Elvis had to work hard to win over his future in-laws, but eventually he did. It took work, as Priscilla was 10 years younger than him, and her parents definitely weren’t comfortable with the age difference. Eventually, they caved, but they had a whole host of rules that Elvis was required to follow. Motivated by a force larger than himself, he followed them to the letter.
Elvis went back to the United States after he was released from the Army. Though he claimed to keep a special place in his heart for “Cilla,” he also dated several women, including actress Anita Wood.
Priscilla remained behind in Germany, but she was devastated. She begged her parents to let her go to Elvis in Los Angeles, and they eventually gave in. In 1962, at age 18, Priscilla arrived in California for a two-week vacation.
However, life wasn’t as wonderful as she imagined. Elvis’ manager “didn’t really want Elvis [to have] a steady girlfriend,” and Priscilla often felt lonely. She later said that “He was kind. He just didn’t want [fans] to know I was ‘the one.'”
In fact, Elvis and Anita Wood were pretty serious. In a 1962 interview, Anita shared more about what caused her to end the relationship:
“I was coming down the backstairs into the kitchen, I heard Elvis say, ‘I’m having the hardest time making up my mind between the two’ … I knew exactly what he was talking about. And I had a lot of pride … so I just marched my little self right down the stairs … And Elvis took me into the dining room and his dad was sitting at the table. And we sat down at the table and I said, ‘I’m gonna make that decision for you, I heard what you said and I’m leaving’. And I remember that I started crying, it was a very difficult decision to make. I must say that was probably the most difficult decision that I’ve ever made in my life. I have to say that. After having dated someone like Elvis for five years, and as close as we were for this to end. And when I left, I knew there would be no going back … I said, ‘I’m leaving’, and I called Andy, my brother, to come pick me up and we sat there and talked a little bit longer, but nobody could eat.”
Following that first two-week trip, Priscilla visited Elvis at Christmas. However, instead of heading back home, Elvis asked if Priscilla could finish high school in Memphis. Her parents eventually conceded after the singer promised Priscilla would be enrolled in a Catholic high school and that she wouldn’t live with him at Graceland — she would live with his parents. Eventually, Priscilla ended up at Graceland after all.
Elvis and Priscilla weathered another storm when he costarred with Ann-Margret, who was sometimes called the “female Elvis.” In fact, the pair really went through the wringer over Elvis’ relationship with the star.
“[Elvis and Ann-Margret] were instantly attracted to each other, and a relationship developed. This crushed Priscilla. She’d try and call Elvis to visit, but each time he’d delay it. Even after the film, reports were still everywhere. Cilla couldn’t take it anymore, but Elvis would threaten to have her go back to live with her parents if she protested, which is what happened one day when she threw a vase at the wall. Elvis began packing her bags and telling Vernon (Elvis’ father) to set up the next plane flight back to her folks. Then, Elvis would apologize saying, ‘See … you needed this’.”
However, Elvis went on to propose to Priscilla at Christmas in 1966. They got married in on May 1, 1967, and immediately headed over to a press conference to announce the marriage. After honeymooning in Palm Springs, they went back to Memphis and held a wedding reception at Graceland for family and friends in Tennessee.
Their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was born nine months after the wedding on February 1, 1968.
As it goes for a lot of men, fatherhood changed Elvis Presley for the better in many ways. He was known to be head over heels for his daughter, and he delighted in being able to spoil her completely. There are tons of stories out there about the lengths to which he went to prove his love to Lisa Marie: For instance, he’s said to have flown her on a private jet just so she could see snow, and there have also been stories that he bought her a pony and let her ride it inside Graceland.
Elvis and Priscilla’s marriage, however, wasn’t doing as well as their daughter. The two separated in 1972 and finalized their divorce in October 1973. However, they remained very close friends, and they were even photographed holding hands while they attended their divorce proceedings.
Priscilla moved on from Graceland and life with Elvis, beginning by running her own shop for five years. She then jumped into acting and appeared on Dallas and in the Naked Gun movies.
Though Elvis and Priscilla were close, while married they definitely had an atypical relationship. Elvis was rumored to have had numerous affairs before and after their marriage, and Priscilla had her own extramarital relationships.
In 1978, Priscilla looked back on her time with Elvis with a more adult understanding. She told People, “My life was his life. My problems were secondary.”
In 2016, Priscilla opened up about the end of her marriage with Elvis again. She explained, “I did not divorce him because I didn’t love him. He was the love of my life, but I had to find out about the world.” Priscilla and Elvis shared custody of Lisa Marie, and the family of three actually spent a lot of time together.
The years following their divorce were tough ones for Elvis, both professionally and physically. He found himself in a changing music landscape that he seemed to be ill-suited for, and he struggled to reach the levels of success that he had previously enjoyed. Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42.
His death was officially attributed to heart failure, but he had a long history abusing various substances that almost certainly contributed to his ill health. In the last two years of his life, he was prescribed thousands of medications by his doctor, who was later implicated in his death.
Despite their ups and downs, and their many shared and separate flaws, Elvis and Priscilla still had a pretty legendary relationship on all levels. After Elvis died in 1977, Priscilla took on the responsibility of protecting his legacy. She was also the executor of his will for Lisa Marie, who is his only child.
Unfortunately for them both, Elvis had left a financial mess behind. Graceland cost $500,000 a year to maintain, and Elvis had only $1 million left for Lisa Marie.
Ever resourceful, Priscilla began to study how other famous homes had been turned into museums, and she decided to turn Graceland into a tourist attraction. The decision helped secure a reliable financial future for her daughter, and for Graceland itself. Priscilla also ran the Elvis Presley Enterprise until Lisa Marie turned 21, and she eventually grew the size of the trust to $100 million.