Remembering Elizabeth Taylor as a senator’s wife
1981: After a long absence, film star Elizabeth Taylor returns to the stage as the lead character in Lillian Hellman's play 'Little Foxes'. Here she attends an after show reception in the company of her husband, politician John Warner.
March 23rd, 2011
09:02 PM ET
12 years ago

Remembering Elizabeth Taylor as a senator’s wife

Washington (CNN) - A politician’s wife was one of Elizabeth Taylor’s more unusual roles.

Former Sen. John Warner, who was then chairman of the nation’s bicentennial, met Taylor when Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in July 1976.

“I was invited to escort her, at the request of Her Majesty's staff, to the small dinner party given at the British Embassy,” Warner recalled during an interview on CNN’s “Newsroom” Wednesday. “I say small, but President Ford was there, Vice President Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger. It was quite a party. And we met. And then a week or so later, she said she'd like to come down to see my farms and ride a horse, and that was the beginning.”

They married later that year.

Also that year, at the Virginia Republican convention Warner lost a bid for the party’s Senate nomination. But the winner, Richard Obenshain, died in a plane crash two months later. Warner was then picked to run for the seat.

“Hand in hand together we marched with no staff,” Warner recalled in an interview with MSNBC. “We had nine weeks to put together a campaign,” he said, adding he had “profound gratitude for this extraordinary woman” and her efforts on his behalf. He said Taylor was “my partner in what appeared to be an impossible challenge.”

“She was my ‘partner’ in laying the foundation for 30 years of public service in the U.S. Senate, representing Virginia, a state she dearly loved, as it reminded her of her heritage in England,” Warner, who was in the Senate from 1977 to 2008, recalled separately in a prepared statement.

When asked how Taylor felt about politics and Washington, Warner told CNN “She liked it, but the problems were that of any member of Congress or parliamentarian in England, the hours were erratic. We couldn't make plans. She said, ‘Listen, you stay where you are, and I'll go back and forth, and I'll go back on Broadway.’ So she did.”

They divorced in 1982.

“We never had any harsh feelings…but eventually we decided we'd just remain friends and parted ways and remained friends to the end.”

Warner told MSNBC his former wife would “check on my votes” regarding her pet project - funding for research of AIDS and HIV prevention - even after they were separated. According to Warner, he would tell her when she inquired “I am with you,” because he saw how passionate and strongly she felt for the cause.

He said he and Taylor talked from time to time on the phone and said “we were always friends – to the end.”

What he will remember most about her? “I will remember her as a woman whose heart and soul were as beautiful as her classic face and her majestic eyes. That's about all I have to say,” he said in the CNN interview. “I say that with a deep sense of humility and gratitude.”

- Follow Kevin Bohn on twitter: @kevinbohncnn

Filed under: John Warner • Virginia
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