This past spring in London’s Southwark Crown Court, as Matthew Mellon sat in the glass dock reserved for criminal defendants in British courtrooms, he reflected on his life’s journey so far. The 43-year-old American trust fund multimillionaire stood accused of conspiracy to electronically spy on his ex-wife, Jimmy Choo tycoon Tamara Mellon, during their divorce. Claiming no knowledge of any wrongdoing, Mellon had pleaded not guilty and was eventually cleared of the charge, but at the time he was feeling a little sorry for himself.
In 1998, after meeting Tamara Yeardye at a Narcotics Anonymous gathering, he fell in love with her and decided to settle in London, looking forward to a glamorous Anglo-American alliance. The couple was eager to build a future together, and their 2000 wedding reception at Blenheim Palace was an event befitting the union of a nouveau millionaire’s daughter and an American aristocrat. Indeed, Mellon’s pedigree is as gilded as they get in the States, what with the Mellon bankers and oilmen on his father’s side, and the even older and more distinguished Drexels and Biddles on his mother’s.
Mellon was on a path famously trod by so many rich, attractive Americans—Consuelo Vanderbilt, Jennie Churchill, Nancy Astor—seeking a good match in England. Of course, few of those stories had happy endings. And almost 10 years later, as Mellon sat brooding in the dock, he was worried his wasn’t going to have one either.
“I had an epiphany sitting in the glass box with the jury to my left,” Mellon recalls. “I’d had this fantasy of an American coming over to marry a British girl, and this is what it’s come to: a f---ing circus.” Mellon is nursing a bowl of miso soup at a Japanese restaurant in London’s Soho. The headquarters of his new fashion label, Degrees of Freedom, is nearby. “We were once this couple madly in love, and here we are in this. I didn’t know if I was going away for five years or if I was going to get the chance to be an available father to Minty,” says Mellon, referring to Araminta, his five-year-old daughter with Tamara. “It was quite surreal.”
The trial was the result of a Scotland Yard investigation of alleged computer hacking by the detective agency Mellon had hired during his divorce. In the end, it was Tamara’s court testimony, with its description of Matthew’s bumbling incompetence, that probably exonerated him and kept him out of jail. “Being married to Matthew was like having another child,” she told the court in her cool manner. “When I was married to him, I had to take responsibility for his bank accounts and bills. He is totally incapable.” She later pointed to Matthew’s inability to read a comic book, let alone a document detailing her computer keystrokes. Though he was cleared, two of his four codefendants—both employees of the agency—were convicted of conspiracy.