Clarissa Pierburg, pictured outside the High Court in London claimed before a judge that she ‘doesn’t have anything in the world’ despite her previous marriage to one of the richest men in Europe
The estranged wife of a super-rich friend of Prince Charles has been left ‘distressed’ and ‘quite penniless’ after losing her fight to divorce him in Britain.
For over 30 years, Clarissa Pierburg, 69, was the wife of Jurgen Pierburg, one of the richest men in Europe, but now ‘doesn’t have anything in the world,’ her lawyers told the High Court today.
Mrs Pierburg wanted her split from fabulously wealthy German industrialist and art collector, Mr Pierburg, 73, to be handled in the famously generous UK divorce courts.
She argued that she had been ‘resident and domiciled’ in the couple’s second home in Kinnerton Street, Knightsbridge, since 2017, and so should be entitled to divorce her husband here.
But Mr Justice Moor today dismissed her British divorce petition, saying the pair must have their fight over finances in the courts of their native Germany.
Mr Pierburg is a pal of the heir to the throne, and has provided generous support in the past for the prince’s charity projects.
He attended Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, along with Clarissa, whom he married in 1985.
Until they separated in 2017, the couple lived a lifestyle of the utmost luxury.
They shared a chateau in Switzerland with a staff of nine servants, a multi-million pound ‘second home’ in Knightsbridge, and a £10m 140-foot superyacht, as well as having a cultural treasure trove in the form of Mr Pierburg’s fabulous private art collection.
After they became estranged, Mr Pierburg launched a petition for their split to be handled in his native Germany.
But Mrs Pierburg claimed she was ‘resident and domiciled’ in London.
She claimed her ‘love affair’ with England began when she worked as an au pair in York in the 1960s.
And even before moving to London, the city had been an ‘integral part of her life’, she claimed.
Her case was backed by statements from June Marijke, Countess of Chichester, and Michael Fawcett, chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation.
German industrialist Jurgen Pierburg, pictured, won his case to have his divorce from his estranged wife Clarissa heard in Germany rather than in London
However, Mr Pierburg claimed his wife was ‘German to the core’.
‘Clarissa had never once in all the years of our marriage expressed a wish to live in London,’ he told Mr Justice Moor.
‘Never once in the course of our marriage did my wife say she wanted to live in England.’
The judge found that Mrs Pierburg started to ‘reside’ in London on August 15, 2017, but did not accept any earlier date.
‘I accept she visited it regularly, but she did not reside here as she basically confirmed in her oral evidence when she said she ‘visited’ regularly,’ he said.
‘She came here for the opera, for the ballet, to visit Dumfries House and to see friends such as Lady Chichester, but she did not live here.
‘Her decision in St Moritz in February 2017 that she would reside here in the future was not sufficient until she did move here.’
Finding also that she remained ‘domiciled’ in Germany at the time she filed for divorce, he rejected her petition to divorce in England.
Charles Howard QC, for the wife, told the judge today that Mrs Pierburg was ‘quite distressed,’ about losing the case.
The court heard Mrs Pierburg, pictured, only began living in London full time in 2017
He also told the court that despite living in the lap of luxury for three decades she now ‘doesn’t have anything in the world,’ a £35,000 a month interim maintenance order imposed on the husband having now come to an end with the dismissal of her case.
‘My client is now not only penniless but owes £80,000,’ her barrister added.
He said that she now ‘hopes and expects’ Mr Pierburg to keep supporting her – although he no longer has any legal obligation to do so – until their German divorce battle is ended.
Mr Howard said the wife also ‘hopes and expects’ to be allowed to keep living in the Knightsbridge house for free.
Lewis Marks QC, for the husband, told the judge that Mr Pierburg is ‘sympathetic’ to his estranged wife’s financial plight.
He is prepared to let her live in the London house, which he will maintain.
He is also willing to keep maintaining her ‘at a reasonable level,’ the barrister added.
Mr Pierburg is a member of the renowned Pierburg industrial dynasty who made their vast fortune in German motor manufacturing.
He inherited control of the business and most of his wealth when his father Alfred died in 1975.
He has since become famous as an art collector and sold a bronze sculpture by Matisse in 2010 for £37m, then a record for the artist.
In 2014, Prince Charles thanked Mr and Mrs Pierburg in a speech for their financial support to his charity project to restore Dumfries House, one of Britain’s most magnificent stately homes.
Mr Pierburg has been widely described as a billionaire in reports.
Outside court, the wife’s lawyers said they did not know the exact extent of his wealth.
‘We do not have financial disclosure at the moment, but we know he is very rich,’ they added.