Why Did Elvis & Priscilla Presley Divorce? The Real Reason They Split & the Truth About Their Affairs

If you followed their love story, you may want to know why Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorced and where they stood when he died in 1977.

Elvis and Priscilla (whose maiden name Beaulieus) met in November 1959 when he was 24 years old and she was 14 years old. They married in Las Vegas May 1, 1967 and welcomed their first and only child together, a daughter named Lisa Marie Presley, nine months later on February 1, 1968. Elvis and Priscilla were married for four years before their separation in 1972. They finalized their divorce a year later on October 9, 1973, and went on to share custody of Lisa Marie before Elvis’ death on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42 years old.

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In an interview with People in 2021, Priscilla opened up about how her relationship with Elvis forced her to grow up fast at a young age. “My God, I had to learn everything,”  she said. “Women gravitated to him, so I would be nervous when he had to go places alone. I would even go with him to get his teeth cleaned! I always had an eye on him because everyone in the world was after him.” Despite their issue throughout their marriage, Priscilla told People that she “loved” being Elvis’ wife and looked back at their relationship with fond memories. “I was always ready to greet him at the door and pamper him,” she said. “I loved taking care of Elvis very much. I loved tending to him. I loved feeding him. We would baby talk, because you have to have your own language when you have that many people around. It was a good life. It was different, but it was ours.” She continued, “I truly cherish the great times. As you grow up, there are always fears and insecurities. But as you get older you understand it all.”

Despite her and Elvis’ whirlwind romance, Priscilla told The Guardian in 2022 that she and the King of Rock N’ Roll had issues in their marriage from the start. “The beginning [of the marriage] was very difficult, but I knew what I was in for because I saw it at a very young age,” she said, adding that the gossip about their marriage was the hardest part. “That’s when I started not reading papers any more or [magazines] in the grocery stores.” She continued, “There were rumours I was pregnant, and that’s why he got married and I’m going: ‘Oh my God, this is not gonna be good for me.’ So it was hard to get accepted.”

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So why did Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorce? Read on for the real reason Elvis and Priscilla separated after four years of marriage and what their relationship was like after their split.

How did Elvis and Priscilla Presley meet?

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.
Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

How did Elvis and Priscilla Presley meet? Elvis and Pricilla, whose maiden name is Beaulieus, met in November 1959 in West Germany when he was 24 years old and she was 14 years old. Elvis was stationed in Germany at the time during his stint in the U.S. Army. Priscilla, for her part, had moved to Germany that year after her father, a member of the Air Force, was transferred there. While she was out with her younger brother one night, an Air Force member asked Priscilla if she’d like to come with him and his wife to meet Elvis. After she checked in with her father, who talked to the Air Force member’s commanding officer, Priscilla was given permission to meet Elvis. That night, Priscilla, who was in ninth grade at the time, wore a navy-and-white sailor dress and met Elvis at his temporary home in Bad Nauheim, Germany. According to Biography.com, Priscilla immediately captured Elvis’ attention and he even played several of his songs, including “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” for her.

Elvis—who saw a resemblance between Priscilla and his late mother, Gladys, who had recently died—told his friend, Rex Mansfield, after the meeting that Priscilla was “young enough that I can train her any way I want,” according to Biography.com. After the meeting, Elvis asked Priscilla on a second date, where he took her to his room and they kissed. After Priscilla’s fourth date with Elvis, Priscilla’s parents asked to meet Elvis. At the meeting, Priscilla’s father asked Elvis why he was interested in his 14-year-old daughter, to which Elvis responded, “Well, sir, I happen to be very fond of her. She’s a lot more mature than her age and I enjoy her company.”  Charmed by Elvis, Priscilla’s parents allowed her to continue to see him. Due to their 10-year age difference, however, Elvis and Priscilla couldn’t go public with their relationship and saw each other in private. They also didn’t have sex. When Elvis’ time in the U.S. Army ended, Priscilla told him she was ready to have sex, to which he responded, “Someday we will, Priscilla, but not now. You’re just too young.”

Elvis and Priscilla lost touch for two years after he was discharged from the U.S. Army in March 1960 and left Germany. Though Priscilla sent Elvis letters—using pink envelopes so Elvis could identify them among his fan mail—she didn’t hear from him until 1962 when he asked her to visit him in Los Angeles and convinced her parents to allow her to see him. Priscilla visited Elvis in Los Angeles, and the two continued to date. Later that year, Elvis asked Priscilla to finish high school in Memphis, Tennessee. Though her parents rejected the idea at first, Elvis convinced them that Priscilla would be safe and living with his father and stepmother. He also suggested that he wanted to marry her. Priscilla’s parents agreed and Priscilla enrolled at the Immaculate Conception High School in Tennessee and moved in with Elvis’ father and stepfather before living with Elvis in Graceland, his home in Memphis. She graduated in May 1963. Over the next few years, Priscilla, who was often left in Graceland while Elvis traveled for his career, earned the nickname “live-in Lolita,” a reference to the 1955 novel. Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, worried about the effect his relationship with Priscilla would have on his career if they didn’t marry. Elvis proposed to Priscilla during Christmas 1966. They married on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, and had sex for the first time on their wedding night. Priscilla became pregnant soon after her and Elvis’ wedding. Their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was born on February 1, 1968—nine months after her parents’ wedding.

Why did Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorce?

Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.
Image: Courtesy of Everett Collection.

Why did Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorce? When Priscilla was seven months pregnant with Lisa Marie, Elvis asked her for a trial separation. The two only separated for a short time before Lisa Marie’s birth. After Lisa Marie was born, Priscilla accused Elvis of not wanting to sleep with her after she had given birth. Elvis told her that he wanted her to recover, but Priscilla later wrote in her 1986 book, Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N’ Roll, that Elvis had been turned off from other women who had children in the past. “He had mentioned before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who’d had a child,” she wrote. Throughout their marriage, Elvis continued to cheat on Priscilla with other women. Priscilla, for her part, also had an affair with the owner of a dance studio. Though the two renewed their vows in Hawaii several years after their wedding, their marriage never recovered. “My life was his life,” Priscilla told People magazine in 1978. “My problems were secondary.” Priscilla went on to have another affair with her karate instructor, Mike Stone. In 1972, she told Elvis she was leaving him. When he learned of her affair, Elvis wanted to hire a hitman to kill Mike but was convinced not to, according to Biography.com.

Elvis and Priscilla finalized their divorce on October 9, 1973. “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 said in a 2016 interview. After their divorce, Priscilla and Elvis shared custody of Lisa Marie and had an amicable relationship. In the documentary, Elvis by the Presleys, Priscilla claimed that Elvis’ use of prescription pills increased throughout separation and divorce. She explained that Elvis also started to rely on prescription drug as his tour schedule became busier and busier. “His struggle to sleep, a lifelong dilemma, was gravely exacerbated,” Priscilla said in the documentary. “His dependence on pills – to chase away his blues or just give him the energy to make it through the day – became more extreme.” Priscilla told the documentary that she ignored “warning signs” of Elvis’ drug use due to her preoccupation with Lisa Marie. “Because I was concentrating on my own life and the life of my young daughter, I may have missed some of the warning signs,” Priscilla said. “That is, until the day of our divorce.”

Despite their issues before their divorce, Priscilla told Elvis by the Presleys that her separation from Elvis was “amazing.” “Amazing, I believe, because as we sat in the judge’s chambers and signed the final decree, we held hands,” she said. “It was as though we were an old married couple rather than about-to-be divorced adversaries.” Priscilla also called Elvis “tender and sweet” the day they finalized their divorce and revealed that he sang Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” to her when they exited the courtroom.

During that day in court, Priscilla remembered holding Elvis’ hand, which is when she first realized how far his health issues had progressed due to his drug use. “As Elvis’s fingers touched mine, I grew alarmed,” Priscilla said. “His hands, always smooth, were puffy, swollen. I knew something was different; something was wrong. I could see it in his eyes, I could feel it in his hands.” Elvis died four years later in 1977. He was 42 years old.

Where is Lisa Marie Presley now?

Image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
Image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Where is Lisa Marie Presley now? Lisa Marie died in the evening of January 12, 2023. She was 54 years old. Her mother, Priscilla Presley, confirmed her death. “It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us,” Priscilla said in a statement at the time. “She was the most passionate strong and loving woman I have ever known. We ask for privacy as we try to deal with this profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers. At this time there will be no further comment.”

A statement from the Presley family at the time also read, “Priscilla Presley and the Presley family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Lisa Marie. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”

Hours before Lisa Marie’s death, Elvis’ daughter was rushed to the hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest. According to TMZ, EMTs responded to a cardiac arrest call at Lisa Marie’s home on the 5900 block of Normandy Drive in Calabasas, California, after she was found unresponsive in her bedroom by her housekeeper. TMZ reported that Lisa Marie’s ex-husband, Danny Keough, performed CPR un her until the paramedics arrived and took over. After noticing Lisa Marie had “signs of life,” the paramedics transferred her to a local hospital for “immediate medical care,” where she later died, according to People.

"Elvis and Me" by Priscilla Presley
"Elvis and Me" by Priscilla Presley

Elvis and Me by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

For more about Elvis, read Priscilla Presley’s 1986 memoir, Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N’ Roll. In the book, Priscilla takes readers through her and Elvis’ relationship, from the moment they met to their marriage to their affairs and eventual divorce. The New York Times bestseller also reveals never-been-told details about Priscilla and Elvis’ relationship and why she still considers their bond “unbreakable” decades after his death. Described as a “tribute to both the man and the legend” that was Elvis, Elvis and Me is a must-read for any Elvis fan and written by the woman who loved him—in her own words.

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