IN the words of Piers Morgan: “When God created woman, he blessed Hollywood with Bardot and Fleet Street with Walden.”
So wrote Piers following his first meeting with journalist Celia Walden. Five years later, he married her.
And it was a Brigitte Bardot- inspired photoshoot with Celia gazing into the camera that first piqued Piers’ interest and led to a relentless six-month campaign to woo the stunning author.
Not surprisingly, Piers — who recently paid tribute to the Agent Provocateur shoot published in GQ — pursued Celia with a ferocious, dogged intensity. Indeed, it was the sort of grim determination for which he has become famed as an interviewer on telly.
Celia, now 45 and sounding suitably worn down, says: “I actually had a friend who had a crush on Piers, and I’d told her she was mad.
“But we arranged to meet for the interview and Piers managed to string it out over the course of about four different meetings.
“He kept saying, ‘Yeah, there are a few things I didn’t quite get’. And each of these meetings ended up in us having more and more alcohol until, eventually, he declared his real motivations and said, ‘The thing is, you tick every single one of my boxes’.
“And I said, ‘Well, that’s weird because you don’t tick any of mine’. And now look at me . . . ” Cue a resigned sigh.
Following their first boozy lunch at legendary London haunt The Ivy — “Salman Rushdie was in one corner of the restaurant, Margaret Thatcher in the other” — Piers ramped up the chase.
Unashamedly sycophantic, he described Celia in the resulting GQ article as “ridiculously beautiful, inspiring equal doses of admiration, lust and fear”.
He then added: “There is, frankly, a shocking lack of aesthetic excellence among the ranks of our Fourth Estate.” [Cheers, Piers!] Today, pictures from the shoot hang on the wall of their downstairs loo.
After the interview, the former Sun man and Fleet Street’s youngest ever editor aged 28, began with the “gifts”. Celia explains: “I wasn’t caving at all, so Piers started aggressively pursuing me in the most bizarre way possible.
I wasn’t caving at all, so Piers started aggressively pursuing me in the most bizarre way possible.
“He sent a cactus to my office which spewed weird venom if you got near it. And he FedEx’d a book called The History Of Noxious Gases.
"On another occasion, when I told him I was having lunch with a male contact at the Caprice [a top London restaurant] he got it into his head there was something romantic about it — and decided to ruin the whole thing by sending over a huge bottle of Cristal champagne halfway through.
“Basically, it was all just to beat me into a corner. I kept insisting it was not going to happen but I found him quite amusing — and in the end I just got very tired and worn down, which is what they all hope for, isn’t it? So it was just easier to go with it.”
Alas, the couple’s very first date was a taster of things to come. “He decided to drive me to his favourite restaurant,” she says.
"But Piers was so busy looking at my legs he crashed into a white van ahead of us. This guy gets out, in the middle of Chelsea, takes one look at Piers and says, ‘I might have f***ing known it was you’. There followed an incredibly hostile exchange. I was quite taken aback and asked if that happened a lot to him, and he just replied, ‘Quite a lot’.”
The daughter of former Tory MP George Walden and a Cambridge graduate, Celia is not just a pretty face and lithe, Amazonian body. A best-selling author in her own right, she recently signed a six- figure, two-book deal with publisher Little Brown.
Piers was so busy looking at my legs he crashed into a white van ahead of us.
September 2 marks the publication date for her “feminist thriller” Payday. It is, she says, about a vile man who gets his comeuppance. On the subject of comeuppance, Piers’ critics — who tend to be quite loud in their critiquing — believe the star has had his.
Three months ago, the broadcaster and father to the couple’s nine-year-old daughter, Elise, was forced to quit his £3million-a-year deal with ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Piers, a fearless crusader against the woke brigade, refused to apologise to Meghan Markle for not believing some of the more outlandish claims made in her interview with Oprah.
Following numerous complaints — from viewers and Meghan herself — Piers was asked by ITV to apologise but refused, leading to his exit. Since he left, ratings have tanked and advertising revenue continues to plummet. Go woke, go broke.
However, with Piers once one of Britain’s most vilified men, something strange has happened in recent months.
The 56-year-old — who was lauded for holding MPs to account during the pandemic — is now regarded as a bastion of free speech and cannot move 50ft down the street without being stopped for a handshake or selfie.
So what’s it like being married to a semi-unemployed Mr Morgan? Over to Celia: “Well, I always think of that famous quote, ‘Behind every great man, there’s a woman rolling her eyes’ — I am that woman.
“Being married to Piers is basically one very long eye roll. But what people don’t realise about Piers is that he’s usually very quiet at home because he’s exhausted himself on whatever interview he’s been doing.
Being married to Piers is basically one very long eye roll.
“This is the only reason I am sad about him leaving GMB — well, that and the fact I wake up and there he is, staring back at me morning after morning.
“But really, he used to come back and by 9am was absolutely flattened, lying there on the sofa, catatonic, not bothering anyone.
“Unfortunately he’s got all his energy back now. Please, someone, just give him a job!
“But what’s extraordinary is that before it really was that Marmite thing with him — a split between those who loved or loathed him.
"But recently the attention has been 99.9 per cent positive. It’s been like walking around with a national treasure. Very odd.”
Of his one-time on-screen “wife” Susanna Reid, Celia insists there was never a shred of jealousy.
Instead, she adds: “We used to bitch about him behind his back together.
“In fact, I always felt she was better at the whole ‘wife’ thing than me. She was very good at managing him.”
Piers was previously married to nurse Marion Shalloe, with whom he has four grown-up sons, while pre-Piers, Celia dated French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Despite the pair’s ridiculously large combined contacts book, they shunned all A-lister pals including Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Donald Trump to wed in front of just 50 guests at St Mary’s Church in Swinsbrook, Oxon, in 2010.
They turned down a £200,000 glossy magazine deal and Piers enlisted his colonel-ranked Army brother Jeremy to help keep out paparazzi. Unfortunately, a helicopter flew overhead and took pictures which quickly circulated online — “so that was pointless”.
He is very romantic in that way, very thoughtful and always remembers anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.
For a man famed for making grown men weep on television — and Boris Johnson was so scared of Piers, he famously hid in a fridge rather than face being grilled by him live on GMB — the presenter is surprisingly romantic behind closed doors. “He took me to Paris for my birthday one weekend,” Celia smiles.
“Everyone was saying he was going to propose, and there was a lot of build-up among my friends. But then, over dinner, he gave me this quite disappointingly small-looking package.
“I opened it and it was a first edition of my favourite author John Updike’s book Marry Me. He is very romantic in that way, very thoughtful and always remembers anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.” Sixteen years may have passed since Celia’s sexy GQ photoshoot, but now, in the flesh, she looks remarkably, irritatingly, unchanged.
This is, in part, down to a recent diet and fitness overhaul thanks to celebrity trainer and ex-Olympian Sarah Lindsay. Both Celia and Piers have been training at her Roar gym near their West London home.
“Piers has lost three kilos already,” Celia says proudly, or with relief — it’s hard to tell. Of course, the star has more time to train and get fit now, and can leave it to bilingual Celia to be the main breadwinner. Can’t he, Celia?
“When he lost the job at GMB, I did say to him, ‘Piers, it’s time for you to relax now — just let me take care of you’,” she recalls. “And then I laughed and said ‘No, seriously — go and get a job. Now’.” Over to you, Piers . . .
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