Sen. John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor were married in 1976, making the senator the actress’ sixth husband, and Taylor Warner’s second wife. The couple divorced in 1982 after he was elected to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
Warner was a socialite and a farmer when he met Taylor – not a politician. Just two months into their marriage, he asked her thoughts on entering politics, she told Larry King Live in 2001. While she supported his campaign, they ultimately determined their marriage could not survive the demands of a political office. Still, they remained friends, she told King.
Warner died Tuesday, May 25, 2021, from heart failure, according to CNN. He was 94. Taylor died in 2011. Warner was a republican who represented Virginia in the Senate for three decades. Warner is survived by his current wife, Jeanne Vander. They were married in 2003.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Taylor & Warner Met on a Blind Date When the British Ambassador Asked Warner to Escort Taylor at a Party for Queen Elizabeth
Warner wasn’t seeking out a movie star wife when he first met Taylor. The British ambassador called on Warner to serve as an escort for Taylor for a party held in honor of Queen Elizabeth, according to the Associated Press. It would only be months before the couple tied the knot, holding a ceremony on Warner’s farm, located near Middleburg, Virginia, the AP reported.
Warner was not a senator at the time. Taylor expected her marriage would involve horses and farming, not political campaigning, she told Larry King Live in 2001. Living on a Virginia farm was her “dream,” she said.
“Well, I thought we would get married, live on the farm, raise horses. He had a lovely house in — in — Georgetown. And I thought it would be all very sort of farmish, and jobby — horsey, and I could have animals, and I would go out and brand the cattle…” she said.
2. Taylor Helped Warner in His Campaign for Senate & He Told His Wife His Plans After 2 Months of Marriage
Warner had other plans outside of the farm life, Taylor told Larry King in 2001. About two months after they were married, he said he’d like to start a political campaign for Senate.
“It was just going to be my dream,” she said of raising animals on Warner’s farm. “But John, two months after our marriage, said, would you mind if I decided to run for senator?”
Taylor supported him in his run for office, and her fame drew large crowds for Warner who wanted to lay eyes on his wife, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s no question being married to Elizabeth Taylor increased interest in him,” Donald W. Huffman, the former leader of the state Republican Party, told the Associated Press. “She traveled with him, and people turned out.”
3. Taylor & Warner Maintained a Lifelong Friendship After Their Divorce
Both Taylor and Warner believed they were better friends than husband and wife, the Associated Press reported. Years after their divorce and after both remarried, she sought his help in generating funding for AIDS research after her friend, Rock Hudson, died from AIDS complications, the AP reported.
Taylor told The New York Times in 2002 that she and Warner loved each other. But she said their marriage could not survive after he became a senator.
“He knows he wasn’t the love of my life. And I know I wasn’t the love of his life,” she told The New York Times. “But we loved each other. We got along wonderfully until he decided to be a politician. And then he married the Senate.”
Taylor also told Larry King in 2001 that they maintained a friendship.
“John and I are still friends,” she said.
The host told Taylor that Warner would be on the show in a few days.
“I think he will be here on Thursday night, by the way. We will give him your best,” King told Taylor.
“Give him my love,” Taylor answered. “I adore him.”
4. Taylor Wrote in Her Memoir She Was Lonely as ‘Mrs. Senator’
Taylor wrote about her marriage to Warner in her memoir, “Elizabeth Takes Off.” She wrote that she struggled with feelings of worthlessness as a senator’s wife, finding herself in a new role of supporting her spouse. She gained weight and struggled with alcohol addiction, Taylor wrote.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so alone in my life as when I was Mrs. Senator, and I don’t blame my ex-husband,” she wrote in the 1987 book. “He never pretended to be anything but a man devoted to public service, and once that service began in earnest, I had to take a backseat to his constituency.”
They were divorced after a 14-month separation.
“I never took it as a personal rejection on John’s part, certainly not on a conscious level,” she wrote. “John wasn’t doing anything more or less than what any other senator did. I just couldn’t bear the intense loneliness, the lack of sharing with the person with whom I most wanted to share.”
Warner, too, said his role as a Senator stood in the way of what Taylor sought in a marriage, according to a 1984 article in the Washington Post.
“Elizabeth is one who loved to fully share life with her person,” he told The Washington Post. “You get into the Senate and lose control of the hours and the regularity, and you get tremendously involved in the pressures of that office. She opted for her own career and all of a sudden the fork in the road came.”
5. Politicians on Both Sides of the Aisle Paid Tribute to Warner
Sen. Mark Warner paid tribute to the former Virginia senator on the House floor Wednesday, May 26, 2021, and wrote a tribute to him on Twitter.
“I’m devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner,” he wrote. “To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I’ll miss you, John.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described Warner as “a great patriot” and a military hero.
“The country has lost a great patriot. Senator John Warner was a hero in the military, a respected leader in the Senate and an inspiration to all. In Congress, we all knew him as a leader unafraid to speak the truth but always committed to finding common ground and consensus,” she wrote on Twitter. “John Warner leaves a remarkable legacy of service that will long inspire Virginians and indeed all Americans.”