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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 18:08 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the names which have made the news this week. Above are FIONA SHACKLETON (main picture), with BOB WOOLMER, DAME VERA LYNN, BARBARA AMIEL and JOHN BIRD.


It's often said that in acrimonious divorce cases, the only real winners are the lawyers. Heather Mills doubtless had this in mind when she made a scathing attack on Fiona Shackleton, her husband's solicitor, on American TV this week.

Ms Mills accused Ms Shackleton, of law firm Paine, Hicks, Beach, of dragging out their divorce proceedings in order to line her pockets.

Fiona Shackleton has become something of a doyenne among British divorce lawyers. Her charm and resoluteness, together with her blonde looks, have earned her the nickname Steel Magnolia.

It was because of her high-profile success as the lawyer for the Prince of Wales in his divorce proceedings against Princess Diana, that Sir Paul McCartney is said to have chosen her.

Fiona Shackleton had negotiated a 17m settlement for Diana in 1996 which observers at the time saw as a creditable draw in her battle with Diana's lawyer, Anthony Julius from Mishcon de Reya.

She is credited with having negotiated Diana's dropping of her title HRH as part of the deal. What's the betting Lady McCartney will lose her title too.

Heather Mills reacted by appointing Anthony Julius to do her bidding, freeing the rival lawyers to lock horns once again.

Heather and Paul smiling together
The Maccas in happier times
Yet, Julius has had nothing but praise for Shackleton. "Fiona is marvellous, clever, considerate and resourceful. She brings those personal virtues to her professional practice," he has said.

Other lawyers speak of her intimidating manner and powerful presence yet someone who is courteous and easy to work with.

Gill Doran, head of the Family Law Department at Withers LLP, has been a professional friend and adversary of Fiona Shackleton for more than a decade.

She told BBC News, "Fiona is 'master' at sniffing out and then cutting a quick and fair financial settlement with reliably sound judgement. From the other side of the case, she is approachable - pragmatic, constructive and imaginative. Those are not adjectives I would apply to anyone other than the very top practitioners in the field."

Despite the mud-slinging taking place between the two Maccas, Fiona Shackleton is said to pride herself on refusing to indulge in smear tactics and negative publicity campaigns.

Publicity shy

Last year, she won an apology, not to mention damages, from Associated Newspapers over suggestions she did just that in the Charles and Diana case.

Unlike many divorce lawyers in America who become media celebrities in their own right, Ms Shackleton largely shuns publicity.

In 2000, in Vogue magazine, she disclosed the secrets of her wardrobe. Among the 36 suits and 24 dresses were 85 scarves and a pair of shooting shoes which gives us a clue as to her social background.

Shackleton, aged 50, was educated at Princess Anne's alma mater, Benenden, in Kent. She is the daughter of a sheriff of London and her ambition to be a doctor was discouraged because she was thought not to be clever enough.

She went to Exeter University, a haven for well-heeled undergraduates, and gained a modest third in law. By all accounts, she excelled as a "raucous party girl".

Then she trained as a cordon bleu chef, cooking for executive boardrooms before taking up law full time in the 1980s.

Anthony Julius
Anthony Julius, Fiona Shackleton's high-profile adversary
By 1986, she had become a partner at Farrers, the royal solicitors and was recommended to Prince Charles by Lord Goodman who was impressed at the way she had handled the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of York.

One of the lowest points in her career came in the case of Paul Burrell, Diana's butler, who was accused of stealing some of the Princess's property after her death.

The trial collapsed when the Queen herself intervened, recalling a meeting in which Mr Burrell had told her he'd taken some of Diana's property for safe keeping.

But the emergence of a rape allegation against one of the Prince's personal staff had put Fiona Shackleton, in her own words, "under pressure for a solution to be reached more speedily than I was able to achieve", and she was criticised in the Peat Report on the proceedings.

Nevertheless, there was a general feeling that she had been made a scapegoat, and she remains solicitor for princes William and Harry. In 2005 she was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in the New Year honours.

She is married to Ian, a financial consultant, who is descended from Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer. The couple have two teenage daughters.

She once said "I like sticking up for people, making sure they're not taken advantage of. It helps to have a rod of steel in your back and lots of charm."

Whatever the outcome, Fiona Shackleton should be able to afford to add a couple of extra pairs of shooting shoes to her wardrobe.

Bob Woolmer

The shock at the news of the death of Bob Woolmer, the former England batsmen and respected cricket coach, last weekend in his hotel room in Jamaica, was palpable enough. But when it turned out to have been murder, the cricketing world was left stunned and incredulous. Woolmer, a popular figure, had been coaching Pakistan who had been eliminated from the World Cup by lowly Ireland. There have been calls for the World Cup to be abandoned.

Dame Vera Lynn

The woman dubbed Britain's "Forces' Sweetheart" in World War II for the way her songs lifted the spirits of the troops in battle, was serenaded herself this week. Dame Vera Lynn turned 90, and a host of celebrities, including Lady Thatcher, June Whitfield, Bill Pertwee and Darcey Bussell, were among the guests who sang her Happy Birthday. The current forces sweetheart, Katherine Jenkins, sang two of her famous hits, We'll Meet Again and White Cliffs of Dover.

Barbara Amiel

Barbara Amiel, the wife of the newspaper tycoon Lord Black, clashed with journalists this week, calling one "a slut". She was speaking outside the court in Chicago where her husband is on trial for embezzlement. Ms Amiel has become famous for her extravagant and conspicuous consumption. The couple employed 17 staff in various homes.

John Bird

The reformed criminal and drug taker who founded the successful Big Issue magazine to help the homeless, John Bird, has announced he will stand for Mayor of London in 2008. Bird, 59, will stand as an independent and describes himself as "a no-nonsense bloke who owns up to his mistakes". His priority is to tackle youth crime and improve social housing and has said that it will take "a coalition of forces to sort out London's problems".

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy

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