By Michelle Tan
March 31, 2008 12:00 PM


It wasn’t terribly long ago—almost six years—when Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills celebrated their marriage with a lavish $3.2 million wedding in Ireland. As magical as that day seemed with two rainbows topping the horizon, March 17 was cold and dreary as a family court judge in London awarded Mills $48.6 million in a divorce settlement, putting an end to two years of acrimonious fighting—and capping an unhappily-ever-after story for the ages.

“I feel elated,” a beaming Mills, 40, told PEOPLE minutes after her hearing. “It was worth the hard work.” But as he made his exit, McCartney, 65, would only remark cryptically, “All will be revealed.”

And so it was a day later, when, over Mills’ objection, the 58-page judgment containing all the divorce details was released to the public, revealing Justice Hugh Bennett’s highly critical comments about Mills. “I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid,” the judge wrote in his ruling. He called many of Mills’ financial-support requests—including proposed yearly budgets of more than $400,000 for private flights, $80,000 for wine and $250,000 for clothes—”ridiculous,” as well as “unreasonable, indeed exorbitant.”

In the end, the model turned activist was awarded less than a fifth of the $250 million she requested, though more than the $30 million McCartney proposed. Along with a lump sum of $33 million, Mills gets to keep $15 million in real estate, including an English seaside condo, Angel’s Rest, and a countryside home, Pean’s Wood, making the McCartney-Mills divorce one of the most expensive celeb splits in history (see box). The former Beatle must also pay $70,000 a year to support the couple’s 4-year-old daughter Beatrice (they have joint custody), in addition to paying for her nanny and private school tuition. The ruling stated McCartney’s wealth as $800 million, half of what Mills claimed. “Everybody knows he is worth more than [$1.6 billion],” Mills told PEOPLE after the ruling. She also lashed out at the child support sum, telling reporters Beatrice “is obviously meant to travel B class while her father travels A class.”

So after all the mudslinging—during the trial, Mills accused McCartney of thwarting her career; he said she bugged his phone—who really came out on top? Marilyn Stowe, an English family law specialist, says Mills, who represented herself, overplayed her hand. “What she wanted was astronomical and unachievable. She should have put in a much more measured claim. Then she would have had the sympathy of the court and won a higher award.” Still, says James Quigley, whose firm Beermann Swerdlove represented Michael Jordan in his 2006 divorce, “this was a short marriage, only four years. From that aspect, it amazes me she’s getting this type of money.”

For the time being, Mills and McCartney have come to agree on one point—it’s time to move on. “It was a very painful experience for both of them,” says a Mills friend. “They both realize that to continue with the ‘he said, she said’ isn’t going to do anybody any good. They just want to put it behind them.”

After the ruling, Mills escaped with Beatrice to her Pean’s Wood home south of London. McCartney has also been lying low lately, retreating to the recording studio; he has been spotted spending time with Rosanna Arquette, 49, and Nancy Shevell, 47, a vice president of her family’s New Jersey-based trucking business. Says a McCartney pal: “All he wants is peace and quiet from [Mills].”

In the end, “both sides feel they won,” says a Mills source. “She got a lot of money. The judge discounted a lot of what she said, so Paul feels vindicated. Hopefully, now they can put it to rest and heal.”