IT'S a quarter of a century since a chance meeting in the Manchester United lounge between a footballer and a pop star formed the basis of one of the most successful unions in showbiz.
Just a year after they laid eyes on each other, on a freezing January day in 1998, Victoria Adams stood outside the Rookery Hall Hotel in Nantwich, Cheshire. The 23-year-old better known as Posh Spice posed for photographers with her fresh-faced, floppy-haired fiancé David Beckham smiling broadly by her side.
After showing off her three-carat, marquise-cut diamond ring to the assembled press, Victoria announced: “I am the happiest girl [in] the world today… I’m with the man I know I’m going to grow old and wrinkly with.”
Mr and Mrs Goldenballs might still be a little way off their golden years, but after four children, 22 years of marriage, and the building of a £380million empire, the Beckhams boast one of the most enduring celebrity unions.
Once shown off with matching his ’n’ hers outfits and tattooed testimonials of love, the couple’s unity is now signalled through endearing social media posts, a shared excitement for their eldest son Brooklyn’s impending April 9 wedding to heiress Nicola Peltz, and an ability to laugh with one another – something I’ve witnessed first-hand on a number of occasions.
Once in 2006, while sitting in a magnificent Italian palazzo, I watched as the megawatt couple held court with beauty writers covering the launch of their Intimately Beckham fragrances in Venice. After the multi-course, Michelin-star-worthy meal was served, David and Victoria worked the room, charming attendees.
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“Everyone fancies David!” Victoria said, laughing as she glanced over at a pair of female guests gazing admiringly at her husband. “But people just say I’m funny. Who wants to be the funny one, and not the sexy one?”
David didn’t miss a beat. “I think you’re very sexy,” he said, drawing his wife close. When they first met in early 1997, David and Victoria’s connection was instant.
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While David had pointed out Posh to his Manchester United teammate Gary Neville in the Spice Girls Say You’ll Be There video, saying: “Oh I like that one in the little black catsuit,” it was Posh who asked to be introduced to the up-and-coming sports star at a charity football match at Old Trafford. She had gone to the game with footie fan Mel C.
In a letter she composed to her teenage self for British Vogue, Victoria later wrote: “Love at first sight does exist. It will happen to you in the Manchester United players’ lounge – although you will get a little drunk, so exact details are hazy.
"While the other football players stand at the bar drinking with their mates, you will see David standing aside with his family. (He’s not even in the first team at this stage – you are the famous one.) And he has such a cute smile. You, too, are close to your family, and you will think how similar he feels to you.”
On July 4, 1999, four months after the birth of their first son Brooklyn, David and Victoria tied the knot at Luttrellstown Castle on the outskirts of Dublin.
Victoria glided down the aisle in a Vera Wang gown with a 20-foot train, accessorised with an 18K-gold Slim Barrett tiara, while her husband and son wore matching all-white tuxedos. Despite his age, baby Brooklyn served as his parents’ ring bearer, and a flag bearing the initials V.B.D. (Victoria, Brooklyn and David) was raised above the castle.
At the after-party, the Beckhams perched, infamously, on gilded thrones before changing into matching purple outfits.
Describing the wedding day as “perfect,” Victoria’s band mate Mel B recalled: “I remember looking at them and thinking these two would be unbreakable. It wasn’t just that they were besotted with each other, it was the fact they could make each other laugh.”
The newlyweds had plenty to smile about. In 2000, David was made captain of the England squad and in 2002, the couple welcomed their second child, Romeo.
Tumult was to follow, however. In the wake of Geri Halliwell’s departure from the Spice Girls and disappointing sales of their third album, Forever, the band went on indefinite hiatus, and Victoria’s early 2000s solo career failed to hit the high notes.
Worse was to come in 2004, when David’s former assistant Rebecca Loos claimed that she’d had an affair with the sporting star, who was now playing for Spanish side Real Madrid.
David furiously denied the claims, which reportedly left Victoria devastated – however the couple were determined their marriage would survive. In an interview with Vogue in April 2008, Victoria reflected on how they dealt with the allegations: “You know, I love and trust my husband 100 per cent,” she said.
“It’s my job to protect the family. We have a very nice, positive energy around us as a family and if it’s not positive and nice, I don’t want to know about it.”
The couple added third son Cruz to their brood in 2005, and that same year, Victoria made her first inroads into the fashion industry with a denim range she designed for Rock & Republic. At the Los Angeles launch, she told me: “It hasn’t been easy, but I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. I know some people don’t want to believe it, but we really are happy. Everything about my life is good.”
Two years later the family moved to America, when David signed with Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy. Speaking to them at an event at Los Angeles celebrity haunt Soho House, it was clear that the transatlantic move had brought them closer.
Victoria smiled when she talked about her husband. “We’re soulmates,” she told me. “You go into a marriage knowing there are going to be ups and downs. We’re in the public eye so we have more to deal with than most. We accepted that years ago. We love each other, and we’re so lucky to have one another… It’s just about us and the family.”
In July 2011, four years after their arrival in the City of Angels, daughter Harper completed the Beckham tribe, and according to David, their daughter’s arrival heralded “an amazing time for our family”.
Loved by the Hollywood glitterati, Brand Beckham was firmly on the ascendant, but at the end of David’s five-year LA Galaxy contract, he announced a move to French team Paris Saint–Germain, with the former England captain officially retiring from professional football later that year.
David’s decision to hang up his boots signalled the end of an illustrious 24-year career that he’d embarked upon as a shy, prodigiously talented 17 year old, and many wondered how this seismic life shift would impact the Beckham marriage.
“This was not an easy decision to make, but to me and the children he will always be an amazing sportsman and a devoted husband and father,” Victoria said at the time. “We are all excited about the next chapter in our lives and the adventures we will explore as a family.”
And despite saying goodbye to his playing career, David had no intention of sinking into obscurity. Having returned to London in 2013, Victoria was able to focus on her fashion business, while David amassed millions in endorsement deals, and worked to establish a new MLS team in Miami. And with their children growing increasingly independent, the couple also worked to establish a “new normal” in their marriage.
“People don’t realise how hands-on Victoria and David have always been as parents,” a friend of the couple tells Fabulous. “Yes, they had help, but they did most of the grunt work themselves.
"When Harper was younger she couldn’t sleep by herself, so David would lie in her room for hours, and Victoria was very involved with the schools. Raising four kids is no walk in the park, and it’s only in the last few years that they’ve got some of that time back.”
Still, rumours of marital discontent persisted, and in 2018, the couple were forced to deny speculation that a divorce announcement was imminent. The pair’s camp slammed the “fake social media news”, adding: “This is all very bizarre and an embarrassing waste of time.”
Those who know the couple well insist the claims were off the mark. “Their families are entwined, Vic is close with David’s mum Sandra, and David considers his wife’s relatives as his own,” the source says.
“Of course they’ve had ups and downs, like any couple who’ve been married for a long time, but they’re not the sort of people who give up easily. They’ve always known that what they have is special, and that it’s worth fighting for.”
A vow renewal ceremony consolidated the couple’s commitment to one another. “We did throw a lot at [our first wedding],” David admitted. “We have renewed our vows since then and it was a lot more private — there were about six people there.”
The Beckhams have “reached an enviable stage of calmness in their relationship,” therapist and relationship expert Sally Baker tells Fabulous.
“It takes work and unrelenting effort to weather the storms that can sink a marriage, and it means that, whatever David and Victoria are doing and wherever they are in the world, there is a part of them that focuses on identifying as an intimately and romantically involved couple. The longevity of their marriage shows its importance to them. They make a consistent effort to put family life at the centre of their priorities.”
“They’re in a really great place,” the friend reveals. “They’ve relaxed into their marriage and learned not to sweat the small stuff. They keep saying that they can’t wait to be grandparents.”
When they’re not talking weddings with Brooklyn and his fiancée – a union they’re “over the moon delighted with”, their friend says – the couple enjoy family dinners prepared by amateur chef David, though they have different tastes in food. Recently, he said: “When I’m eating something great I want everyone to try it.
"Unfortunately I’m married to someone that has eaten the same thing for the last 25 years. Since I met her she only eats grilled fish, steamed vegetables, she will very rarely deviate from that. The only time she’s probably ever shared something that’s been on my plate was actually when she was pregnant with Harper and it was the most amazing thing.”
The couple love watching TV shows in bed, with Victoria revealing they enjoyed Fleabag. Once described by friend Eva Longoria as “the funniest person alive”, Victoria is comfortable showing her playful side, and she and David regularly trade hilarious barbs on social media.
Comparing his footwear to the boots worn by a Beauty And The Beast character, Victoria wrote: “Gaston wants his boots back @davidbeckham.”
“So my wife decided to post before asking me or cropping my last minute shoe option,” David replied, adding the payoff: “Revenge will be sweet @victoriabeckham.”
His retaliation was a dish served cold. She posted an image of a packed lunch with a note from David that read: “Enjoy lunch ****hole. Come home happier,” plus a smiley face and: “Lots of love, you know who.”
While on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, David shared his best relationship advice: always communicate. “Whenever we’ve come up against tough times, we know each other better than anyone knows us, so we talk,” he said.
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The diamond that Victoria first showed off 25 years ago now sits alongside 14 other rings he has given her over the years as tokens of his love.
David’s taste for expensive jewellery is matched by a dazzling way with words. Reflecting on the way they met, he said: “My wife picked me out of a soccer sticker book. And I chose her off the telly… It felt straight away like we’d always been meant to be together.”
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