Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

She was the most glamorous of screen legends, but the woman who dripped diamonds on the red carpet had a side few ever saw. "She was a fierce mama lioness," says her son Christopher Wilding, 58. From giving haircuts on set to throwing holiday celebrations wherever the family called home, he says, "she took great pains to create a stable family life" for her four children, Michael and Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd Tivey and Maria Burton-McKeown. All intensely private, three generations of her family spoke to People and shared never-before-seen pictures in honor of Taylor's final act, her passionate fight against AIDS. "She was the archetype of a mother: strong, protective, loving, comforting and funny," says her granddaughter Laela Wilding, 42. As an activist, "what she really wanted to give people was hope and the feeling that, 'I am here for you and I am looking out for you,' which all came from that wellspring of motherhood."

Scroll down to explore Taylor’s family life and her legacy in this People Premium exclusive.

Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

She was one of the most photographed women in the world. But these intimate shots of her family life, taken by her close friend Roddy McDowall, have never been seen until now. Taylor met fellow child star McDowall while making 1943's Lassie Come Home, and the two became lifelong friends. "He was the only one who could get genuinely relaxed, candid pictures of my mom," says her son Christopher.

Click below to see McDowall’s photos – appearing for the first time in PEOPLE – and another exclusive picture from the set of Cleopatra.
  • Taylor celebrating a birthday with Michael (left) and Christopher (photo by Roddy McDowall).
  • Taylor, Liza, Richard Burton, Christopher and Michael (photo by Roddy McDowall).
  • Taylor and Michael at Taylor’s parents’ home in Bel Air (photo by Roddy McDowall).
  • Taylor with her children (photo by Roddy McDowall).
  • A never-before-seen photo of Christopher and Taylor with director Joseph L. Mankiewicz on the set of Cleopatra, ca. 1962 (copyright 20th Century Fox).
Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

For Taylor's four children, "there was a lot of fun, teasing and laughter," says her son Christopher. "The mood at our house was a little on the irreverent side." While their life was full of adventure, Taylor was big on tradition for the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. "I think it was her favorite meal," says her granddaughter Laela Wilding. "She really liked the mashed potatoes and gravy."

From the dinner table to the Cannes Film Festival, click below for a look at life in an extraordinary – and sometimes very ordinary – family.
  • Taylor with daughter Liza in 1957 (Toni Frissell/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).
  • With son Michael in 1953 (REX USA).
  • With Michael ca. 1955 (Bauer-Griffin).
  • With Christopher ca. 1955 (Bauer-Griffin).
  • With Michael and Christopher ca. 1955 (© 1978 Sanford Roth/AMPAS/MPTV).
  • At home with Michael, Christopher and husband Mike Todd ca. 1957 (Toni Frissell/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).
  • With Michael and Rock Hudson on the set of Something of Value in 1957 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images).
  • With Christopher and Michael on her wedding day to Eddie Fisher in 1959 (© 1978 Bob Willoughby/MPTV).
  • Christopher, Michael, and Liza in London (photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Getty Images).
  • With Liza, Michael and Christopher on the set of Cleopatra ca. 1962 (IPOL/Globe).
  • Richard Burton with Liza on the Cleopatra set (Paul Schutzer/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).
  • Michael, Christopher and Liza arriving in London in 1962 (photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images).
  • With Liza on the set of Becket in 1963 (Harry Dempster/Express/Getty Images).
  • Burton and Taylor with Maria and Taylor’s parents in Mexico in 1963 (© AP/Corbis).
  • Burton, Taylor and her family on the go (Globe).
  • The family arriving in Cannes in 1965 (Reporters Associes/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images).
  • In Gstaad with Burton in 1966 (Keystone/Landov).
  • With Liza and set designer George James Hopkins on the set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966 (© 1978 Bob Willoughby/MPTV).
  • A family dinner in Rome in 1966 (© Bettmann/CORBIS).
  • Taylor takes the wheel in 1967 (Bob Penn/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images).
  • With Maria at her hairdresser’s wedding (Manuel Litran/Paris Match/Getty Images).
  • With Liza in London (Ron Galella/WireImage).
  • With Michael at the Oscars in 1974 (SNAP/REX USA)
  • The children with Michael’s wife, Beth Clutter, and baby Laela in 1971 (FORUM PRESS/REX USA).
  • With granddaughter Laela in Switzerland in 1971 (photograph by Gianni Bozzacchi).
Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

"I won't give in, and I won't give up," Taylor promised about her fight to help people with HIV and AIDS. In the early eighties when the epidemic first broke out, she became outraged by the fear and apathy that surrounded the disease. Then in 1985, the year she lost her close friend Rock Hudson to AIDS, she cofounded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). In 1991 she launched The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF), which has donated $14 million to organizations helping people living with the disease. (For more information, go to

Taylor made it a point to pay for the overhead, and today 25 percent of the royalties from her fragrances and other ventures goes directly to ETAF. It's a legacy that makes her family extremely proud. "If you knew her, you wouldn't be surprised that she held a condom or talked about sex,” says her granddaughter Laela Wilding. "She wasn't shy or afraid to talk about anything. She was really ahead of her time." Watch the video below to see Taylor in action as a passionate activist.

Elizabeth Taylor: A Mother's Legacy

Taylor's grandson, Quinn Tivey (Brian To / WENN)

Quinn Tivey, 27, Elizabeth's grandson, is a photographer who set out to learn about the people his grandmother's work touches every day. Quinn has visited six states and met with dozens of people living with HIV and AIDS who have been helped by local agencies supported by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. "I want to continue the tremendous work that my grandmother began," he says. "I think a lot about her chutzpah and her fearlessness."

Click below to see Quinn’s portraits of three people whose lives were changed – and who are now determined to help others.

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