

World

Billionaires’ wives club: the hidden costs of marrying the super-rich

A front-row seat to what happens behind the veil of privilege – and it’s not a pretty sight

Chantal Clarendon

It’s a bad week for billionaires and their wives – not just thanks to the stock market, but Barbara Amiel’s newly released Friends and Enemies, a scorching memoir exposing the cut-throat world of the one percent. “Best not to get used to this,” she writes of her new life embarking on glittering journeys from yacht to private jet to McMansion and back again as the second wife of former publisher Conrad Black. Amiel hardly had the 30-carat diamond ring on her finger before she was expected to entertain heads of state and dignitaries. As a journalist she may have cultivated witty conversation, but as a billionaire’s wife, the expectations are far greater.

Your home, your clothes, your face, your jewellery: everything is on show in the land of the super-rich, which I have also inhabited as the wife of an investment banker. This group is so small that the suppliers of your jewels, flowers, art, handbags, houses, Botox and fillers are almost as rarefied – they make it fiendishly hard to get their business (being far snootier than their clients), which is all an act of course. If, as Amiel did, you wear the wrong (oiled pavé diamond) earrings because you don’t know any better, they will tell you. If you don’t know that “patio jewellery” means necklaces under $1m – do catch up.

Individuality is frowned upon: it suggests you think for yourself. It might be OK for a husband, but a billionaire’s wife is a 1950s throwback. A few wrinkles, sun spots or cellulite on you makes him look bad. New York billionaire Charles Stevenson jnr, 73, who recently divorced Alex Kuczynski, 49, reportedly stipulated on marriage that his wife was not allowed to gain more than five pounds. They split regardless...

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