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Keira Knightley and Rupert Friend split after five years

Keira Knightley, the British actress and Rupert Friend, her actor boyfriend of five years have separated, it has emerged.

The couple, who met on the set of the 2005 Hollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, split just before Christmas.

It is understood it was a mutual decision after friends disclosed the pressure of public life, and media attention, had taken its toll on their relationship.

Reports said the 25 year-old Pirates of the Caribbean star has been left distraught.

Her family on Wednesday confirmed the separation.

"Yes, they have broken up,” Will Knightley, Knightley’s father, told The Sun.

"But that's the way things go, unfortunately.

"The only option is to get on with things."

Speaking from his home in Richmond, south west London, he added: "They were together for quite a long time and it is always hard breaking up.

“She's focused on her work."

The newspaper reported that “cracks” appeared in early December when Friend, 29, attended the London Coliseum gala production of The Nutcracker, instead taking his mother Caroline.

Knightley has become Britain’s best paid actress after earning Oscar and BAFTA nominations, a modelling contract with Chanel.

Estimated to be worth £30m (€36m), she has two new films in the pipeline and ongoing theatre work.

Last month, Knightley admitted she found it difficult to cope with the attention of the media, claiming that fame had "broken something" in her.

"I was told very early on that if I didn't go out to openings and parties and events I would be left alone. I didn't, and they still didn't leave me alone," she told Vogue magazine.

"I knew it was part of the deal in the life I had signed up to, but the fear of it has never left me.

“I'm still not good at being recognised. I wear scruffy clothes and hats and keep my head well down."

She added: “I'm sure people must think I'm a complete b----, but I'm just very shy."

Spokesmen for the pair were unavailable for comment.

© Telegraph.co.uk