The True Story of Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Relationship, In Their Own Words

·8 min read

The new biopic “Elvis” unpacks the Rock and Roll legend’s legacy, from his musical coming-of-age to the central relationships in his life. Three generations of Presleys attended the movie’s premiere at Graceland — proof of that legacy, and of Elvis Presley’s 13-year-old relationship with Priscilla Presley.

Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley, nee Beauliu Wagner, were married for six years, from 1967 to 1973. In the film, the couple is played by Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge (“The Staircase”).

Speaking to Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY in 2017, Priscilla explained her early memories of Elvis.

“It started out really with his voice,” she said. “People loved his voice. When he sang, it was like he was singing to you.” (In the film, Butler’s voice was blended with the real Presley’s for many of the songs).

“He wasn’t bad to look at either,” Priscilla added. “Everyone had a crush on him. They’re still having crushes on him. He was truly beautiful. He woke up beautiful. I used to stare at him. I used to look at him and go, ‘Oh my gosh.”

Now, 45 years after his death in 1977 at the age of 42, Elvis and Priscilla’s love story will be told on the big screen for all to see.

“It was a good life,” she told People of their romance in 1978. “It was different, but it was ours.”

Read on for Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship timeline, in their own words.

Priscilla Presley & Elvis Presley in Hawaii, California (Photo by Magma Agency/WireImage) (WireImage / Getty Images)
Priscilla Presley & Elvis Presley in Hawaii, California (Photo by Magma Agency/WireImage) (WireImage / Getty Images)

Priscilla and Elvis met in 1959, when Priscilla was in high school

Priscilla and Elvis's story begins before they actually met. At the time, he was the biggest rock star in the world, and she was an 11-year-old listening to his first record at an Air Force base in Austin, Texas.

"Three years later and 5,500 miles away I would meet him," Priscilla wrote in an essay for People in 1985.

Priscilla and Elvis reportedly met in 1959 at party in West Germany. How did the two Americans end up at a party in Wiesbaden? Well, Priscilla's stepfather, who was in the Air Force, was transferred to the base there, and Elvis was serving in the Army.

Their age gap was pronounced, which Priscilla touches on in her essay. "When we met, I was an impressionable 14-year-old. He was 24," she said. According to Priscilla, when he found out she was in ninth grade, he responded, “Why, you’re just a baby.”

Speaking to Larry King in 1999, Priscilla contextualized the time in Elvis' life when they met. “I saw him at a very vulnerable time in his life. He had just lost his mother. He was grieving,” she said.

The two began seeing each other. “I found myself deeply involved with Elvis,” she wrote in her essay for People. Amid this relationship, Priscilla said school "became a chore."

"I kept telling myself that I would do better, that I’d catch up, but my concentration was totally on Elvis," she wrote.

Priscilla said he 'molded her' into being the 'right girl'

According to Priscilla's essay in People, Elvis said he liked "soft-spoken brunettes with blue eyes," and said Priscilla "fit this image perfectly."

Priscilla wrote he wanted to "mold (her) to his opinions and preferences" beyond her appearance.

"Something in his Southern upbringing had taught him that the 'right' girl was to be saved for marriage. I was that girl. At the same time, he molded me into his woman. I wore the clothes, hairstyle and makeup of his careful choosing," she continued.

Elvis won over Priscilla's parents

After their fourth date, Priscilla's parents intervened. Her father, Capt. Joseph Paul Beaulieu — whom her mother married after her biological father died — asked to meet him.

"You have women throwing themselves at you. Why my daughter?” she recalled her dad asking in her People essay. Elvis reportedly replied, "I happen to be very fond of her. She’s a lot more mature than her age and I enjoy her company ... You don’t have to worry about her, Captain. I’ll take good care of her.”

“He came to the house and he was charming and wonderful. My family had a lot of faith in him,” Priscilla told Barbara Walters for ABC in 1985.

Priscilla said that she was so smitten with the “Hound Dog” singer that she would start to misbehave if her parents tried to separate them from one another.

"My parents became confused and bewildered by our relationship. We tried to make them believe that it was proper and platonic, and they wanted to believe me,” she wrote. “Whenever they tried to stop us from seeing each other, I pleaded and cried and made them and myself miserable. In retrospect, I don’t think anything could have stopped me from seeing Elvis."

In 1960, Elvis returned to the United States. "I didn't hear from Elvis right away. My mother said, 'See, I told you,'" Priscilla recalled to Larry King in 1999. Then, Elvis started calling — "and that's when it all started again."

Three years after that, in 1963, Priscilla's parents allowed her to finish her education in Memphis, Tennessee, so that she could be closer to Elvis.

Today - Season 68 (NBC / NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via)
Today - Season 68 (NBC / NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via)

Elvis and Priscilla were married in Las Vegas

In 1967, Elvis and Priscilla got married in Las Vegas after he proposed to her the year before.

"One day he showed me the ring and simply asked me to marry him’ ... Even though we were perfectly content the way we were, at that time it wasn’t nice for people to live together," Priscilla told Ladies Home Journal in 1972.

The ceremony lasted eight minutes. Speaking to Walters in 1985, Priscilla said that the wedding was encouraged by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis's talent manager.

"Presley's manger put the pressure to marry, and marry soon. We'd been together for six years," she said.

Elvis Presley cuts wedding cake with bride Priscilla Presley in May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas. (Bettmann Archive / Getty Images)
Elvis Presley cuts wedding cake with bride Priscilla Presley in May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas. (Bettmann Archive / Getty Images)

Elvis briefly left Priscilla when she was pregnant with Lisa Marie

Elvis and Priscilla's daughter and only child, Lisa Marie Presley, was born nine months after their wedding.

However, when Priscilla was still pregnant with their baby girl, Elvis told her that they needed to briefly separate because “he was going through some things.”

She recalled their conversation in a 1985 as-told-to essay, per the Orlando Sentinel.

“I don’t think Elvis really intended to leave me. It wasn’t his style," she said. "I later realized he too had questions about how a baby would affect his life. Would his public accept him as a father? He wasn’t even sure whether his fans had adapted to his becoming a husband. How loyal would they be?”

After Lisa Marie was born, Elvis reportedly stopped being intimate with Priscilla. Priscilla told Walters that she believed Elvis struggled to square his image of her as a "little girl" with her as a "mother."

“Our communication was horrible,” Priscilla told Walters, saying that Elvis didn’t feel comfortable showing weakness.

According to Country Living, she also wrote in her 1985 autobiography, "Elvis and Me," that Elvis once told her that "he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child."

"I [was] beginning to doubt my own sexuality as a woman," she wrote. "My physical and emotional needs were unfulfilled."

Lisa-Marie Presley and Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley in 1970. (Redferns / Getty Images)
Lisa-Marie Presley and Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley in 1970. (Redferns / Getty Images)

Priscilla said she left Elvis to 'find Priscilla'

Priscilla left Elvis in 1972. "I had to take responsibility for myself," Priscilla told Walters. By leaving Elvis, she said she "found Priscilla."

She went on to become an actor, known for her time on the show "Dallas."

Years later, during a 2016 appearance on “Loose Women," Priscilla's feelings remained the same. “You obviously didn’t have your own life. You lived his life. You saw the movies he wanted to see. You listened to the music he listened to. You go to places he would go so you really kind of lost yourself. As a woman, I didn’t really know who I was,” she added.

In 2018, Priscilla —  while speaking to Mike Amor on Australia's Sunday Night in 2018 — revealed that Elvis had not been faithful during their marriage.

“He wasn’t faithful, not that he had someone special, but when you’re in the entertainment business there is always that and I tried to turn my back to that, but I just didn’t want to share him. Simple as that," she said. "As much as he wanted to be married and have a family, I don't know if he was ever cut to be married because I don't think he could ever be faithful to one woman."

Priscilla was 'shocked' by Elvis' death

Priscilla said that she and Elvis remained close even after their divorce was finalized in 1973. "We never lost our friendship," Priscilla said on the Sunday News.

In August 1977, Elvis died at his Graceland home from a heart attack at age 42. News of his sudden passing shocked Priscilla.

“It was just too hard to believe,” she told Hoda Kotb during a 2018 appearance on TODAY.

Priscilla noted that Elvis' funeral procession reminded her of how iconic the singer was.

"Going out the gates in the limo and seeing the streets lined up on both sides all the way to the cemetery. You’d see glimpses, you’d see people crying, hysterical, fainting, and that’s how impactful it was," she said on TODAY. "And still to this day, people come around the same time and they’re all there.”

After the official trailer for "Elvis" was released, Priscilla went on Instagram to share how she feels about the film.

She stated that she watched the trailer "over a dozen times" and was brought to tears when she heard how much her daughter loved the movie.

"I relived every moment in this film," she said. "It took me a few days to overcome the emotions as it did with Lisa. Beautifully done Baz, Tom, Austin and Olivia."