The Many Loves of Elizabeth Taylor
Famously married eight times (twice to Richard Burton), she never gave up her search for a soulmate
CONRAD HILTON JR.
May 6, 1950–Jan. 29, 1951
Taylor was only 18 when she wed 23-year-old hotel heir Conrad "Nicky" Hilton. But the ill-fated marriage began crumbling even before their 14-week European honeymoon was over. Hilton "became sullen, angry and abusive, physically and mentally," Taylor wrote in her 1988 autobiography Elizabeth Takes Off.
Feb. 21, 1952–Jan. 26, 1957
The British actor, whom Taylor met in England while making Ivanhoe, was 20 years her senior and the calm presence she needed after her tumultuous first marriage. Together, they had two sons — Michael (born in 1953) and Christopher (born 1955). "He was a wonderful father," Taylor told PEOPLE in 2006. But after five years of marriage, the couple divorced.
Feb. 2, 1957–March 22, 1958
Movie producer Mike Todd was a self-assured suitor who announced his marriage intentions clearly. "He didn't ask me, he told me," Taylor recalled in Elizabeth Takes Off. At 25 years her senior, he was the first major love in her life. "God, I loved him. My self-esteem, my image, everything soared under his exuberant, loving care," she wrote. Their marriage, which produced daughter Liza, came to a tragic end when the showman died in a crash on his plane, the Liz.
May 12, 1959–March 6, 1964
Still reeling from Todd's death, Taylor found solace with her late husband's good friend, singer Eddie Fisher, who was married at the time to actress Debbie Reynolds. "It was distressing to open the papers day after day and see captions under my photographs referring to me as a homewrecker," she later recalled in her autobiography, maintaining that Fisher and Reynolds' marriage was already in trouble. But her relationship with Fisher dissolved when she fell in love with her Cleopatra costar, Welsh actor Richard Burton.
March 15, 1964–June 26, 1974
"I've always admitted that I'm ruled by my passions, and I can't pretend I didn't know what I was doing when I became involved with Richard," Taylor wrote in her memoir. The married actors' affair on the Rome set of Cleopatra made headlines — and prompted the Vatican to accuse Taylor of "erotic vagrancy." The couple eventually ended their respective marriages and walked down the aisle. But after almost a decade together, their tempestuous relationship had earned them the nickname The Battling Burtons — and they divorced.
Oct. 10, 1975–July 29, 1976
Though their fiery first marriage fizzled, Taylor and Burton (who had adopted a daughter, Maria, born in 1961) gave wedded bliss another shot — briefly. Some joked that Burton simply wanted to be near all the jewelry he had given his ex. "Even though there were rough times, I wouldn't give up one minute of my time with Richard Burton," Taylor wrote in her autobiography.
Dec. 4, 1976–Nov. 7, 1982
Taylor entered the political realm when she married Virginia Republican (and former Secretary of the Navy) John Warner, whose wife's star power helped elect him to the U.S. Senate in 1979. But the role of the senator's wife did not suit her. "I was told to wear tweeds," she recalled to PEOPLE in 2006. "I couldn't wear purple or Halston pantsuits." An unhappy Taylor ultimately divorced Warner, who retired from the Senate in 2009.
Oct. 6, 1991–Oct. 31, 1996
They were an unlikely match — the movie star and the construction worker. After meeting at the Betty Ford Clinic, Taylor tied the knot for the eighth time with Larry Fortensky, a high-school dropout and 20 years his famous wife's junior. But the pair eventually parted ways. "He stopped working," she told PEOPLE. "You can't have love without respect." Taylor vowed never to marry again — and kept her word.