The world awoke this week to the shocking news that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are to separate after 10 years of marriage.

Gwyneth and Chris! The most fragrant and wholesome celebrity couple in the stardust galaxy! They announced on Gwyneth's Goop website that they've been semi-detached for a year and are going to "remain separate".

The sad news has plunged the Twittersphere into a predictable ferment of sorrow and sarcasm - but most of the attention has been on the way the couple described their split. "We have always conducted our relationship privately," read their announcement, "and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner."

Conscious uncoupling! Is that even a thing? Is that divorce or something else? Does "uncoupling" mean "not having sex", or is it more like two train carriages getting "unhitched"?


Whatever. I wonder, though, if famous divorcing couples in history had their own idiosyncratic ways of announcing it?

Julius Caesar and Pompeia

"I do not see it as a divorce," Mrs Caesar told the O Tempora! newspaper , "more a platonic restructuring of our relationship as something to build on for the future. I hope you aren't going to ask me about the transvestite who crashed my party and brought about this unhappy state of affairs. It's all been a misunderstanding. But Julius and I are, in some ways, closer than ever. We want similar things. He wants me to be above suspicion. I want him to be under six feet of Colonna marble."

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon

"No no, 'tis not divorce," laughed Queen Catherine, when interviewed by the Windsor Gazette yesternight. "My Lord Henry and I are having more of a psychic sundering, in which the synergy of our marriage can find outlets in creative ways, perhaps by having children with other people. Family is very important to both of us. No, my Lord is not downcast. He hath retired to the Royal Bedchamber where e'en now he composeth a new lute ballad called Paradise with a big stadium chorus that goeth, 'Oh oh oh oh Oh, uh-oh Oh ..."'

Peter the Great and Eudoxia Lopukhina

"Please don't use that word, tovarich," the Tsaritsa told the Petrograd Gazeta . "There is no question of divorce. This is more the divine disjointing of a very devoted couple. We simply feel that the anima of our marriage needs time and space to grow in alternative ways. He needs to be away starting wars, crushing rebellions and torturing mutineers. I need to be at Winter Palace with the children and Igor, the handsome Kazakh nanny person ..."

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

"Thizzzzzz not a f***in divorce," Ms Taylor explained to Variety magazine, Tuesday. "Such an ugly word. Ug-leee. Richard and I just find that being apart from each other leads to fewer breakages - you know, vases, decanters, legs and so forth - and fewer instances of losing bloody expensive emeralds and diamonds down the waste-disposal unit. Talk about waste ... Sorry, I get upset sometimes. I just need a little drinkie and a bit of a lie-down. But this is not about divorce, OK? This is just a vodka-based domestic realignment, OK? Every couple goes through its ups and downs. It's just that I'm downing a few more than he is.

Paul McCartney and Heather Mills

"We are not, repeat not, going through a divorce, OK?" grated Heather Mills, when questioned by the Daily Mail on Friday. "What we're having here is simply a neurolinguistic reprogramming until Paul realises that I am, essentially, the creative one in this relationship and he is more my astral amanuensis. I am the major chords, he is merely the twiddly bits in B-minor-7 that nobody can actually hear. If a marriage is a song, then I am the brilliantly clever verses, whereas he is just the stupid chorus where he goes 'na na na na-na-na-na' over and over ..."

Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng

"I've told you blodgers a dozen times," Rupert Murdoch informed the senior staff of News International yesterday, "This is not a flamin' divorce. I don't wanna see the bloody word in my papers. I consulted experts an' the phrase is cognitive detachment. It carries the right kind of psycho-bollock sincerity. Mrs M has been briefed. You need to keep yer peelers out in case she's nabbed by Vanity bloody Fair and spills the prawns all over the f***in' barbie. So cognitive detachment. Drill the words across yer flamin' foreheads!"

Nicolas Sarkozy and Cecilia Attias

"Mais non! C'est pas un divorce," cried Cecilia Attias when asked by Le Monde last night to clarify the marital status of the former French President. "Eet is une rupture of two souls, a, 'ow you say, dissolution ontologique. We shall remain the best of copains and share zer upbringing of les kids. Zat ees if 'e ever 'as a moment when he ees not, 'ow you say, shagging zat chanteuse horizontale."

- Independent