The Truth About Elvis And Priscilla Presley's Relationship

Elvis and Priscilla Presley, arguably the most iconic couple in music history, had a surprisingly short marriage of only six years. However, their romance began years before they said "I do" — when Priscilla was still in high school (via The Guardian). The former wife of rock 'n' roll's biggest star continues to honor Elvis' legacy and lives by his golden words: "Keep moving. Keep moving. You always keep moving" (via People).

Though their pairing is legendary, it is also well-known that the King of Rock 'n' Roll and his queen didn't have the most uncomplicated relationship. Between fame, the pressure to keep up public affectations, and a persistent drug problem, Elvis and Priscilla's fabled romance was put to the test many times. While they ultimately chose to go their separate ways, they retained a fond friendship — they were famously photographed leaving the court after their divorce, hand in hand – that extended into Elvis' final days in 1977, according to USA Today. Here's a detailed look back into the rock 'n' roll couple's eternal love story.

Priscilla was only 14 when Elvis fell in love with her

The King of Rock 'n' Roll fell for his future wife when she was merely 14 years old, while he was 24. The year was 1959 and Priscilla's family — by virtue of her stepfather Paul Beaulieu's military job with the Air Force — were stationed in Germany (via PopSugar). At the time, Elvis was enlisted with the U.S. Army as inarguably their most famous soldier, having already cemented his place as a chart-topping artist with hits like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heartbreak Hotel" (via He was with the Third Armored "Spearhead" Division in Friedberg when Priscilla came into his life. The two ended up meeting at a party.

Recalling their first meeting, Elvis' friend Joe Esposito recalled how Priscilla "walked in the door, this cute, beautiful little girl in this little Navy dress," wanting to meet the music icon (via Express). Priscilla and Elvis' early courtship years seemingly weren't the easiest, though. Aside from some initial pushback from Priscilla's family, the couple had to spend a considerable amount of time apart, given Elvis' army job that transferred him out of Germany in 1960. Per PopSugar, Priscilla's parents eventually permitted her to travel around — from Los Angeles to Memphis — so she could be with her beau. 

There was a lot of sneaking around on Elvis and Priscilla's wedding day

Seven years on from when they met, Priscilla and Elvis Presley decided to finally tie the knot. In the days leading up to Christmas 1966, Elvis proposed. "He got on his knee with a gift behind his back and told me to close my eyes. Of which I did and then told me to open them and he presented me with a beautiful engagement ring," Priscilla recalled in an interview (via NPR).

Elvis gave his ladylove, then 21, a precious three-carat diamond ring, as noted by Brides. The happy couple settled on Las Vegas as their wedding location, where they wed on May 1, 1967. Given the high-profile event, in which America's biggest music star and the heartthrob of gazillions would be love-locked for life, frantic media attention was expected. And so, Elvis and Priscilla's day was nothing short of a secret mission. 

George Klein, Elvis' friend, recalled in his book how "the wedding party snuck out the back door of Elvis's Palm Springs home, climbed over the backyard wall, and got into a car to head to the airport" shortly after midnight on the day of (via Vogue). Flying down in music legend Frank Sinatra's private jet, the entourage was discreetly ferried to the Aladdin Hotel. The nuptials were held in the early morning before a limited audience of 14 people. "We didn't want a fan club. We didn't want a circus," Priscilla has said, reflecting on her 1967 ceremony. 

There's buzz that Elvis cried because he didn't want to get married

"My wedding was very unusual," Priscilla Presley has been quoted saying about her wedding to the late music icon Elvis Presley in 1967 (per Vogue). Pictures from the Presley wedding ceremony show the elated couple in love and all smiles — Priscilla in a white customized wedding gown and Elvis in a  tuxedo, outfits reportedly procured under high secrecy and, in Priscilla's case, under disguise (via Yahoo).

The King of Rock 'n' Roll, smitten with his bride, apparently had the word "obey" removed from their vows (per Brides). An opulent wedding reception worth $22,000 was later held, with a longer guest list witnessing the newlyweds groove to "Love Me Tender," a hit number by the groom himself. 

But for all the fantastic dreaminess that enveloped the wedding, Elvis allegedly wept before he said "I do" because he was unsure about getting hitched. According to Elvis' biography, "Down at the End of Lonely Street," Elvis' housekeeper Alberta Holman discovered him crying prior to his ceremony with Priscilla (via Express). When asked why he was getting married in such unhappy circumstances, Elvis allegedly told her, "I don't have a choice." Per PopSugar, Priscilla's parents had permitted her to live with Elvis in Memphis during their courtship under the condition that the couple would eventually marry. However, Priscilla said the pressure to marry came from elsewhere. In an interview with Barbara Walters, she explained, "The suggestion I think came from Colonel Parker (Elvis' manager) 'Either you should get married or go on. If you're not getting married, then what are you doing?'" (via Express).

Priscilla kept an eye on the female attention heaped upon her husband

When you're married to Elvis Presley, you'd have to know that your husband will never truly just be your own man — you'd be sharing him with legions of women who nearly worshipped him. Priscilla Presley was acutely aware that her heartthrob beau was a global sensation. She couldn't not have been, given that she was exposed to intense public attention from the time she was only 14, when her relationship with Elvis began. "The beginning [of the marriage] was very difficult," The Guardian quoted Priscilla as saying, though she admitted that she "knew what [she] was in for." She recalled that "it was hard to get accepted," referencing the gossip that circulated during their relationship. "I found out how vicious people could be ... there were rumors I was pregnant, and that's why he got married," she said.

With several film credits under his name in the 1960s — "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "Viva Las Vegas," to name a couple — Elvis' celebrity was only growing. Such was the female flattery he received that a nervous Priscilla accompanied him most everywhere. "Women gravitated to him ... I would even go with him to get his teeth cleaned! I always had an eye on him because everyone in the world was after him," she told People. But being the doting wife that she was, she did it all and then some. As Priscilla herself put it, she "would cry if [she] couldn't be around him." 

Elvis trained Priscilla to be the ideal woman he wanted

For the majority of her lifetime and long after his passing, Priscilla Presley's global celebrity came from being Elvis Presley's wife — a role she still plays to perfection. Lately, she has reemerged in the spotlight with the release of Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis," a biopic about the music legend's life, which has left her emotional (via Page Six). But Priscilla wasn't always the self-assured public figure she now is. Per her own admission, she "had to learn everything" about how to conduct herself as the wife of one of the biggest music celebrities ever (per People). 

These lessons, Priscilla revealed in her memoir "Elvis and Me," came from the man himself, who had the final word on everything that he wanted the couple to do (via Express). Priscilla called herself Elvis' "own living doll, to fashion as he pleased," admitting that during their time together, she lost her own life. She went on to narrate how Elvis commanded her to dress, behave, and wear makeup, nearly assuming the role of God for her. In the book "Sergeant Presley," co-author and Elvis' friend Rex Mansfield recalled the singer once saying about Priscilla: "She's young enough that I can train her any way I want." 

Elvis didn't want to make love to Priscilla after they became parents

Many struggles shadowed Priscilla Presley's matrimonial life with music icon Elvis Presley. Exactly nine months they got hitched in 1967, Elvis and Priscilla welcomed daughter Lisa Marie Presley. "I wanted to be a mom and yet, I traveled a lot and Elvis wanted me to be with him. It was a tug of war of trying to make it all work," Priscilla admitted to HuffPost. In her book "Elvis and Me," Priscilla gave rare insights into her intimate life with Elvis, including the claim that Elvis refused to consummate their relationship before marriage, even though she "begged" for it (via Chicago Tribune). Post-parenthood, another major change happened. 

"[Elvis] had mentioned to me before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child," Priscilla wrote in her memoir (via Express). The lack of intimacy in the iconic couple's marriage left Priscilla to "doubt [her] own sexuality as a woman." Additionally, Sonny West, an old friend of Elvis'wrote in his book "Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business," "It didn't come easy for Elvis to be a committed husband. Elvis viewed her as a mother first and a wife second, and he had hang-ups about making love with her" (via Express).

Even so, during her married years, Priscilla played the part of Elvis' perfect woman dutifully (per Country Living). "He never wanted to see me getting dressed. He wanted to see the result of getting dressed," she said, divulging that Elvis never saw her without makeup. 

Neither spouse was faithful in their marriage

Elvis Presley, the undisputed sweetheart of millions, planted smooches on multiple women in famous live performance of "Love Me Tender" in 1970. The legend goes that by the end of the night, he had reportedly gone around the room kissing the majority of women in attendance (via Atlas Obscura). This, despite the very real matrimonial ties he shared with his lifelong love Priscilla Presley, whom he had married in 1967, such moments in their relationship were certainly difficult to witness for Priscilla, who revealed in an interview that these women would "start showing up after the show" (via Country Music Family). However, it was somewhat of an open secret that the rock 'n' roll king was unfaithful in his marriage. "You know, he wasn't faithful – not that he had someone special," Priscilla detailed, "but when you're in the entertainment business there is always that."

Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas" co-star Ann-Margret is among the most prominent names associated with his romantic portfolio. Per Far Out magazine, they had an on-set romance in 1963 that extended well into Elvis' marriage to Priscilla. As for Priscilla, the bouffant-haired beauty apparently linked up with her karate teacher Mike Stone while married to Elvis, as revealed by her in her memoir (via Chicago Tribune). In 1972, a year before she and Elvis officially divorced, Priscilla walked out of her marriage. Per Express, a friend of Elvis claimed the King was so angered by Priscilla's relationship that he considered hiring a hitman to finish Stone. 

Accounts of alleged abuse about Elvis abound

Elvis Presley's legacy as a cultural icon is unparalleled — but that isn't to say it's untainted. A lot has been said and written about the late singer's volatile disposition, on occasion corroborated by his longtime partner Priscilla Presley as well. "If he saw somebody he didn't like on the TV, he'd get his gun out and blow it up," she told People in an interview.

Among the biggest controversies hounding the singer was his inclination towards underage girls. While he famously sparked a romance with Priscilla when she was only 14, she was allegedly not the only teen girl he pursued. The book "Elvis Presley: A Southern Life" details that in 1954, the King of Rock 'n' Roll allegedly slept with a teen fan. During sex, his condom broke, and being unsure what to do, he took the girl to an emergency room. He left after bringing her to the hospital.

Additionally, Priscilla, in her "Elvis and Me" memoir, recounted an unsettling sexual experience, in which Elvis appears to have forced himself on her after suspecting she'd had an affair, telling her, "This is how a real man makes love to a woman" (via The Guardian). Still, she maintained the two shared a "loving relationship." Other publications, like ACRN, have taken to describing him in a much different way: "sex offender." ACRN noted the imbalance present between Elvis and Priscilla in how he guarded her virginity and showered her with endearments like "my little girl." 

Elvis wasn't always there to shoulder fatherhood responsibilities

It was a different world for Priscilla Presley when she moved into Elvis Presley's grand haven of Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. As the partner of a rockstar, Priscilla wasn't playing by her own rules at all. "We literally lived in a bubble," she recalled, as per Country Living, revealing that the couple hardly went out on dinner dates since Elvis wanted to keep his public image carefully pruned.

As it turns out, Elvis didn't participate in domestic responsibilities either, busy with his social life outside the home. "I could not domesticate Elvis, and I accepted that," Priscilla told The Guardian. Even after becoming a father in 1968 with the birth of Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis wasn't around a lot; Priscilla claimed he "wasn't a hands-on dad."

Nevertheless, his liberal parenting style gave Lisa a free run for notoriety during childhood: "He was not strict at all. ... My mom was completely the opposite, she was really strict, so it was very confusing," Lisa said on CBS' "The Talk." However, she added that she and her dad did spend a lot of time together and were close, even after he and Priscilla divorced in 1973. Lisa was only 9 when Elvis tragically passed away in 1977, and she is believed to have been one of the last people to see Elvis alive. He had kissed her goodnight mere hours before his death on August 16. 

Priscilla tried to hide Elvis' drugs when the addiction became apparent

Along with the excesses of Elvis Presley's fame came a vicious drug habit, that ultimately heralded his decline and reportedly contributed to his death in 1977 (via PBS). Through the peaks and valleys of his career, Elvis remained addicted to prescription drugs, which naturally had an impact on his marriage to Priscilla Presley.

At a panel in 2018, Priscilla claimed that her late ex-husband got started on pills while he was in the military and stationed in Germany (per People). In a raw revelation of her intimate life with the rock god, Priscilla wrote in her memoir, "Ordinary [intimate] thrills sometimes were not enough, especially when he was under the influence of powerful drugs" (via Chicago Tribune). Before long, Elvis' consistent substance abuse spelled trouble in paradise.

"Eventually, Elvis's consumption of drugs seemed as normal to me as watching him eat a pound of bacon with his Spanish omelette," Priscilla wrote (via The Guardian). As revealed in 2018, she even attempted to hide his pills but to no avail — because "you did not tell Elvis Presley what to do." There were certain warning signs about his health that, in the songbook "Elvis by the Presleys," Priscilla said showed themselves to her when she held Elvis' hand the day of their divorce. "I knew something was different; something was wrong," she admitted (via Cheatsheet).

Elvis sang I Will Always Love You to Priscilla on the day they divorced

Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley — two music icons with equally towering legacies — are bound by a special connection. When Parton's "I Will Always Love You" — easily her magnum opus — released in 1974, little could she have guessed that it would make such a deep impression on the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The smash-hit solidified Parton's status as country music queen and, simultaneously, spurred Elvis to action. The star was keen on recording Parton's track, but not without demanding half of the song's publishing rights. Parton put her foot down, as recalled in an interview with W. "I wanted to hear Elvis sing it, and it broke my heart — I cried all night. But I had to keep that copyright in my pocket." 

She has since wondered what her song would have sounded like in Elvis' baritone: "He would have killed it," she once said. Her decision to decline ultimately paid off because following Whitney Houston's famous cover of her song in 1992, Parton remarked she "made enough money to buy Graceland" (Elvis' Memphis estate). Elvis would always love the song though, crooning it to Priscilla Presley after the couple amicably divorced in 1973 (via Outsider). Priscilla, too, never did stop loving her King, saying, "He was the love of my life, but I had to find out about the world." 

Priscilla was among the people in touch with Elvis during his final days

The 1970s set in motion what would be the final leg of Elvis Presley's career. It was a difficult decade for the "Hound Dog" hitmaker, what with his divorce from Priscilla Presley in 1973 and simultaneous flailing health. Elvis' stepbrother David Stanley revealed in his memoir about the King's last years: "Drugs were everywhere. In the latter part of his life they started taking complete control. He couldn't think or act straight anymore" (via People).

Priscilla, with whom Elvis remained friends even after divorce, could not fathom the full extent of the warning signs initially since, as she said, "I was concentrating on my own life and the life of my young daughter" (via Cheatsheet). Nevertheless, she was one of the only people Elvis was in contact with during his last days. 

In her memoir "Elvis and Me," Priscilla recalled a phone conversation they had just days prior to Elvis' death on August 16, writing that the singer sounded happy. "I loved hearing Elvis laugh, something he had been doing less and less," she wrote (via Cheatsheet). At the same time, as Priscilla revealed on Jonathan Ross' show that Elvis was "dealing with a lot of issues." Though she had an inkling of the journey Elvis was taking, she admitted "it was hard for anyone to do anything because ultimately it was his decision and he felt he was fine." 

Priscilla took charge of Elvis' estate after his death

After Elvis Presley's death in 1977, a deep dive into the lavish empire he had built revealed a stunning picture. The King of Rock 'n' Roll had left behind significant debt and an insignificant net worth to the tune of $5 million (per Forbes). His will granted the inheritance of his fortunes to his daughter and sole heiress Lisa Marie Presley, once she turned 25 in 1993. But without any sources pumping money into it, the future of the Presley estate — including the sprawling Graceland property — looked bleak, to put it mildly. However, Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla Presley changed all that.

According to a 1989 Los Angeles Times report, Priscilla became the executor of the Presley estate after the death of Elvis' father and turned the impending financial crisis on its head. With some well-calculated decisions, Priscilla jacked up the value of the estate to over $75 million. While music royalties and souvenir licensing played a part, the majority earnings were raked in from Graceland, which was turned into a tourist attraction — a "scary" experience for Priscilla. "Opening [Graceland] up for the world to see was quite a brave thing for her to do," the Presley archives keeper said (via The Guardian). Thanks to Priscilla, the Presley estate endures as a centerpiece of Elvis' unrivalled legacy.

Priscilla has said Elvis was her first and last love

Sure, their relationship went through multiple fire tests but between Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley, love ultimately did endure. Even today, one's name is never taken without the other — so iconic was their pairing. "I don't think I'll ever find anyone I'll love as much as I loved Elvis. ... Elvis was my first love, he'll be my last," Priscilla once said (via NDTV).

As the King's ex-partner, Priscilla is the forewoman of his estate and over four decades after his death, remains among the most passionate preservers of his memory. In an interview with The Guardian, Priscilla said her ex-husband's spirit was a guiding force in her life: "When I go to Graceland, my gosh, I can walk in that door and see him walking down the stairs ... But it's not scary, it's beautiful." 

In summer 2022, Priscilla made it into the headlines once again with the release of Elvis' namesake biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann, which premiered at Cannes, receiving the 2022 festival's longest standing ovation at 12 minutes (via Variety). The film, starring Austin Butler as the rock legend, has received an emotional nod from Priscilla too, who wrote on Instagram, "I relived every moment in this film. It took me a few days to overcome the emotions."