Whoever said that breaking up is hard to do hasn’t paid a visit to postcrash London, where the divorce rate has soared in recent months. And the breakups are particularly rampant among high-flying social types. Sandra Davis, a family lawyer whose past clients include Princess Diana and Jerry Hall, says her waiting room has been jammed since last summer, as well-­maintained women angle to dump their suddenly cash-poor husbands. “I had one chap who’d been made redundant, and the next day he got a divorce petition,” Davis says. “His wife had obviously been thinking about it, and she didn’t want to wait to see whether he got a new job.”

Although the trend has given rise to countless tales of selfish wives leaving their downtrodden spouses in the lurch, some observers note that the husbands are often the ones to blame. “These men created beasts out of perfectly normal women,” says Helen Kirwan-Taylor, an American writer married to a hedge fund manager. When the men were flush, she notes, they pressed their wives to abandon their careers and preside over trophy homes; now those men are picking over grocery bills and belittling their spouses for the extravagant habits they once encouraged.

One foreign-born London socialite jokes darkly that if a woman really wants to end her marriage quickly and profitably, she should consider a solution more drastic than divorce. With some London lawyers’ fees as high as $1,200 per hour, she says, “You know what? Funerals are cheaper.”

Flag: Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd./Alamy