Talk about Catholic guilt. Elizabeth Taylor’s many marriages were always a topic of conversation in the tabloids. The star, who died in 2011, married seven different men in her lifetime, and even married one of them twice. And one of her affairs was so public, so controversial, the Vatican felt the need to address it publicly.
Elizabeth Taylor married seven men in her lifetime
Other than her violet eyes and her storied acting career, Taylor was famous for her relationships. The actress was just 18 when she got married for the first time to Conrad ‘Nicky’ Hilton Jr., the son of hotelier Conrad Hilton, in 1950. But this was far from her first engagement. In fact, it was her third. Before marrying Hilton, Taylor was engaged to billionaire Bill Pawley and football player Glenn Davis.
May 6, 1950, marked Taylor’s first wedding, however. And her employer, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), paid for her wedding dress. At this point, she was already good friends with Debbie Reynolds, whom she met in high school on the MGM lot.
Taylor’s second husband was Michael Wilding, whom she married in 1952. They had two sons together, Michael Jr. and Christopher. Her third marriage was to producer Mike Todd, whom Taylor married on Feb. 2, 1957. They welcomed their daughter, Liza Todd, in August 1957, and then Todd tragically died in a plane crash in March 1958.
His death led to one of Taylor’s most scandalous relationships: her affair with Eddie Fisher. Fisher was sent by his wife, Reynolds, to go comfort the mourning Taylor, and that triggered their romance. Fisher left Reynolds for Taylor in 1958, and they officially married in 1959, the day the divorce from Reynolds was finalized.
Just when the press thought Taylor’s love life couldn’t get more dramatic, she started filming Cleopatra in Rome. Burton was cast as Antony, and it didn’t take long for an affair to begin. Their romance ended Taylor’s marriage with Fisher (which Reynolds wasn’t convinced was true love, in the first place) and Burton’s marriage to Sybil Williams. And it was this relationship that triggered criticism from the Vatican.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s affair was one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals
Taylor’s relationship with Richard Burton was one of her most publicized and controversial. The actors were so obsessed with each other, they would spend an entire day of filming in one of their trailers when they were supposed to be on set. Paparazzi bribed their way onto set as extras, all trying to get information about Taylor and Burton’s tryst. Fisher leaving Rome became the world’s confirmation that the affair was, indeed, happening.
The relationship was just as dramatic for the couple as it was salacious for the world. They were heard getting into countless fights while filming, but they still couldn’t get enough of each other.
“When I saw him on the set of Cleopatra, I fell in love and I have loved him ever since, practically my whole adult life,” Taylor wrote for People in 1988.
Their passionate affair drew in intense criticism, however. The affair began in Rome, which of course, surrounds the Vatican City. The Vatican’s newspaper raked Taylor across the coals for the affair in an open letter to the actress, calling her relationship with Bruton “erotic vagrancy.”
But even the Pope couldn’t break up Taylor and Burton. Only they could do that. When Cleopatra finally wrapped after two-and-a-half years of filming, Taylor didn’t even attend the premiere. The constant tabloid attention surrounding her and Burton made her completely disinterested in actually seeing the movie that brought them together. But together, they stayed, from 1964 to 1974, her longest marriage to date.
They famously divorced in 1974, and then got remarried in 1975. They divorced for good in 1976. During their marriage, Burton adopted Taylor’s daughter with Todd, and they also adopted another daughter, Maria Burton.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married and divorced twice
In her 1988 essay for People, Taylor explained why Burton was the true love of her life, even after two divorces.
“Even though there were rough times, I wouldn’t give up one minute of my time with Richard Burton,” she wrote. “Not a moment of the ecstatic roller-coaster years of our first marriage, nor the ill-starred attempt at a second go-round.”
“We were like magnets, alternately pulling toward each other and, inexorably, pushing away,” she continued. “Creating a life with him was far more interesting than interpreting somebody else’s life on the screen, but then I’ve always lived my life with too much relish to be a mere interpreter of dreams. With Richard Burton, I was living my own fabulous, passionate fantasy. In time it became too difficult to sustain and we physically parted, but those years will never be forgotten.”