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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton: Hollywood’s Greatest Love Story

By Sarah Baker

14 marriages, 11 divorces, 7 husbands, and 4 wives. This can describe only one iconic couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  From their love story, which included many of her famous jewels and his love letters, to the end of their turbulent romance, they were definitely the couple to watch and for many, are a couple who will live on forever. 

Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton:
Their Love Story in Photos

They first got together in 1963 on the set of their film Cleopatra. They were both already married, him to Sybil Williams, her to Eddie Fisher. This didn’t matter, they couldn’t control themselves. This is evident by their first long screen kiss. It lasted so long that the director had to ask if he could yell cut, and they still kept kissing. Their romance wasn’t all smooth sailing though. It was rocked with alcoholism, public and private fighting, and unfaithfulness. Even through all of this, they tried to make it work, they tried to protect the love in their marriage. They would fight and make up, only to have less and less time in between their fights. They tried to save their marriage by spending as much time as possible on their yacht, trying to ignore the outside world. 

When the drinking, fighting and unfaithfulness got to be too much and all the yacht time in the world couldn’t help, they ended their marriage in March of 1964.  Their love for each other was too strong though. They met again in the summer of 1975 and were remarried in October. Unfortunately, their second marriage lasted less than their first. But In July of 1976, they were divorced again. Three weeks after their divorce, Richard was married again, this time to Suzy Hunt, whom he was interested in and flirted with while married to Elizabeth. She did, however, spend her 50th birthday with him on her arm, proving that they just couldn’t stay away from each other.  They decided to work together Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.” Elizabeth hoped that working together would get them back together. The play got terrible reviews, which led Elizabeth to drink and miss many shows. During one of her absences from the show, she married Sally Hay. He died shortly thereafter of a brain hemorrhage. When Elizabeth was informed of his passing, she was so distraught that she fainted. When asked about their romance and why they just couldn’t make it work, Elizabeth said, “Maybe we loved each other too much.”

Richard Burton Showers Liz with Diamonds 

From Richard is where one of Elizabeth’s greatest passions blossomed. She had a few pieced before her relationship with Richard, from past husbands and the like, but the most famous pieces in her collection came from Richard. Probably the most famous of which, is the Taylor-Burton diamond. This is a pear shaped diamond that Richard paid more than a million dollars for Elizabeth. Other gifts from Richard include The Tahj Mahal Diamond that he gave her for her 40th birthday, the La Perginna Pearl that broke the world record for most expensive pearl sold at auction, and an emerald and diamond encrusted necklace pendant. Other notable jewelry pieces include a ruby and diamond necklace and tiara from husband Mike Todd, an emerald and gold diamond encrusted snake watch from husband Eddie Fisher, and a necklace constructed from ivory opera passes from the 18th century that was a gift from the estate of Edith Head. These pieces and many more comprise Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection that sold for auction in December of 2011 for almost 116 million dollars. This famous collection inspired her to write My Love Affair with Jewelry. In this book, she wrote, “here, in my words and as I remember them, are my cherished stories about a lifetime of fun and love and laughter. I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

(Center) Jessica Chastain in Elizabeth Taylor’s Bvlgari sapphire and diamond platinum sautoir in Cannes in 2013
“If You Leave Me, I Shall Have to Kill Myself,”-His Love Letters to Elizabeth Taylor

Where her passion was jewelry, his passion was for her. This was most evident in his many love letters that he wrote to her over their turbulent relationship. He complimented her in his letters when he wrote her, “you are probably the best actress in the world, which, combined with your beauty makes you unique.” Regardless of their fighting and their making up and breaking up, it was clear that Richard didn’t want to lose Elizabeth when he wrote her, “If you leave me I shall have to kill myself. There is no life without you.” He also used these letters to express to her why they have misunderstandings. To explain this, he wrote, “You must know, of course, how much I love you. You must know, of course, how badly I treat you. But the fundamental and most vicious, swinish, murderous, and unchangeable fact is that we totally misunderstand each other….we operate on alien wavelengths.” He was also certain that he was being punished by the gods for “stealing the fire and trying to put it out.” In which she was his fire. Although in most of his letters he seemed to be serious in expressing his feelings for Elizabeth, he also had a playful side. This was shown in some of the letters when her referred to her as, “My Lumps,” “Scrupelshrumpilstilskin,” and “Twit” and “Twaddle.” 

Dubbed by many “the greatest love story of all time,” their story has been idolized in many movies and books. Although they were divorced twice and married to others many times during their history together, they always seemed to find their way back to each other, whether it be in romance, friendship, or work. It always seemed that they wanted it to work out, but they just couldn’t figure out how to be together the right way. Elizabeth Taylor once said, “I was a fool to marry so often. If I had my time over again, I would never do that. The truth is I now don’t give a damn about most of those men. Richard is the only one I truly loved and still care about. I shall miss him until the day I die.” 

They can truly be together now and spend all of eternity making it right. 

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