Relationships September 2023

Elizabeth Taylor, The Political Wife

Amidst loss and heartbreak, Elizabeth always believed her next great love was right around the corner. And let’s face it, her choices always kept us on our toes. Her marriages to Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton received the most press and incited the most scandal, so her time with John Warner as a political wife tends to get lost in the shadows of today. Elizabeth’s sixth husband and seventh marriage was a Republican politician from Virginia who escorted the Hollywood star to a dinner in Washington, D.C., hosted by Queen Elizabeth at the British Embassy in 1976 on a blind date. The pair said, “I do” that same year.”

Elizabeth took the role of wife seriously in every marriage, and this one would be no exception. After years of Taylor-Burton drama, Elizabeth needed someone to help her get over Richard, preferably a person not submerged in the glamorous lifestyle she was attempting to leave behind. Even with Elizabeth’s astonishing dedication as a politician’s wife, John was no fool and recognized it would never really be over between Elizabeth and Richard. But the newly married couple had other things to worry about. 

As he planned to run for the Senate in 1978, John knew Elizabeth would be an incredible asset. No movie star had ever been a Senate candidate’s wife before. Despite the attention she received, Elizabeth was old-fashioned and determined to play a supporting role to her husband. It was tough to outmatch the work ethic of a woman who’d been up and running since age 9 – she campaigned for two months and made up to six stops a day throughout Virginia, doing anything she could to help. Even so, her commitment couldn’t hold up against her star power. Elizabeth carried a level of Hollywood glamour that was hard to shake, and she wasn’t known for holding her tongue. 

It should also be noted that Elizabeth was the more liberal of the two. She supported the Equal Rights Amendment whereas John did not. She also believed that women should be drafted into the military service and addressed the issue at a Republican congressional retreat. The crowd went silent and when John motioned for Elizabeth to quiet down, she quipped “Don't you steady me with that all-domineering hand of yours.”

John and his campaign team wanted to change who Elizabeth was because although her celebrity status drew a crowd, all that came with it could hurt John’s chances of winning. She agreed to let go of her Rolls-Royce, her yacht, and dare we say it…her 69-carat Cartier Taylor-Burton diamond. Of course, trying to change who she was didn’t work, and doing it for love could only last so long. The amount of travel mixed with strict guidelines about how to dress and behave started to take a toll on Elizabeth’s physical and spiritual well-being. She was trying to balance being one of the world’s most famous people with a new marriage and four children. Growing up in Hollywood didn’t prepare her for the life of a politician’s wife, one where she had to be “everything and nothing at the same time.” 

Once John was elected, Elizabeth felt as if she had no function. She took small, sweet acts of revenge where she could, such as proudly wearing purple to a luncheon thrown for her by the Republican ladies after explicitly being told not to. But her life and marriage were going downhill fast, and with her Senator husband always away for work and no marital duties to fulfill, Elizabeth soon knew it was time to let go. The final straw for Elizabeth was while she was on Broadway starring in The Little Foxes, John called to inform her that he purchased a place at the Watergate and gave all her animals away. The two finally divorced in 1982, and in 2002, after having decades to reflect on her seventh marriage Elizabeth told the New York Times

“He knows he wasn’t the love of my life. And I know I wasn’t the love of his life, but we loved each other.”

Always gracious, Elizabeth remained friends with Warner until she passed away, and wished him happiness in his new marriage. It may not have been forever, but they shared a love that was true to who they were at that moment.