Wales

Elizabeth Taylor: Tributes and memories from Wales

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1962
Image caption Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1962

A close childhood friend of Richard Burton's has shared his memories of Elizabeth Taylor, who died on Wednesday.

Influential Welsh businessman Lord David Rowe-Beddoe described the couple as "the emperor and empress of the world in their time".

Lord Beddoe met Taylor soon after she and Burton fell in love on the set of Cleopatra in 1962.

He added: "She was an extraordinary and dynamic woman."

Friends with Burton since the men were teenagers, he recalls Taylor demanding Dom Perignon at an Oxfordshire pub in the late 1960s.

When none was available, she telephoned a London hotel and had some delivered, then treated everyone in the pub to a glass.

He said: "She was a wonderful person but a simple girl at heart.

"It was quite clear that they were two people who were absolutely destined for each other - they could not live apart and they could not live together, as history has shown.

"They remained in love all their lives, it was an enormous passion and a deep love, but I think professional jealousy led to a lot of arguments.

Image caption David Rowe-Beddoe knew Burton since the pair were teenagers

"They were the emperor and empress of the world in their time."

Paul Ferris, who wrote a biography of Burton, said he felt the Hollywood machine had eventually led to the demise of the pair's relationship.

He said: "Burton's foster father spoke to me sadly about the beginning of Taylor and Burton's relationship.

"I think he ached to see it as two people in love but he had to admit the Hollywood machine had obscured who they were and what mattered was what they had become, which was two people caught up in a blaze of publicity.

"I think Burton was an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent.

"Taylor had the ideal of celebrity ingrained in her and I think they each had an agenda of their own.

"He was the hero figure and Taylor was the queen of Hollywood - they just had to get married, but I think the artificiality infiltrated their relationship in the end."

Guy Masterson, the great-nephew of Burton, said Taylor was one of the most "beautiful and intoxicating" women in the world.

"We are very sad from the family's point of view but glad she is out of pain," he said.

"From my perspective, Elizabeth married my uncle when I was four and I grew up with her as my beautiful and glamorous auntie.

"Then I didn't know what a film star was - I only realised later the magnitude of her stardom.

"I have known her all my life so I grew up realising my glamorous auntie was one of the most beautiful and intoxicating women in the world."

He said her legacy would always live on, and the family were "so proud" of her work for charity.

"I know my uncle remained in love with her for the remainder of his life - the fire was never extinguished for those two," he said.

He added: "It is very sad because I had reproduced a bust of my uncle to give to her and I will never get to do that."

Historian Peter Stead, who has written a study of Burton's career - Richard Burton: So Much, So Little - said it was the end of an era.

He said as well their relationship being a "remarkable romance...one of the greatest of the 20th Century," Burton had been in awe of Taylor's talents as an actress and "learnt a great deal from her".

"Elizabeth Taylor was the last great queen of Hollywood, the surviving member of Hollywood royalty," he said.

Mark Jenkins wrote the solo stage play Playing Burton, a film of which is just entering post production and is due for release in April.

He said Taylor had hoped to attend the opening of the new Richard Burton Theatre at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on 24 June.

Bitter feud

Two performances of Playing Burton will be shown.

He said: "I always felt I couldn't write a play about Richard Burton without Elizabeth Taylor looming large within that story.

"The film that always sticks in my mind is 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' where they depicted such a bitter feud and you almost felt like they were playing themselves on screen.

"I also always recall a line in my play Burton says about meeting Taylor- 'we were like two stars in each other's orbit' which I think was an apt comment when you consider their story.

"They couldn't get away from each other, they were just drawn together with such an inextinguishable love."

More on this story