No more silver lining...

Last updated at 17:44 18 March 2005

As befits a 25th wedding anniversary, there was champagne, an exquisite dinner and the companionship of 20 old friends. But as guests toasted the Earl and Countess of Bradford's quarter century together, they could not have known that just two days later the marriage would be over.

For as Lady Bradford - a mother of four - reflected on her silver anniversary, she realised their union had run its course. 'It all blew up a couple of days after our 25th anniversary, although I suppose it had been coming for a long time before that,' says the former Jo Miller, daughter of a wealthy Mayfair turf accountant.

'We had drifted apart. I'd devoted my life to making a home for my husband and to bringing up the children. But then the children grew up - my sons have left home now and my daughter's at boarding school.'

But the couple's decision to split has astonished friends who believed Jo and Richard Bradford - who became the seventh earl on the death of his father in 1981 - had one of the strongest marriages in high society.

Within a year of their wedding in 1979, they had a son and heir Alexander - Viscount Newport - and when they had two more boys, 22 and 18, and a daughter, 14, their happiness seemed secured.

'The 25th anniversary was the catalyst,' Jo tells me. 'I suddenly felt: "This is scary. I don't think I can do another 25 years''.

'We were having dinner a couple of days later and Richard said something which annoyed me and I burst into tears.

'I told him I couldn't live with him any more. We are still the best of friends, and we will probably still go on holiday with the children together. But we are living apart and I suppose we will eventually divorce.'

To the outside world, Bradford, a successful restaurateur, and his wife had it all. A 14,000-acre estate in Shropshire, an elegant flat in London's Kensington, and another 1,000-acre spread near Tavistock.

Lord Bradford, 57, is sad but philosophical. 'Who would believe it?' he says. 'I certainly never thought it could happen to us. It's very, very sad. But these things happen. You can't change the past and you have to look forward to the future.'

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