It has been compared to a Greek tragedy, labelled the greatest sting operation of all time, and dubbed a period drama “with balayage and Botox”.
Everything in the Wagatha Christie trial has been analysed forensically. There have been interviews with the courtroom artist about those less-than-flattering sketches, cost reports of all the outfits worn and podcasts about boat trips to the North Sea. There has even been an impassioned plea from poor old Peter Andre asking if everyone could kindly refrain from comparing his penis to a chipolata.
But at the end of one of the most anticipated trials in showbiz history, are we any closer to really understanding the world of the Wags?
On one hand, everyone in the world knows we have better things to be doing than listening to two rich women, whose husbands play football, argue about Instagram Stories.
But on the other hand, did you hear what Rebekah allegedly said to that FA official? And how do you manage to wipe so many WhatsApp messages?
Some believe the closing statements in the case mark the end of an era. The Daily Telegraph proclaimed “RIP Wags” as things wound up in the High Court. But in truth, the term ‘Wag’ fell out of favour years ago. Were it not for the pun ‘Wagatha Christie’, using Wag nowadays would feel about as current as whipping out a Motorola flip phone. One of the reasons this case has been such a source of fascination is that it taps into a nostalgia for an era we currently have a collective obsession with: the 2000s.
In the UK and Ireland, Coleen, Cheryl and Victoria Beckham are embedded in the pop culture pantheon of that period, along with Big Brother, S Club 7 and sequin boleros.
“Wag culture hit its zenith in the mid 2000s and we have had this 2000s nostalgia of late,” says Conor Behan, 2FM pop culture expert and host of Housewives And Me.
“I think we are almost cresting the wave of peak 2000s nostalgia.”
A lot of people following the trial won’t have been paying the same amount of attention to Wayne’s developing career as Derby County FC manager or to the launch of Coleen’s children’s clothing line.
“There is an element of ‘Where are they now?’’’ Conor says. “It feels like you are checking in with someone who has been a figure from pop culture.”
When Coleen posted the details of her sleuthing on Instagram in 2019 it was explosive. It jolted us back and we knew that eventually things were going to come to a head.
“[The trial] feels like season five of a show you have been watching for years and now you’re getting to the finale.”
TV producer Debbie O’Donnell agrees: “It feels like reality TV. You couldn’t write it.”
If this is the big finale, then when did series one kick off?
Let’s cast our minds back to 2006 and the quaint and quiet Germanic town of Baden-Baden. The World Cup was in full flight, but sports reports were secondary for many of us: the real story was what the Wags were up to.
Coleen McLaughlin, Victoria Beckham, Alex Curran, and Cheryl Tweedy were dubbed “hooligans with visa cards” as stories of their tabletop dancing and shopping sprees became red-top fodder. There were endless stories about the sun-soaked holidays these women went on and the expensive handbags they carried. But even back then, those at the centre of the media frenzy were not enamoured with the term Wag.
“It is silly to lump us all together like that,” Coleen said in 2010. “We are all just individuals who get on and do our own thing and we deserve to be treated as individuals”.
By the time Rebekah Vardy met and married Jamie Vardy in 2016, the days of Baden-Baden were far behind. By then, there had been a critical shift in the symbiotic relationship between the wives and girlfriends and the press, thanks to the emergence of social media.
Irish freelance photographer Mark Doyle remembers that shift happening. When Coleen visited Ireland to promote her Littlewoods collection in 2012, she stopped off to have a drink in O’Donoghue’s pub on Dublin’s Merrion Row. Coleen gazumped them all by sharing a selfie of herself enjoying a glass of Guinness. “Would be rude not to,” she wrote.
“We were [photographing] her walking from the bar to the taxi, when the shot was her having the Guinness,” Mark says. “The smartphone was a killer.”
But for some celebrities or celebrity spouses, it gave them agency and control. “Now, you take the photo. You post a photo of yourself... So you control the narrative... [Celebrities] are circumventing the need to be in Elle or whatever,” Conor says.
Our fascination with who celebrities and footballers are dating has not diminished. In fact, arguably we are more invested in the minutia of their lives than ever before.
The Wagatha Christie case has been so arresting because it demonstrated that, despite that power shift, some celebrities still feel a need to try to control coverage of themselves.
Away from the gloss of their million-pound lifestyles, the issues at the heart of the trial — betrayal, deception, treachery, pride — are highly relatable.
As for what the two women stand to gain? “This case should never have gone to court,” Trinity College professor and defamation law expert Neville Cox says. “I cannot see what is in it for [Vardy]... You sue to protect your good name. Is she really restoring her good name? Or has it been tarnished irreparably by what’s appeared in cross-examination?”
Many believe Coleen has emerged well — determined, savvy and astute. She’s even reported to have signed a deal with Netflix about the case. Maybe by the time it is released our 2000s nostalgia will have waned — or perhaps it will be an incentive not to cancel our subscription...