The Sad Truth About Madonna's Marriage To Guy Ritchie

The late 1990s was an optimistic time for the U.K. As the country saw a change of government following a landslide victory for Tony Blair's Labour Party in 1997 and an extended economic boom that improved the quality of life for many Britons, it was also experiencing a moment of cultural prominence, dubbed "Cool Britannia." Britpop bands like Oasis, Blur, and The Spice Girls had put British music back firmly on the map, while the country was also exhibiting its talents in other areas. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie, whose gritty, stylish films like "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" saw him compared to Quentin Tarantino, was in the ascendency as one of the hottest directors around. But Ritchie became a household name when he began being spotted with the iconic pop star Madonna, with the pair having a child in 2000 and getting married the following year.

When Madonna moved to London around the start of her marriage to Ritchie, it was seen as a major coup for the U.K. and an endorsement of the recent blossoming of British culture on the world stage. Brits were used to their entertainers crossing the pond to seek fame and fortune in the United States; it was a rarity for established megastars to come the other way. For a while, Madonna and Ritchie were Mr. and Mrs. London, and a constant in the tabloid press. However, rumors swirled throughout their relationship that the marriage was on the rocks, and they divorced in 2008. Recently, Madonna has admitted that her marriage — the break-up of which became a well-publicized legal drama — was a mistake.

Their marriage was no English Idyll

Since Madonna and Guy Ritchie officially announced their separation in 2008, numerous outlets have reported that their marriage wasn't as solid as it appeared in magazines. While the pair were raising three children — Lourdes, Madonna's daughter from a previous relationship, was 12 when the marriage ended, Rocco was 8, and David was 3 — they reportedly had countless differences, including Madonna's faith in Kaballah, Ritchie's reluctance to appear at high profile functions, and Madonna's reported unease in her new home city and unwillingness to sacrifice her ambitious work schedule, resulting in an unsettled home life. The German newspaper Die Welt claimed that the pair's disagreements were said to descend into frequent screaming matches.

Though many assumed that pictures of Madonna out on the town in London with Guy Ritchie meant that she had grown fond of her husband's homeland, the fact is that her apparent anglophilia wasn't all it appeared in the gossip magazines. As Madonna revealed in 2005: "I never thought in a million years I'd live in London. I quite disliked the place. Then I met my husband. I realized that if I didn't live here I wouldn't get to see him very much ... We had a long-distance relationship for a year. I thought, 'somebody has to compromise' — which I did" (via The Irish Examiner). She claimed that by then she had fallen in love with the British capital, but the fact is that when her divorce came through three years later she immediately relocated back to New York.

Madonna paid Ritchie a huge divorce settlement

Madonna and Guy Ritchie both had successful careers in the entertainment industry by the time of their public split. But the fact is, that the "Material Girl," who has sold millions of records and has remained a huge live draw since she emerged into the pop world in the early 1980s, was substantially wealthier than her husband.

Today, Madonna's fortune is estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be around $850 million, and it was reported that the pop star was forced to give Ritchie a chunk of her fortune at the time, with a spokesperson telling the Associated Press that the sum was in the region of $76 million to $92 million, before offering a figure to the BBC of between $60 million and $70 million. Rolling Stone, who estimated that Madonna was worth $490 million at the time (around $700 million today), claimed on the same day that the true figure was $75 million, which adjusted for inflation is around $107 million today.

It descended into a bitter custody battle

But the one-time lovebirds weren't only battling over money at the end of their marriage — their children also became the subject of legal wrangles. In 2016, Madonna and Guy Ritchie were involved in a high-profile custody battle over their teenage son Rocco, who at the time refused to return to the U.S. with his mother after visiting the U.K. while on tour with her, opting to stay in the U.K. with Ritchie. Amid reports that the teenager was suffering stress as a result of the dispute, a Manhattan judge urged the parents to resolve the matter privately, though The Daily Beast reported that Madonna was ultimately the loser of the legal challenge.

Per E! News, in 2022, Madonna admitted in a YouTube video in which she answered he fans questions that her marriages, including her one to Ritchie and an earlier marriage to the actor Sean Penn, were not the "best idea," though she has recently praised the latter in public. Ritchie has only occasionally broken his silence on his marriage to Madonna, describing their time together as a "soap opera," per E! News. In contrast, Penn has described his continuing affection for the pop icon in an interview on "The Stephen Colbert Show," saying "I love my first wife very much" (via Entertainment Weekly).