THE EX FACTOR; Spurred on by the Death of Her Father, the Actress and Model Camilla Rutherford Rushed into Marriage and Motherhood. before Her Second Child Was Even Born, Her Dreams of Domestic Bliss Had Collapsed. Here, the Reluctant Single Mother Dissects Her Divorce

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Byline: LYDIA SLATER

Camilla Rutherford, model, sculpturally beautiful face of Max Factor and Gosford Park ingenue, is posing as elegantly as it is possible to do while lying across a kitchen table surrounded by teacups. Although she gave birth to her second baby, Maud, just three months earlier, she is already back to her pre-pregnancy size eight, flaunting her nipped-in green Chanel jacket and skintight white trousers with supermodel aplomb. Maud herself, a chubby, rosy little baby with strawberry blonde hair, is snoring gently in her car seat in the next room, unconcerned by the fussing around her mother.

One might deduce from this apparently seamless juggling of motherhood and professional commitments (there isn't even an au pair to help out) that Camilla, 29, is one of life's natural superwomen.

But appearances are deceptive: Camilla's personal circumstances and situation are not nearly as enviable, nor as relaxed, as they at first appear.

'It's been a tough time,' she confesses. 'I really want to be strong for my children. I want them to feel secure with me. I don't want them to feel that Mummy's all over the place. You constantly need to give the impression that everything's fine, and it's quite tiring.' For despite her fame, beauty and success, Camilla has not been lucky on the emotional front. Last year, she and her husband, Old Harrovian fashion PR Rufus Abbott, separated when Camilla was seven months pregnant.

Their decree nisi coincided with Christmas, and Camilla is now facing the unenviable prospect of life as a single mother of two very young children (the elder, Hector, is only just three). 'I'm quite a conservative person,' she says, 'and I really wanted to be married and have children and a house.

And now I'm in a bit of an alternative situation. I feel I've failed: it's not how I wanted things to be.' Camilla met Rufus at a friend's flat during the Notting Hill Carnival and apparently knew immediately that he was The One, even though, as she says now, he didn't have a job and was living with his mother. She asked him if he wanted to be her boyfriend and, six months after they started going out, proposed to him; at which, as she herself admits, 'He was a bit taken aback.' They married in 2002 in great style: Camilla wore a Chanel wedding gown, the event was covered by Vogue and the honeymoon (at a spa) came courtesy of another fashion glossy. Hector was born nine months later.

Now she acknowledges that she rushed into marriage and motherhood much too fast, as a result, she believes, of the sudden death of her father Malcolm, columnist and former assistant editor of the Financial Times, in 1999. He went to hospital for a routine stomach operation but died when complications set in. His loss deeply affected her. 'I really, really loved my father,' she says. 'I felt so bad about his death, I wanted to rebuild a family. Also, I'd been travelling so much, modelling. I really wanted to make my house a home, to ground myself- I think it maybe impaired my judgement when it came to who I wanted to marry and why I wanted to marry them.

'But I loved Rufus, I really loved him. I was very passionate about him and I wanted to get married and have children. He wanted to as well, but maybe not as much as me,' she says rather ruefully.

'It's always the way - you try to take a short cut, and it turns out to be a much longer way round.'

Until Malcolm Rutherford's death, Camilla's own upbringing had been the epitome of well-heeled middleclass security. Her mother Elizabeth was a magistrate and Camilla was brought up with her two sisters, Emma and Laetitia, now a literary agent, in West London.

Both her sisters attended the highly academic St Paul's Girls' School, but Camilla (who seems to perceive herself as dim although she's clearly nothing of the sort) spent her teenage years at a string of schools including Francis Holland in London, and Woodbridge School in Suffolk. …