NEW YORK – It looks like born-again Brit Mrs. Ritchie is falling out of love with London -- and the feeling is mutual.
Madonna, with kids and husband in tow, made a dash for sunny L.A. just before Christmas, but while she claims she's only escaping the bitter English weather and will be back in her London townhouse in no time, the Fleet Street tabloids are screaming "Good Riddance!"
"Madonna the Brit," proclaimed London's Daily Mail on Wednesday: "A classic case of the rich, crass, clueless American playing at English tradition."
Despite wearing tweed, curtseying to the Queen and even putting on a "mockney" accent, Madge -- as the Brits have taken to calling her -- has failed in her efforts to win the approval of her new compatriots.
Even her professional endeavors -- the West End show Up For Grabs and her latest film Swept Away -- brought out a tongue-lashing from critics, with the London Express calling her "flat as a flounder" onstage. The movie's blistering American reviews sent it straight to video in England.
Snubbed at every turn, Madonna's been heard to say she's fed up with "everything that is English" and on arriving at LAX reportedly snapped, "Why the [expletive] are we living in a [expletive] like London when we could be living here?"
She'll certainly get no argument out of some of her neighbors, whose noses she has managed to put well out of joint.
Despite taking up pheasant shooting in an earlier fit of Anglophilia, she recently changed her mind, insisting her husband ban the "barbaric" sport at Ashcombe, the couple's $15 million country estate in Wiltshire.
Guy Ritchie's close friend (and Mr. Claudia Schiffer) Matthew Vaughan told the Mail that Madonna's devotion to Kabbala is what changed her mind.
"Madonna thinks all the little birds she shoots will come back and haunt her," he told the paper.
But her decision isn't popular among the local hunters, nor with her husband.
"Guy thinks it's ridiculous," another friend told the Mail. "He thinks it's mad to own such a beautiful estate and not be allowed to shoot there."
To add insult to injury, Her Madgesty wants the royal treatment from local picnickers.
Despite an ancient "right to roam" rule permitting the public to wander all over her 12,000-acre property, Madonna wants to keep them well away from her historic mansion (the former home of photographer Cecil Beaton) and has called the roamers "Satan's children."
"She is acting like a feudal landowner of 300 years ago!" Ben Kerwood, chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England told the Sunday Express.
"She is being more royal than the Queen, who not only allows people to look at her palaces but also enter them," he fumed.
But not everyone is against her.
Dominic Mohan, showbiz columnist for London's The Sun, puts it down to English snootiness.
"There has been a bit of sneering at her in some quarters," he told The Post, "but it's only really the British snobs."
Mohan sticks up for her, saying she long since shed the megastar entourage that once jogged alongside her.
"Now you see her cycling in Hyde Park without a minder at all," he said, and she is often snapped by paparazzi walking hand in hand with daughter Lourdes, clad in unglamorous sweatpants and sneakers, heading out to the local store.
What's more, her London home -- a townhouse just off Oxford Street -- is a far cry from the kind of high-security Knights
"There's not a huge driveway or anything like that -- you can just go up and bang on the door," he claims. "It's reasonably humble by the standards of her peers."
Exasperated by the British backlash, Madge herself sent Mohan an e-mail last week, reassuring his readers she'll be back.
"I adore England, and when I'm not there I miss it terribly," she wrote.
"My home in Marble Arch is my favorite house. I put a lot of love and time into making a life for my family there.
"How many times do I have to say it? I love living in England!"