Excruciating one-liners from Chloe Madeley and her rugger hubby James Haskell in newlywed interview

Midwinter in rural Northamptonshire: a dusting of snow covers the fields and the newly married Mrs Chloe Haskell (nee Madeley) greets me at the home she shares with her husband, England rugby player James, swathed in a voluminous onesie.

In their sitting room a vast Christmas tree, fully decked with baubles and lights, glitters. I half expect James, who is bearded and huge, to emerge in full Santa rig. But it’s mid-January!

‘We had such a hectic time with our wedding in December that we spent Christmas at home, just the two of us, in our matching onesies.

James, 33, known for his sardonic humour and bluntness, ‘has no filter’, says Chloe. ‘Don’t take any notice. He has to make people laugh,’ is a constant refrain. She is, she admits, a changed person from the troubled, rootless young woman she was in her early 20s

‘It seemed a shame to take down the tree so soon. We’re just mad about Christmas!’ cries Chloe.

It seems they’re just mad about weddings, too. Whereas most couples settle for one, they’re having two: the intimate church ceremony in Berkshire — attended by close friends and family — in which they were married last month is just a prelude to another, much bigger do, which will happen ‘abroad’ in 2020.

Chloe, 31, author, nutritionist and personal trainer, the only daughter of Britain’s best-loved breakfast TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan — hosts of ITV’s This Morning for 13 years after its inception in 1988 — is dotty, endearing and warm.

James first got to meet the in-laws-to-be on Boxing Day 2014. ‘Chloe warned me that her parents weren’t rough around the edges rugby people and said: ‘Please don’t go on to Dad about his shoes.’ ‘ (James refers to Richard’s trainers as ‘Eighties Mr Motivator-style’.)

‘But Mum and Dad loved him immediately. And, of course, Mum fancies him. She said: ‘If you don’t marry him, I will!’ She’s very charmed by him.’

Chloe has 189,000 followers on social media, is the author of a series of bestselling books on fitness and nutrition ¿ ¿She¿s sold 90,000 books!¿ exclaims James proudly ¿ and runs her own company, FitnessFondue. They are both pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests

Chloe has 189,000 followers on social media, is the author of a series of bestselling books on fitness and nutrition ¿ ¿She¿s sold 90,000 books!¿ exclaims James proudly ¿ and runs her own company, FitnessFondue. They are both pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests

Chloe has 189,000 followers on social media, is the author of a series of bestselling books on fitness and nutrition — ‘She’s sold 90,000 books!’ exclaims James proudly — and runs her own company, FitnessFondue. They are both pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests

James jokes that Richard told him to ‘f*** off out of the kitchen’ when he offered to help him cook lunch. However, the two men evidently hit it off, and James, in traditional style, asked for Richard’s permission to marry Chloe.

‘We arranged to meet at the Savoy,’ recalls James. ‘Richard had a whisky waiting for me. He said: ‘You either want a loan or you’ve come to ask if you can marry Chloe.’ And I said: ‘Can I get the loan?’ ‘ 

He pauses for comic effect. ‘No, seriously, I’d never do that. And Richard said he was really happy for us; that we’d make a great couple and I said how special Chloe was to me.

In their sitting room a vast Christmas tree, fully decked with baubles and lights, glitters. I half expect James, who is bearded and huge, to emerge in full Santa rig. But it’s mid-January!

‘And the next day I told her to pack her passport because we were going to Paris, as she’d never been there before.’

He then tells the convoluted and comic story of the proposal; his fear that at every tourist attraction the metal detectors would be set off by the engagement ring — a glorious Art Deco-style creation he helped design — stashed in his pocket, and his eventual formal request for her hand in marriage.

‘I got down on one knee and said to Chloe: ‘Will you be my wife?’ I was kneeling in some gravel so it was quickly followed by: ‘Can I get up now?’

‘She said yes and I said: ‘Do you mean I can get up? Or are you saying you’ll marry me?’ ‘

Where exactly their next wedding will be is still a matter for animated debate. ‘We always wanted to be married abroad but we knew we’d have to have a wedding here first to make it legal,’ explains Chloe.

‘So I wanted a register office do. But James said: ‘I kind of die inside at those places. Let’s do it in a church, instead.’

‘I said: ‘That would be wonderful, but you know it means we’d have to have two weddings?’

‘Dad drove me to church in his black Jag, which was all ribboned up for the occasion, and I was starting to get more and more nervous. I said: ‘Dad I’m starting to panic.’ 

I suffer from anxiety, so Dad started talking about Brexit to take my mind off what was going on. I said: ‘Stop that now! Brexit makes me really angry.’ 

We had just 30 people at the church, and when I walked in on Dad’s arm it hit me like a train.

‘When I saw James I was just in floods of emotional tears. The logical part of your brain is thinking: ‘You don’t want an ugly cry face.’ But I just couldn’t stop.’

Chloe is pictured with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, her Mum and Dad. James first got to meet the in-laws-to-be on Boxing Day 2014 [File photo]

Chloe is pictured with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, her Mum and Dad. James first got to meet the in-laws-to-be on Boxing Day 2014 [File photo]

Chloe is pictured with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, her Mum and Dad. James first got to meet the in-laws-to-be on Boxing Day 2014 [File photo]

James, a towering flanker and veteran of countless England rugby campaigns, who now plays for Northampton Saints, was bewitched. ‘A lot of women really look forward to their wedding day from an early age, but most blokes don’t really think about it.

‘I didn’t. I was much more interested in seeing how good a rugby player I could be and whether I could get myself a Ferrari. But I couldn’t have been more excited. It was magical from start to finish.’

So where will the next wedding be? ‘Either Greece, the south of France or Spain,’ says Chloe. ‘If you have a wedding abroad it weeds out the guests who can’t really be bothered.’

‘Then we should host it on the moon,’ puts in James.

A few hours spent with the Haskells is an entertainment. They’re a double act; affectionate, compatible and constantly bickering and joking.

James, 33, known for his sardonic humour and bluntness, ‘has no filter’, says Chloe. ‘Don’t take any notice. He has to make people laugh,’ is a constant refrain. She is, she admits, a changed person from the troubled, rootless young woman she was in her early 20s.

Miserable and aimless after quitting university without graduating in 2006, she took a series of TV presenting jobs, beginning with Big Brother’s Big Mouth. 

Then, in 2009, following a drink-drive charge, she was banned from driving for 20 months. Photos emerged of her smoking cannabis with friends. 

‘I was a typical twentysomething: anxious, unsure of myself and confused,’ she admits. 

‘I was self-indulgent, which fed the feeling of being unanchored. I don’t think I was very different from most young people, but obviously because of who my parents were everything I did was public. I suppose I was fair game really.’

Then, seven years ago, she went to a gym, started lifting weights and discovered a passion and vocation. Today, she has 189,000 followers on social media, is the author of a series of bestselling books on fitness and nutrition — ‘She’s sold 90,000 books!’ exclaims James proudly — and runs her own company, FitnessFondue.

She and James met four-and-a-half years ago.

‘Three years before that, I’d left my job in TV because I’d realised I didn’t want to be in the public eye. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about.

‘I qualified as a personal trainer, and started training everyone I could. Going to the gym had such positive repercussions on my physical and mental health. The fact that I was three years into it when I met James is a big part of why it has worked out between us.

‘If I hadn’t transitioned from my old life I wouldn’t have lasted one day with him. He’s so focused and driven. If I’d rocked up as I was at 21, buying a round of shots . . .’

‘You’d have been drinking on your own,’ concludes James.

James’s life, too, has transformed since he met Chloe. Before, he played the field.

She explains: ‘He used his social media platform to go on as many dates as he could and I was on the receiving end of his advances.

‘I ignored him for weeks, then he tricked me into thinking he wanted to meet up and talk about his female [nutritional] supplement range. So I met him for a coffee and there wasn’t a supplement in sight!’

Her first impressions were unpropitious. ‘I thought he was brash, overly confident and he spoke in rugby banter, which I had no time for. 

Chloe and James are pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests. ¿I think we¿ll have kids but I¿m not sure I¿m prepared to be less selfish yet,¿ says James. ¿I¿d like a cute mini-Chloe I could take to rugby but, then, you never get rid of kids'

Chloe and James are pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests. ¿I think we¿ll have kids but I¿m not sure I¿m prepared to be less selfish yet,¿ says James. ¿I¿d like a cute mini-Chloe I could take to rugby but, then, you never get rid of kids'

Chloe and James are pictured on Loose Women as celebrity guests. ‘I think we’ll have kids but I’m not sure I’m prepared to be less selfish yet,’ says James. ‘I’d like a cute mini-Chloe I could take to rugby but, then, you never get rid of kids’

After about ten minutes I said: ‘I’d really like it if you stopped saying words like ‘legend’ and making me touch your abs. Can’t you just talk like a normal person?’

‘And it was as if I’d flipped a switch. He started being articulate and thoughtful. We met up again three days later.’

James, meanwhile, had formed his own impressions of her. ‘Of course I fancied her! She has a great bum. If it had looked like a sack of potatoes she wouldn’t have stood a chance.’ Chloe rolls her eyes.

‘We laughed and joked a lot. I thought it was going really well until I walked her back to her battered Ford Ka, which was full of gym equipment. I said: ‘Oh my God! I’m so sorry. Someone appears to have towed your car away and left this toilet on wheels.’ ‘

Chloe knew nothing about rugby when they met. And James, in the middle of the 2014 Six Nations campaign, was far too preoccupied with playing to nurse a nascent romance.

‘I started to want him to come to weddings and family meals, but it was always a no because of rugby,’ she says. ‘So I said: ‘Am I ever going to come before rugby?’ And he said: ‘No. Not until I retire.’ It was the truth. It still is. You have to suck it up. But hopefully there will be a time when I come first.’

She recalls how, emboldened by a couple of drinks, she phoned him and told him she loved him. ‘I blasted it out and said: ‘I think we should get married.’ What was I thinking? We’d only been together a few weeks!’ she shrieks. ‘And he said: ‘I like you, too.’

‘I kept telling him I loved him, for months and months before he said it back. When he did, I felt as if I’d won a lifelong battle.’

‘I do things in my own time,’ remarks James. ‘I’m very stubborn. Every time someone asked me when we were getting engaged, I told myself: ‘I’ll put it back a month.’ ‘

Chloe knew nothing about rugby when they met. And James, in the middle of the 2014 Six Nations campaign, was far too preoccupied with playing to nurse a nascent romance. They are pictured at the British Book Awards together in May last year

Chloe knew nothing about rugby when they met. And James, in the middle of the 2014 Six Nations campaign, was far too preoccupied with playing to nurse a nascent romance. They are pictured at the British Book Awards together in May last year

Chloe knew nothing about rugby when they met. And James, in the middle of the 2014 Six Nations campaign, was far too preoccupied with playing to nurse a nascent romance. They are pictured at the British Book Awards together in May last year

‘Stubbornness is one of his worst qualities. And he never says sorry,’ adds Chloe. ‘But then again, my dad says men never do.’

‘I can’t apologise. But I’m not wrong very often,’ James deadpans.

They are easy, diverting company and already seem like a long-married couple.

The Madeley/Finnigan marriage is famously solid and I ask if they hope to emulate them. Richard, 62, and Judy, 70, have been together for almost four decades and married for 32 years, having met at Granada TV. 

At the time, Judy was married to her first husband and was mother to seven-year-old twins Tom and Dan. A year later, she and Richard were together. They have remained so, and have two children — Chloe and Jack — together.

‘James and I have a different relationship from my mum and dad’s, but what I love about them is that they’ve stuck together. And mum’s much happier now. She doesn’t worry as she used to do. She’s not interested in being in the public eye any more.

‘A lot of people walk away from marriages, but Mum and Dad never have and I knew that James was tenacious, too. Once he’s set his mind to something there’s no moving him. He’s not going anywhere.’

I wonder if they plan to start a family soon, and it triggers another lively debate.

‘I think we’ll have kids but I’m not sure I’m prepared to be less selfish yet,’ says James. ‘I’d like a cute mini-Chloe I could take to rugby but, then, you never get rid of kids.’

‘It’s a big commitment,’ agrees Chloe. ‘And at the moment James is so entrenched in his rugby, he’s super-selfish. Plus I’ve got to a place in my career where people take me seriously. It’s going to happen in time. And I’d like a little boy version of you.’

She smiles at her husband. ‘Or we could have a Labrador,’ James quips back.

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