Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Controversial Relationship, Explained

Many think of Elvis and Priscilla Presley as one of the biggest love stories in music history, but the truth is a lot more complicated than that — especially when it comes to how they met. According to most Elvis biographies (and Priscilla's memoir, the basis for Sofia Coppola's film "Priscilla"), the pair first met at a party during Elvis's time in the Army when he was in his mid-20s. That wouldn't be scandalous at all if it weren't for the fact that Priscilla was just a teenager at the time.

For their entire relationship (and beyond), Elvis and Priscilla were the subject of intense gossip and speculation. Although they did have a fairly significant difference between their ages, that's not the most controversial element of their relationship. Ahead, we break it all down.

Elvis and Priscilla: How Did They Meet?

Priscilla's stepfather, Paul Beaulieu, was an Air Force officer, and they were stationed in Germany in the late 1950s. Because of Beaulieu's military job, the family interacted frequently with the soldiers on the base, and one invited Priscilla to a party at Elvis's house. She and Elvis initially met in September 1959.

How Old Was Elvis When He Met Priscilla?

It's not the age gap itself that caused such a scandal when Elvis and Priscilla first met, but their respective ages at the time. Elvis first met his future wife when he was 24 years old, during his time in the Army. So, how old was Priscilla when she met Elvis? Just 14 years old, and Elvis began pursuing her romantically almost immediately.

How Did Priscilla's Parents Feel About Her Relationship With Elvis?

Initially, Priscilla's parents forbade her from seeing Elvis again, upset that she had come home late the night of a party. He soon convinced them to allow him to "court" her, and they spent a lot of time together over the next several months until he left Germany in March 1960. They stayed in touch long-distance over the next two years, and in 1962 the Beaulieuses agreed to let Priscilla visit Elvis in Los Angeles for a week under the condition that she have a chaperone at all times and write to them daily. Elvis evaded these conditions once Priscilla was in town, taking her to Las Vegas instead, where he introduced her to drugs so she could "keep up" with him and his odd-hours schedule.

In 1963, the Beaulieuses allowed Priscilla to move to Memphis to be with Elvis full time. Again, they put conditions on the move: she had to live with Elvis's parents in a separate house and attend the nearby Catholic girls' high school, and he would eventually have to marry her. And once again, they either had no way to enforce those conditions or turned a blind eye as their teenage daughter essentially moved in with a rock star 10 years her senior. When she did officially move in, her parents again gave their permission, as long as Elvis intended to marry her. In Priscilla's memoir, "Elvis and Me," she claimed that their relationship was not sexual until after they were married, but those claims have been disputed by other biographers as part of a PR spin to legitimize their relationship to the public.

How Old Was Priscilla When She Married Elvis?

While Elvis headed to Hollywood for more movies, Priscilla stayed in Memphis. Meanwhile, he had affairs with his female costars, which he shrugged off as just gossip to Priscilla, even when she was "allowed" to visit him in California. Eventually, in 1966, Elvis proposed to Priscilla; some accounts suggest that he did so after she threatened to talk to the press and her stepfather threatened to have Elvis charged with sexual crimes against a minor.

Elvis and Priscilla married in May 1967 when he was 32 and she was 21. Their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, was born nine months to the day after Elvis and Priscilla's wedding.

When Did Elvis and Priscilla Divorce?

Elvis and Priscilla's marriage lasted about six years officially, but in reality, they began drifting apart after only a couple of years due to Elvis's hectic touring schedule and chronic infidelity. They divorced in 1973 but reportedly remained on good terms until his death in 1977. After that, Priscilla and her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, were at the forefront of projects keeping Elvis's legacy alive, though the latter died on Jan. 12, 2023, at age 54.

The 2022 "Elvis" biopic, starring Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as his manager Tom Parker, covers parts of the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla. Coppola's "Priscilla" (in theaters on Nov. 3), which Priscilla has seen and approved of, shows her side of the story and is less romantic about what went on.