How Many Children Did Hollywood Icon Elizabeth Taylor Have?

Elizabeth Taylor brings to mind a handful of sentiments. Most celebrate her being an icon of the Hollywood film industry. Others recall her scintillating affairs as a famous lover and wife who married eight times in total. Few touch on the fact that she was a hugely devoted mother to her children.

While Taylor's film roles, timeless good looks, or slightly scandalous affairs tend to get more publicity in the spotlight, the starlet did have children and was reportedly a doting and compassionate mother who took care to shield her brood from "the circus." Off-screen, in her unseen role as a mom, Taylor had her hands full with four children.

Separated by paternity, her four kids varied in age, background, and personality. Though the globe-trotting star of the silver screen made sure that their bustling and busy home was always filled with love. Surprisingly, even though her kids are more than a footnote in most retellings of Taylor's history, many of them went on to live just as interesting and dramatic lives. We might not think of motherhood as glamorous or captivating, but when Elizabeth Taylor was your mom, the everyday could easily become extraordinary.

Michael Jr. Wilding

Michael Howard Wilding, called Michael Jr., was Taylor's first child. He was the son of her second husband, Michael Wilding, a British actor. The elder Wilding was twenty years Taylor's senior, age thirty-eight when he welcomed Michael Jr. compared to Taylor's eighteen. He was born on January 6, 1953, in Santa Monica, California.

Taylor immediately took steps to protect him from the paparazzi, or "the circus," as Wilding Jr. once said. She wanted her family to be raised off-camera and away from prying eyes. However, that doesn't mean that they never saw the media. Wilding Jr. also recalled a time when Taylor was having an affair with Richard Burton, a time during which he remembers paparazzi "crawling all over the walls and around the villa. I remember once we were given permission to use the garden hose on the telephoto lenses peering over the wall" (via ABC News).

Wilding Jr., though, was kept largely out of the limelight. However, he did have a rebellious streak, absconding to India and then England in pursuit of creating a rock band before fathering two children with two different women, then finally marrying Brooke Palance in 1982. Around the same time period, beginning in 1978, he began acting, most notably appearing as Jackson Freemont on the soap opera "Guiding Light."

Christopher Wilding

Christopher Wilding is Taylor's second son with Michael Wilding Senior. Born February 27, 1955, in Los Angeles, California, he is 3 years younger than his brother Michael Jr. At the time of his birth, Taylor was only twenty-one. This dynamic meant she tended to be the children's friend more than a disciplinarian parent. William J. Mann, the American novelist, and historian, told ABC News, "There were a lot of nannies and assistants to take care of the kids. She was more of the pal than the disciplinarian."

While Christopher didn't follow his mother or older brother into acting, he didn't stray far from the limelight. A film editor, photographer Wilding also has assistant directed films like "Tombstone" in 1993. However, working in the film industry isn't the only similarity Taylor's youngest son shares with his mother.

He found himself hounded by the paparazzi for his romantic relationship when he began dating, and eventually married, Aileen Getty, oil heiress and member of one of the richest families in America. The pair met when Aileen was still quite young, and to avoid disinheritance as per the Getty trust rules, they had to wait until she was twenty-two to wed. When the time finally came, Taylor threw the happy couple a party with a guestlist full of A-list celebs like Carol Burnett and Sissy Spacek. Unfortunately, they divorced 8 years later in 1989. Christopher Wilding went on to marry Margaret Carlton, with whom he has one child.

Elizabeth Liza Frances

Eventually, Taylor and her husband drifted apart, divorcing in January 1957. By the time she officially married her new beau, film producer Mike Todd, in February 1957, she was several months along in her pregnancy with daughter Liza. On August 6, 1957, Taylor's first daughter was born. This time around, it was much harder for her to shelter her child from the media. Todd was known for seeking out publicity with his stunts. While Taylor didn't push Liza into the limelight, she was exposed to Hollywood more often than her siblings.

Mann states, "When Elizabeth was making 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf,' she had Liza on the set with her quite a bit" (via ABC News). Initially, it seemed as if she would follow in the same footsteps as her mother, attending a private school in Gstaad, Switzerland, where she took a few acting classes. However, Liza likely saw how much the industry required her mother to be away from her family. Mann notes, "There were a lot of nannies and assistants to take care of the kids." (via ABC News). Though, Taylor had converted to Judaism to marry Todd and was known for celebrating "anything and everything" when it came to holidays in the most opulent way; making every occasion special for her children.

Taylor's daughter eventually shied away from the spotlight and became a sculptor in upstate New York. She lives a quiet life with her husband, two children, and horses and goes by Liza Todd Tivey.

Maria Burton Carson

Taylor's second daughter, and fourth child, is adopted. Mike Todd died in a devastating plane crash when Liza was just over 6 months old. Distraught, Taylor was comforted by a friend of the couple, Eddie Fisher. Soon, an affair began for the widowed Taylor and still-married Fisher. The relationship was quite scandalous, and labeled Taylor a "homewrecker." Yet the pair would eventually marry in 1959.

During her marriage to Fisher, her fourth husband, the couple began the process of adopting Maria, a German orphan. The process was not yet finalized when Taylor took up with her married co-star, Richard Burton, while filming Cleopatra in 1962. After divorcing Fisher and marrying Burton in 1964, Burton took up the adoption process, helping Maria become welcomed into the Taylor-Burton family in the mid-1960s. Allegedly, after her adoption, they learned she had a genetic defect in her hips. Maria underwent almost two dozen surgeries to correct the issue.

Maria began modeling when she was a teen but found that she was much more interested in fashion design in her twenties. With her first husband, Steve Carson, they opened a talent agency. Unfortunately, the marriage went south, causing Maria to flee to Taylor's home with her 2-year-old son. Mann notes, "She took Maria's side and bore the brunt of the criticism through that ordeal," (via ABC News) which included Carson blaming Taylor for tearing their happy union apart. Today, Maria lives in Idaho, far from Hollywood's prying eyes.

Elizabeth Taylor, homewrecker or homemaker?

Taylor received a lot of grief for some of her relationships, notably when she took up with already married men. However, for all her scandals, the starlet tried to leave the chaos of living in the limelight at her front door and create a happy home for her children. She shielded them as much as she could from the paparazzi, allegedly giving her daughters over a dozen security guards during her Italian affair with Richard Burton. And doted on them as often as possible, regularly bringing exotic petting zoos and circus acts to the family home. She has been quoted as saying, "I've never felt more alive than watching my children delight in something." (via Elizabeth Taylor).

Husbands and men walked in and out of Taylor's life, but her children remained by her side. In 2000, when Taylor was made a Dame of the British Empire, all her brood were in attendance at Buckingham Palace for their mother's big day. Sadly, the four were together again at Taylor's funeral in 2011. As were some of her grandchildren, who went on to have her great-grandchildren. The Taylor legacy continues to live on through her children. And though many would argue it's an inheritance of only fame and fortune, most fail to realize it is also a powerful example of motherhood.