Nigella Lawson is thought to have been planning to make her marriage work with Charles Saatchi before he announced he was filing for divorce in a national newspaper.
Ms Lawson is said to have had no idea that the advertising guru was going to announce his intention to end their almost ten year marriage, following a public row over a picture where he was his hands round her throat at a London restaurant.
Mr Saatchi issued the statement saying he had been forced to end the relationship with his wife when she failed to defend him publicly after the photographs were published.
A friend of Ms Lawson said she disagreed with his claims that she had not returned any of her 70-year-old husband’s calls since she left their £14 million home three weeks ago, and that he had not apologised since the incident, outside Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair. They told the Daily Mail: “The cruelty of it takes your breath away.
“Nigella is devastated.”
The couple will now have to divide their assets – worth an estimated £150 million.
Mr Saatchi is thought to be worth around £130 million and it is not thought the pair signed a pre-nuptial agreement before their low key marriage in 2003.
Mr Saatchi, who accepted a police caution for assault following the incident, said in the statement the couple had been “drifting apart” for a year and accuses his wife, 53, of also holding him by the throat during arguments.
He has previously said the pair had been arguing about whether Ms Lawson’s daughter, 19-year-old Cosima, should follow her footsteps and go to Oxford rather than continue working at The Economist.
A friend of the chef added: “Nigella finds the idea that she didn’t help him over the pictures ludicrous. What was she meant to say? She very nearly had a nervous breakdown with the stress she was under.
“Nigella was trying to protect him by saying nothing in public. It was so difficult for her because she was hoping all the while that they could reconcile and put it behind them, but he never apologised in private or in public and made very little effort to even talk to her.
“And then comes this, which just shows you how much he cares about his reputation, rather than her.”
Ms Lawson’s publicist Mark Hutchinson has insisted there is “no comment” from the celebrity chef, who was raising her teenagers – Cosima and Bruno, 17, and Mr Saatchi’s daughter Phoebe, 18, with her husband.