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This Day in Groovy History: The (First) Wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Icons | March 15, 2022

British film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their first wedding in Montreal, Canada. They married twice, but both marriages ended in divorce. (Photo by William Lovelace/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

On this day, March 15, back in 1964, Hollywood superstars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton exchanged their wedding vows – for the first time; they would do it again later – at the glamorous Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. Their wedding came after a scandalous love affair between the two stars and Cleopatra co-stars, a love affair that made headlines in gossip tabloids around the world. Let’s take a look back at the (first) wedding of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. 

The beautiful Liz Taylor. (tmc.com)

The Oft-Married Liz

When things began to heat up between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the set of the blockbuster Cleopatra, Taylor was already married – and to her fourth husband! Taylor had shot to stardom as a teen actress in the 1944 film, National Velvet. As she matured, she starred in many more movies and caught the eye of many men. She briefly dated football player Glenn Davis, an ambassador’s son William Pawley Jr, and (possibly) Howard Hughes. Her first marriage, however, took place when she was 18 and said “I do” to Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr., heir to the Hilton Hotel empire and great-uncle of Paris Hilton. Taylor went on to marry Michael Wilding then Mike Todd, before her scandalous marriage to Eddie Fisher. In all, Taylor was married eight times.

Richard Burton (wikipedia)

Richard Burton

Welsh-born Richard Burton cut his acting chops as a Shakespearean actor before making the successful transition to Hollywood films. Handsome with a deep baritone voice, Burton was a heartthrob and a man’s man. Burton wed his first wife, Sybil Williams, in 1949 and was married to her when he began his love affair with Elizabeth Taylor. 

Debbie Reynolds blamed Liz for breaking up her marriage to Eddie Fisher. (biography.com)

That Thing About Eddie Fisher

Liz Taylor’s marriage to Richard Burton wasn’t her first go-around with a tabloid scandalous romance. After the death of husband number three, Mike Todd, Taylor sought comfort with Todd’s close friend, Eddie Fisher. Fisher, however, was married to actress Debbie Reynolds at the time. The romance was heavily covered in the tabloids and Debbie Reynolds did her best to rake Liz Taylor across the coals. Reynolds called her a “homewrecker”, claimed she “stole” Fisher from her, and “destroyed” her family. It was quite possibly the biggest celebrity scandal of the 1950s. But Liz Taylor was just getting started. 

Taylor and Burton on the set of "Cleopatra". (biography.com)

Cleopatra

The first meeting between the married Elizabeth Taylor and the also married Richard Burton took place in Rome on the set of Cleopatra. The two stars felt an instant connection and the chemistry between the two was palpable. They quickly fell in love and started a much-publicized affair which included paparazzi pics of them boating on the Mediterranean and at an Italian villa. In fact, the paparazzi were relentless in their desire to cover every aspect of the salacious love affair. By the time filming on Cleopatra wrapped up, the two love birds were deeply in love and making plans for their future together. There was just one problem … make that two: Eddie Fisher and Sybil Williams. 

A reporter trying to get a pic of the scandalous Taylor and Burton in Italy. (pinterest)

Divorces and Marriage

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton longed to get married but before they could walk down the aisle, they both had to divorce their current spouses. Burton’s marriage was the first to be dissolved. That meant Taylor and Burton had to wait until Taylor’s divorce from Eddie Fisher was final. They had hoped the divorce would be granted in mid-January of 1964, but things dragged on longer. Finally, in early March, the divorce was granted. A few days later, on March 15, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton said their vows in Montreal. 

Taylor and Burton on their wedding day ... the first one. (brides.com)

The Wedding

On the day of the wedding, which had been condemned by the Vatican, Elizabeth Taylor wore a short, trendy dress. Her long dark hair was styled in a knot of braids with flowers woven throughout. While the wedding ring was quite beautiful, its prominence was usurped by the one-million-dollar Harry Winston diamond that Burton gifted Taylor in 1969. 

Deeply in love. (thisisglamorous.com)

The Marriage of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Part 2

By all accounts, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor were deeply in love, but the marriage was a rocky one. It was rumored that Taylor was prone to violent, angry outbursts and Burton was an alcoholic. There were also rumors of infidelities and that Burton engaged in a few same-sex trysts. Their (first) marriage lasted just ten years. They divorced in 1974 but reunited the next year. In October of 1975, they got married for the second time in a secret ceremony in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. This marriage was much shorter. It lasted only a few months. 

Tags: Elizabeth Taylor | Richard Burton

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.