|The Right Honourable
The Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia
|Born||Fiona S. Charkham
26 May 1956
|Education||Benenden School; Exeter University|
|Employer||Payne Hicks Beach|
|Parent(s)||Jonathan Charkham, Moira Elizabeth Frances Salmon|
Fiona Sara Shackleton, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia LVO (born 26 May 1956 née Charkham) is an English solicitor, who has represented members of the British Royal Family and celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Her charm and resoluteness earned her the nickname "Steel Magnolia".
Born Fiona Sara Charkham in London, she is the daughter of Jonathan Charkham, an adviser to The Bank of England and economist, and Moira Elizabeth Frances Salmon, daughter of Barnett Alfred and Molly Salmon. Her mother's family, the Salmon family, were co-owners of the J. Lyons & Co. cornerhouse empire.
Through the Salmon family, Shackleton is a cousin to Nigella and Dominic Lawson, and George Monbiot. Shackleton was educated at Benenden School in Kent. She attended Exeter University, graduating with a third class degree in law. Shackleton then trained as a cordon bleu chef, and became an executive caterer for boardrooms before training to be a solicitor. In July 2010, she was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Exeter in the form of an LL.D.
Shackleton qualified as a solicitor in 1980, and by 1986 she had become a partner at Farrer and Co, the royal solicitors. In the same year Shackleton and other international family lawyers, including Jane Simpson and Raymond Tooth, co-founded the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an invitation-only organisation which now consists of over 500 of the world's leading family lawyers. Her first high-profile case was that of The Duke and Duchess of York.
Shackleton joined Payne Hicks Beach in 2001 as a partner. Shackleton is reputed to have fallen out of royal favour in the aftermath of the Paul Burrell affair and the suggestions of a cover-up over allegations of a homosexual rape within the royal household put Shackleton, in her own words, "Under pressure for a solution to be reached more speedily than I was able to achieve". She was criticised in the Peat Report on the proceedings.
In September 2011 the Daily Mail reported that Mati White, wife of celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, had received a demand from Shackleton's firm for £40,000 for non-payment of legal fees. The validity of the fees is disputed by Mrs White, with a friend stating: "Mati employed Payne Hicks Beach two weeks, and the fact that they managed to accrue fees in that short time of £26,000 plus interest, making it now more than £37,000, is hotly disputed."
In early October 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported that Shackleton had been overcharging several of her clients, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of pounds. One bill to Madonna had been 'marked up' by £100,000. Shackleton expressed relief when the singer agreed to pay the £221,000 bill, which had been marked up. In a private email to a colleague she wrote: "This is good news as I was worried that they were cross about the bill," adding: "We obviously shd have asked for more?!!!!! F x." Sir Paul McCartney also had at least one bill marked up by Shackleton from £14,000 to £150,000.
When interviewed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority about her billing practices, Shackleton admitted being "slack with time sheets". A spokesman for her firm said that clients had confirmed they were happy with the billed amounts, and that "often substantially more work can be done than is formally recorded at the time [...] in relation to clients, and in particular high profile ones who are often out of the country and lead particularly busy lives, extensive work on complex issues is done at anti-social hours and under considerable pressure."
In October 2011, John Cleese accused Shackleton of wasting thousands of pounds of his money on private detectives to find out where he was living when his whereabouts were well known. Cleese stated, "It was an example of something that happened all the way through. You felt that the lawyers were quite deliberately spending as much of my money as they could. Why? Because they could."
In March 2012, one of Shackleton's former clients filed a negligence claim against her for incorrect advice on a child support case. The former client states that due to this erroneous advice he lost out on more than £260,000. Shackleton charged over £95,000 in fees for the advice. The case was subsequently dropped and the client paid his own costs.
Shackleton's high-profile cases include:
- The Duke and Duchess of York
- The Prince and Princess of Wales: where Shackleton represented the Prince. Diana was able to negotiate a £17 million settlement and observers saw the outcome as a creditable draw. On the same date that Buckingham Palace announced to the public that the Prince and Princess had reached a settlement, The Queen issued Letters Patent to regulate the styles and titles of former members of the Royal Family after divorce. Information about those Letters Patent was included by the Palace in the same press release that contained the announcement of the divorce agreement. In accordance with those Letters Patent, Diana lost her style of Royal Highness when the decree absolute of divorce was issued. The forfeiture of the title of Royal Highness is often attributed to the diligence of Shackleton, but styles of members of the Royal Family are governed by the prerogative of the Sovereign.
- Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Lady McCartney: in which Shackleton represented the former Beatle, and secured leading QC Sir Nicholas Mostyn before Mills's solicitor Anthony Julius, leading to them being known during the case by the media as the "legal dream team." Mills described Shackleton in an interview with Larry King thus: "There’s this nasty woman – Fiona Shackleton. She wants to drag it out as long as possible to fill her pockets and she’s said some pretty mean things when I was in a wheelchair.” At the final settlement hearing, Mills poured a jug of water over Shackleton's head.
- Claire and Thierry Henry: in which Shackleton represented wife Claire, whose marriage broke down after the Arsenal striker left for Barcelona.
- John Cleese and Alyce Faye Eichelberger:, in which she represented Alyce Faye. Cleese said afterwards, "What I find so unfair is that if we both died today, her children would get much more than mine".
In 2011 the Daily Telegraph reported that Shackleton had overcharged at least nine of her clients by an estimated £659,000.
- Edward Shackleton, Baron Shackleton
- James Stewart
- Marilyn Stowe
- Jane Simpson
- Collaborative Family Law
- Dyer, Clare (15 February 2008). "She can give people straight answers, often ones they don't want to hear, in such a way that they take it from her". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- BBC News: Magazine – Faces of the week
- "Deaths", The Times, 31 May 1965, p. 1
- "The Guardian Profile", The Guardian, 15 February 2008, p. 21
- Salmon & Gluckstein genealogy
- The London Gazette: . 7 January 2011.
- "Latest peerages announced". Gov.UK. November 19, 2010.
- Report to HRH The Prince of Wales by Sir Michael Peat and Edmund Lawson QC, 13 March 2003
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2005.
- TEAM MACCA vs TEAM MILLS – The Independent, London
- The Daily Mail: "Marco's wife and a shock lawyers' bill", 23 September 2011
- The Telegraph: "The top divorce lawyer, her big name clients, and 'marked up' bills", 1 October 2011
- The Daily Mail: "Cleese: Celebrity lawyer wasted my money hiring private detective to track me down", 8 October 2011
- The Lawyer: "Shackleton faces negligence claim from former client", 26 March 2012
- The Lawyer: "Former client drops negligence claim against Shackleton", 10 December 2012
- Reality bites for the McCartneys – Scotsman.com
- "Sir Nicholas Mostyn". The Times. 21 April 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- Daily Express: "Heather: Paul sent me flowers"
- Mills soaked McCartney's lawyer
- "Mrs Henry's '£10m divorce", The Sun
- Andrew Pierce (18 Aug 2009). "John Cleese in £12 million divorce settlement". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- Wheatley, Jane (20 October 2006). "The face". The Times (London). Retrieved 2 May 2010.