Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley – much has been made about the difference in age upon this pair’s first meeting – she was 14 and he 24 – but according to Priscilla, the age gap wasn’t the real issue nor the slightly scandalous murmurs it provoked: “We cannot compare it to today. We still had morals, high standards…” Instead, it was the loss of identity and self-hood she suffered after becoming the King of Rock ‘n Roll’s Queen.
How Did Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley Meet?
1959: “How’d you like to meet Elvis Presley?” The affirmative answer to those seven little words would forever alter the destiny of German resident and ex-patriot, Priscilla Beaulieu.
The woman whom The Memphis Flash would dub Cilla revealed in her 1985 memoir Elvis and Me that, “The first six months I spent with him were filled with tenderness and affection. Blinded by love, I saw none of his faults or weaknesses. He was to become the passion of my life.”
Dating The King
Despite Elvis’s return to the United States, the pair’s courtship continued – though the separation by miles of ocean and differing time zones did take a toll. Remembers Priscilla, “I didn’t know when he was going to call. It could be three months, it could be a couple of months, it could be maybe four months.
“Again, he was also busy too. And back in the day, the telephone calls went through an operator, so it would take a few hours before we got the call. [My father] wanted to know his intentions. I mean, he didn’t want me hurt… Elvis said he cared very much about me… and that he had plans for me.”
Those plans included working in tandem with Priscilla to convince Ann and Joseph Beaulieu to allow their daughter to move to Memphis and into the home of Elvis’s father, Vernon. Once she was firmly established in Tennessee and ensconced inside his own private residence, Elvis went to work transforming Priscilla into his ideal woman.
According to Priscilla, “He taught me everything: how to dress, how to walk, how to apply makeup and wear my hair, how to return love—his way.”
Wedding Bells and A Baby
December 1966: Amidst rumblings of an affair between Elvis and Ann-Margret – his co-star in the film Viva Las Vegas – and concerns that the singer’s public was finding his living arrangements with Priscilla unseemly, The King proposed.
The eight-minute ceremony was held on May 1, 1967, in a private suite at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Elvis, looking suave in a black brocade silk tuxedo and Western boots was flanked by two best men, Marty Lacker and Joe Esposito. Priscilla’s sister, Michelle, served as maid of honor.
There was only one celebrity guest – comedian Redd Foxx – present at the 9 am deeming, and according to lore, Elvis somewhat surprisingly requested that the word “obey” be removed from the couple’s vows.
Exactly nine months later (February 1, 1968), the new Mr. and Mrs. welcomed a baby girl, Lisa Marie. But despite the appearance of a happy family, trouble was brewing.
Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley Call It Quits
1972: Priscilla asks Elvis for a divorce. The years following Lisa Marie’s birth were not kind to the Presleys – both had indulged in extramarital affairs and Elvis’s frequent absences while he toured or filmed his latest Hollywood feature resulted in Priscilla experiencing an epiphany.
“I realized that I don’t know who I was, my considerations were his considerations, my fears were his fears. I found myself revealing things that he would say to me.”
The couple physically separated on February 23, 1972. On July 26, they filed for legal separation. On January 8, 1973, Elvis filed the petition for divorce – it was his 38th birthday.
The dissolution was not contested by either party and was finalized on October 9. According to the terms and conditions, Priscilla was given $725,000 outright and she would continue to receive $8,000 a month in spousal and child support as well as 5% of Elvis’s new publishing companies and half the income from the sale of their Beverly Hills home.
On the day the decree absolute was issued, Elvis and Priscilla exited the courthouse hand in hand. “I did not divorce him because I didn’t love him,” said Priscilla, “he was the love of my life. I divorced him even though I still loved him, but I needed to find out what the world was like, but the greatest thing about our relationship is that we still loved each other.”