Nigella Lawson leaving court earlier this month.

Nigella Lawson leaving court earlier this month. Photo: Reuters

Charles Saatchi prevented Nigella Lawson pursuing a career in the US for years because he did not want her to be away from home, a UK jury has heard.

It was one of the reasons that she was not happy, the court was told.

Ms Lawson had regular television offers from across the Atlantic but her then husband put his foot down, it was claimed.

Art dealer Charles Saatchi leaves court last month.

Art dealer Charles Saatchi leaves court last month. Photo: AP

She finally established herself there this year, months before the couple divorced, by appearing as a judge on The Taste, a television cookery contest.

Francesca Grillo, 35, who is accused of defrauding Mr Saatchi out of £580,000 ($1.06m) on a company credit card, said that Ms Lawson often confided in her about problems in the marriage during her 11 years working for the cookery writer.

Asked about Ms Lawson's hopes of cracking the American market, the housekeeper and nanny said: "Before she started her new show she had other offers, but she always put them off because Charles didn't like the idea of her being away from home for too long."

Italian sisters Francesca, and Elisabetta Grillo.

Italian sisters Francesca, and Elisabetta Grillo. Photo: AP

She was questioned about whether Ms Lawson was happy, and replied: "I think, in general, no. In her relationship, no." Ms Lawson told her she was unhappy partly because "she is a very social woman, she is a people person, and Charles is quite the opposite. So many times she had to turn down going out because Charles didn't approve".

When she and Ms Lawson spoke in private, Ms Grillo said, they talked of "the way the children were growing up, her job, her desire to break America ... her relationship with Charles, how the house was running".

Ms Grillo also testified that she had to spend up to three hours every morning clearing up her kitchen because it was left in such a mess each evening.

Ms Grillo said she started each day clearing up after "untidy children and grown-ups" at the family home in Belgravia.

The 35-year-old Italian, who lived with Ms Lawson, Mr Saatchi and their three children, said Mr Saatchi expected the kitchen to be "spotless" when he came down at 7am. She usually started at 6am, but "it would depend what happened the night before".

She said it cost £800 a month to hire specialists to clean the family silver, while window cleaning cost £600 per month and carpet cleaning cost £500 per month.

She confirmed evidence given by her sister Elisabetta that staff were told to buy copies of Mr Saatchi's books to help them up the bestseller lists.

The jury at Isleworth Crown Court in west London was read a text message from Mr Saatchi to Francesca in April last year, asking: "Please buy 20 on Amazon, 10 on Waterstones, delivery to Eaton Square [the family home] thanks Charles."

Another text said: "Let me know how many Amazon you've bought so I can see the effect on Amazon."

Explaining why she often took out cash on the credit card, Ms Grillo said she would give the couple's three children £80 each per day to pay for food, transport and cinema tickets.

When she took them on holiday "I would use cash because maybe I bought things for the children and wasn't allowed to say it". She did not specify what the secret purchases were.

Ms Lawson would buy gifts to thank Ms Grillo for working long hours, especially when she took the children abroad, including a £5000 pink fur coat from Miu Miu and an outfit and shoes from the same store costing another £5000 in February and June last year.

Asked why Ms Lawson had told the court she would never have agreed to such expensive gifts, Ms Grillo said: "I'm afraid Nigella said many things that are not quite true."

Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo deny fraud. The case continues.

The Telegraph, London