By Holly Honderich
BBC News, Washington
Forget The Crown. The only British drama you need right now is the real-life feud between two Wags – wives and girlfriends of football stars – currently playing out in the UK High Court.
Last year, Coleen Rooney, the wife of former England striker Wayne Rooney, sensationally accused fellow soccer spouse Rebekah Vardy of leaking her personal information to the British tabloids. Rooney said she knew this because she had carried out a sophisticated sting operation on Instagram.
Vardy has vehemently denied the allegations and has taken Rooney to court for defamation. A judge has made an initial ruling in favour of Vardy, but the legal battle is far from over. If Vardy and Rooney do not resolve things privately, we may see a full trial in the new year.
We know, it's a lot. So here's what you need to know about the high-profile spat that has sparked a court battle, inspired hundreds of memes and riveted a nation.
First, the basics.
Even outside the Royal Family, the British like their titles. And on the sidelines of a professional football pitch, these women may as well be royalty. The term first entered the popular vernacular alongside Victoria Beckham – also known as Posh Spice – international pop star and wife to football phenomenon David Beckham.
With Posh at the helm, the mid to late-2000s became the golden age of Wag-dom, with attention turned increasingly away from the field and into the stands. So much so, that some blamed England's poor performance at the 2006 World Cup on the Wags, who were dubbed a distraction.
As mentioned above, Instagram sleuth Coleen Rooney is married to Wayne Rooney, England star and also a former player for Manchester United, DC United and others. The supposed leaker, Rebekah Vardy, is the wife of Jamie Vardy, who plays for Premier League club Leicester City.
Both Wayne and Jamie had also played together for the England football team.
According to British journalist Elizabeth Paton – who has tried to explain all this to Americans in the pages of the New York Times – Rooney used her time as Wag to grow her celebrity status – reaching "peak Wag royalty" while Vardy is "a more recent addition to the fold". The two were not "known enemies", Ms Paton said, but this quickly changed last year.
Last October, Rooney made the claim that someone had leaked information from her Instagram account to a tabloid newspaper. In a stunning display of sleuthing skills, Rooney blocked all of her followers – except for one – from seeing her Instagram stories. To smoke out the culprit, Rooney then posted a series of fake stories which later appeared in The Sun.
And who was the one account left?
"It's………….. Rebekah Vardy's account," Rooney wrote in the post heard round the world, complete with the cliffhanger ellipses. Rooney's apparent detective skills earned her the nickname Wagatha Christie – a play on Wag and Agatha Christie, the English writer famed for her detective novels.
But Rooney's bombshell claim was quickly rejected by Vardy, who posted a screenshotted note of her own, saying she had "never" spoken to journalists about her fellow Wag. "I'm not being funny but I don't need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you," she wrote, and directed her lawyers to conduct a "forensic investigation" into her Instagram account to see who had access, and when.
Since then, Vardy has moved the drama from Instagram to the court room, where she has sued Rooney for libel. In court, Vardy's lawyer Hugh Tomlinson called Rooney's posts an "untrue and unjustified defamatory attack… published and republishes to millions of people". While the "wag wars" have been trivialised, Mr Tomlinson said, the impact on his client has been serious.
Still, Rooney's legal team has maintained that Vardy was the leaker, "consistently passing on information about the defendant's private Instagram".
we're going to have to make a documentary about this, aren't we
In the first ruling of the trial so far, Judge Mark Warby ruled that the now-infamous Wagatha post looked like it was putting the blame directly on Vardy, not simply on Vardy's social media account – as argued by Rooney's team.
Though the decision was in favour of Vardy, this is far from over. Friday's ruling just clarifies the rules of the road going forward at trial.
Both Vardy and Rooney have agreed to a "stay" of proceedings until February, giving the two a chance to resolve things outside of court.
Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy in row over 'leaked stories'
Coleen Rooney 'pointed finger' at Rebekah Vardy over story leaks
Rebekah Vardy backed by High Court in Coleen Rooney libel hearing
Trump options narrow as Michigan backs Biden win
Republican legislators vow after White House talks to follow "normal process" in validating the vote.
Jab trialled for people who cannot be vaccinated
Johnson 'asked for Patel report to be palatable'
Can Trump overturn the election result?
My mother, the world’s first woman Prime Minister. Video
Will countries be left behind in the vaccine race?
Test-and-trace 'finds half contacts in some areas'
The ski-jumping inventor who escaped the Nazis
Seven things that may be different this Christmas
Dysfunction mars Stormont's Covid-19 report card
Strictly's Maisie: EastEnders didn't prepare me for this
Students' clever solution to cut tyre pollution. Video
Obituary: Jan Morris, a poet of time, place and self
Trump options narrow as Michigan backs Biden win
Caroline Kayll death: Man arrested over teacher's murder2
Isle of Wight charity worker blinded and paralysed by snakebite3
Boris Johnson 'asked for Patel report to be palatable', source claims4
Newspaper headlines: 'Vaccines for all', and Patel 'bullying' row5
Donald Trump Jr tests positive for coronavirus6
Covid: Jab for people who cannot be vaccinated trialled7
Russian special forces rescue boy kidnapped by suspected paedophile8
UK foreign aid: Cameron and Blair warn against budget cut9
Covid antibodies 'last at least six months'10
Will DNA help Rolf find his daughter? iPlayer
'My Art teacher said I was too creative' Audio
Air Jordan: A story with a dark side. iPlayer
Make this tasty leek and stilton quiche
© 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.