Richard Burton's Widow, Sally, Makes Sure Elizabeth Taylor Can't Share His Gravesite
If Elizabeth Taylor wants to lay flowers on Richard Burton’s grave, she may have to do it over his widow’s dead body. Sally Burton, 38, has made clear her desire to be buried next to Burton by installing a new, room-for-two headstone in the village cemetery of Céligny, Switzerland, just half a mile from the villa she shared with the actor during their 13-month marriage. Designed by Sally, the stone straddles Burton’s resting place as well as the plot Sally purchased for herself shortly after his death in an attempt to make sure she, not Taylor, spends eternity at Burton’s side.
The unveiling escalates the feud between Sally and Elizabeth that began after Burton died in August 1984. Afraid that Taylor’s presence would turn the actor’s memorial service in Wales into a circus, Sally told Liz to stay away. But Taylor got her revenge, completely upstaging the London church service arranged by Sally. Liz not only threw elaborate receptions before and after the service, but arrived at the church uncharacteristically early and managed to be placed in the front row with Burton’s eldest sister. Sally, who was merely on time, found herself shunted off to the side.
According to friends, Sally began to suspect that Liz might want a permanent reunion with Richard when Taylor met with Burton’s family in Pontrhydyfen, “Wales. While there, Liz reminisced about the past and was reminded of her and Burton’s plans to be buried together in the twin plots they had purchased in the cemetery nearby. There was no thought Taylor would try to move Burton’s body to Wales. But Sally, already upset about the red and cream roses Liz had placed on Burton’s grave for Christmas 1984, discovered that a number of other plots at the Swiss cemetery were for sale. Concerned that Liz might buy an adjacent site and win the fight to the finish that way, Sally began designing her double gravesite. “That’s my plot,” she said on a visit to the cemetery. “I’ll be buried beside him.”
Sally unveiled her memorial just as she was preparing to come back into the public eye. A former BBC production assistant, she will appear as an interviewer on Women in Hollywood, a BBC documentary airing in Britain March 13. She will visit with prominent Tinseltown wives, including Lili Zanuck and Marianne Rogers. Taylor, once a famous Hollywood wife, won’t be among them—not that she would have anything to say to Sally. “We’re completely unaware of it,” claims Chen Sam, Liz’s spokesperson, of the cemetery flap, “and we’d like to stay that way.”