‘I know how Dominic West's wife must be feeling right now’

Rosie Green
·6-min read
Dominic West, married to Catherine FitzGerald, has been under the spotlight after pictures emerged of the actor with co-star Lily James - Bestpix/ Backgrid
Dominic West, married to Catherine FitzGerald, has been under the spotlight after pictures emerged of the actor with co-star Lily James - Bestpix/ Backgrid

When it comes to the drama between Dominic West, his wife Catherine FitzGerald and young actress Lily James there are many unknowns – but there’s one thing that is certain. No wife sees her husband being that tender, that physically close with another woman, without feeling blindsided. 

Especially if said woman is Lily James. Luscious, beautiful, bewitchingly goofy. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? She’s any wife’s basic nightmare.

I know how it feels to be rocked to the core by your husband’s behaviour. To feel the stabbing pain of rejection, the sucker punch of humiliation, and the gnawing agony of doubt. To be devastated and broken by the person you trust most. 

Until a few years ago I thought my marriage was rock solid. I thought we were happy. We were the couple least likely to…

We met at university, moved to London to make our fortunes, got married on a cloudless August day and then left the city for a chocolate box cottage in the shires to raise our two children. I wrote a magazine column for 10 years about our perfectly imperfect life. I remember one friend saying it all made her vaguely nauseous. I thought we would be together till death do us part.

But then I found out we weren’t, and we wouldn’t be. He wanted out. For me it was sudden and shocking. 

Some marriages erode slowly, a protracted agonising demise, bleeding out till resuscitation is no longer possible. But mine was a cataclysmic implosion. An unforeseen ending that no one (except possibly him) saw coming.  

Is a body blow worse than death by a thousand cuts – who knows? What I do know is that it inflicted pain like nothing else ever has. 

Rosie Green was blindsided when her ex-husband ended their marriage - Matt Lever /The Telegraph
Rosie Green was blindsided when her ex-husband ended their marriage - Matt Lever /The Telegraph

Marriages can be messy, but you think you have one another’s backs. You think you know them. That’s why, when they act so out of character, your whole belief system is rocked. To suddenly see that person as a stranger, doing strange things in a strange place with a strange person, is upending to say the least. 

For landscape gardener FitzGerald, 49, this is the man who has been in love with her since they were at Trinity College together, the man she married in 2010 and is the father of her four young children, aged between seven and 13. The man with whom she talks finances and family and future plans. 

She must have found it hard to reconcile that person with the man pictured in Rome alongside his 31-year-old co-star in The Pursuit of Love, riding a scooter. His wedding ring and sense of propriety MIA.

Whatever the truth – even if there is a perfectly innocent explanation – the public speculation will feel humiliating. The images of them jumping out from her from her phone screen like a million lacerating shards.

After the pictures emerged, West, 50, swiftly returned home and a photocall saw the couple put on a public display of togetherness outside their Wiltshire home, handing a note to the press that read: “Our marriage is strong and we’re very much together.”

Eagle-eyed observers noted that FitzGerald clutched a screwed-up tissue in the palm of one hand. The family is reportedly now retreating to FitzGerald’s 18-bedroom family seat – Glin Castle, in Co Limerick – which she and West have taken on the monumental task of renovating, with the aim of turning it into a venue. The couple married on the 400-acre estate, following FitzGerald’s divorce from the 7th Earl of Durham.

The Anglo-Irish aristocrat was initially said, by one confidante, to have been “devastated” when the photographs of her husband alongside James appeared this week. That message has now shifted in tone, with friends describing her as “no nonsense,” “direct” and insisting that “Catherine will make her feelings on the episode perfectly clear in private”... she doesn’t “take any c---”.

For his part, West has previously described his wife as “beautiful, intelligent and spectacularly disdainful.”

Perhaps FitzGerald, aristocrat that she is, thinks monogamy is for the bourgeoisie with their worries about mortgage payments and such like. Maybe she and West have an agreement. Who knows?

In a 2016 interview – that is now being widely circulated online – West said: “I think women should be more indulgent of affairs. I really do… It’s daft to kick someone out over a fling, isn’t it? Everyone should turn a blind eye to men’s behaviour between the ages of 40 and 50. Let it all blow over.”

That, as young people say, “hasn’t aged well”.

Dominic West and Lily James appeared to be a bit close for comfort - Backgrid
Dominic West and Lily James appeared to be a bit close for comfort - Backgrid

To the observer, the West/James/FitzGerald triangle feels like an age old trope we have seen over and over again in celebrity marriages: a public dissembling following the predictable trajectory of male lead actor pictured embracing a beautiful starlet decades his junior. The actor returns home for the crisis, talks with his wife, and a David Mellor-esque style show of marital unity ensues, accompanied by an uncomfortable-looking kiss.

Is it a case of life imitating art? West is known for playing on-screen characters who are unfaithful (Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, Noah Solloway in, yes, The Affair – the latter having four children and passion for a younger woman). It gives this whole episode an added layer of weirdness.

But for any wife, whatever the understanding between she and her husband, seeing him seemingly caressing the neck of another would make her heart constrict and her stomach knot. 

Such tenderness and familiarity hints at a depth of connection and a lack of barriers. It will have pricked her safety bubble – the one which keeps her and her children feeling secure and protected. It leaves her feeling exposed and vulnerable.

I hope for many things for Fitzgerald, but the biggest one is that she doesn’t begin to doubt herself and her worth. I hope, amid the panic and shock, she doesn’t scrabble to keep her family together at any cost. That can be so damaging, trust me. It takes a huge toll on your self esteem and your confidence. Even the strongest women can find themselves cowed and desperate in the face of losing her husband and the life they have created together. 

I made a promise to myself to do and say nothing I would regret in five years; that I would try to stay true to Michelle Obama’s advice: “When they go low we go high.”

If FitzGerald’s friends are right, it sounds like she will do the same. I wish her every bit of strength.

Dominic West: Who is the 'other woman'?
Dominic West: Who is the 'other woman'?