They had just stepped out—hand-in-hand, wearing coordinated neutrals—when it happened again.
Mere weeks after Victoria Beckham attended Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding with husband David Beckham, rumors that they were due to announce a divorce imminently reached such a heightened state that bookies went so far as suspend bets.
As everyone braced for the news, their shared rep fired off a missive to British paper The Sun. Except instead of detailing how the couple had reached the painfully difficult decision to amicably end their romantic relationship, choosing to continue on as friends and coparents, it slammed reports the couple were anything but happy.
"There is no statement due or divorce," the spokeswoman said on that June day in 2018. "This is just fake social media news. This is all very bizarre and an embarrassing waste of time."
At this point, the pair should just keep a boilerplate statement at the ready. Because en route to celebrating their impressive 21st wedding anniversary today, Britain's original power couple has had to defend their union a startling number of times.
"People have been making things up about our relationship for 20 years," Victoria told British Vogue that October, posing for the cover with their entire, impossibly photogenic family, including sons Brooklyn, 21, and Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, and daughter Harper, 8. But they've learned to "ignore" the nonsense.
Perhaps it's the belief that two exceptionally attractive, talented people swept up in their equally thriving but incredibly separate careers simply can't continue to make it work. But thanks to their efforts to maintain a balanced partnership and prioritize their relationship ("David and I both respect that each of us are very, very busy; we are both running big businesses, but we do put the phones down, and sometimes we just talk," she noted to Elle UK), the Spice Girls standout turned award-winning designer, 46, and her soccer pro husband, 45, swear they're just as smitten as when they fell in love at first sight in the Manchester United players' lounge some 23 years ago.
Even more infatuated, actually, as proving their detractors wrong has a way of drawing people together. As Victoria explained in a 2017 letter to her younger self, published in British Vogue, "In relationships people will throw obstacles in your way, and you either maneuver around them or you trip up." Having consistently chosen the former, she noted, she's unearthed the most valuable of lessons: "Even when you don't necessarily want the same thing, your support for each other will mean that you stick together and grow up together. And it will be worth it."
Because what's she's learned, more than two decades in, is "that we are stronger together than we are as individuals," as she told British Vogue. "Would either of us be in the position that we are in now had we not met and been together all those years ago?"
Back then, it took just one glimpse of Victoria in her Spice Girls' PVC catsuit for David to know this was it. Transfixed watching the group's "Say You'll Be There" video after a late 1996 match, he turned to teammate Gary Neville, he recalled to W Magazine, "and said, 'That one there, that's the girl I'm going to marry.'"
His bravado briefly failed him when she turned up in the players' lounge with one of her bandmates after a February 1997 game. "I'm quite shy," he admitted. "I just sort of waved from the other side of bar." Even after her manager, Simon Fuller, arranged a introduction, all he could muster was a quick hello, a missed opportunity he agonized over for days: "I was quite upset and gutted."
Which is why when he heard she'd be back a week later, he mustered up the courage to make a move, getting her phone number and jotting it down on the back of a London-to-Manchester plane ticket he still has today.
To hear Victoria tell it, as she did in her 2017 note to British Vogue, it was a shared "love at first sight" moment. Though she admits to being "a little drunk, so exact details are hazy," she recalls the instant connection. "You will see David standing aside with his family," she says of the pro, who joined the team as a 16-year-old trainee in 1991. "And he has such a cute smile. You, too, are close to your family, and you will thinking how similar he feels to you."
Her digits in hand, David rang immediately and drove down to see her in London the following night. After courting in private, spending most of their dates talking and kissing in parking lots—"because your manager, Simon Fuller, will warn you, 'Don't let anyone see you out together or you'll get hounded," she explained in Vogue—the pair welcomed their first son, Brooklyn, on March 4, 1999. Precisely four months later, they wed at an Irish castle with Neville, the teammate David first confided in, serving as best man.
Their joint star power—by then the Spice Girls had sold some 40 million records and embarked on a sold-out world tour while David had led his team to a Premier League title amongst other trophies—and model good looks rocketed them to the loftiest levels of fame. And their good fortune kept growing.
Victoria made her debut as a model at London Fashion Week in 2000 and with her group more or less dissolving, she put out a modestly received self-titled solo album. Having been named captain of England's national team in 2000 David quickly grew so synonymous with the sport that an entire movie, 2002's Bend It Like Beckham, was named in his honor. And though he was traded to Real Madrid in 2003, he pocketed roughly $43 million and was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to the sport. Amid it all, the duo welcomed their second son, Romeo, on Sept. 1, 2002.
Posh and Becks, it seemed, were untouchable.
Until, quite simply, they weren't. After David was spotted at a Madrid nightclub with his assistant, Rebecca Loos, in September 2003, British tabloids ran rampant with stories his marriage was over. One standout: a piece by now-defunct News of the World, which claimed David and Loos had several sexual encounters starting with that steamy night out.
It was an allegation backed up by her brother, John Charles, who told the Daily Mail in April 2004, "She has confirmed to me she had an affair with David," adding she was "heartbroken" she could be seen as "a marriage wrecker."
The Beckhams' union wouldn't be demolished so easily, though. As Victoria carted their sons to Switzerland for a long-planned holiday, David spoke out in his defense. "During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life," he said in a statement. "What appeared this morning is just one further example. The simple truth is that I am very happily married. I have a wonderful wife and two very special kids. There is nothing any third party can do to change these facts."
But they would certainly put forth their best effort. In April 2004, Loos herself sold the sordid details to Sky Television and News of the World in a joint deal. For the reported tidy sum of $600,000 she spilled on their initial encounter ("I couldn't wait to be alone with him,") David's bedroom prowess ("He is a very generous lover,") and his penchant for sexting. (She would say years later that she didn't regret coming forward, but now as a married mother, "I would definitely have gone about things quite differently. I was young and foolish and very reckless.")
That same month, Malaysian-born model Sarah Marbeck claimed to News of the World that she had slept with David shortly after meeting him in Singapore in July 2001, while he was on a pre-season tour with Manchester United, and again in March 2002.
Once again, the couple fought back. Victoria told The Sun, "We have been through a lot worse than this, and we're definitely going to get through this." And that May, while training with the English national team in Sardinia, David told BBC Radio 5 Live, "I've made it clear that with two papers the way I and my family have been treated is an absolute disgrace because at the end of the day, I'm a nice person and loving husband and father."
But the tabloid hits kept coming. In September 2004, News of the World published the headline "Posh and Becks on the Rocks", followed by beautician Danielle Heath's claims she also had an affair with the soccer pro. This time, the married duo responded by filing a lawsuit against the paper and issuing yet another statement: "We are sick and tired of people trying to make money at the expense of our family. It's even more distressing when we are expecting our third son. These allegations are completely untrue and it is in the hands of our lawyer."
Their attorney got even more work the following year. When former nanny Abbie Gibson unloaded to News of the World, sharing why she believed their marriage was a sham, they amended their original complaint and slapped Gibson with a lawsuit for breach of confidence.
"When you invite someone into your home to look after your children—your most precious possessions—you have to trust them," David explained, adding that while he couldn't get into details due to legal proceedings, "What I will say, though, is that the reason I keep my mind on football is that me and my wife are happy. We are normal people, although people might not think that. Of course, we have arguments like everybody, but at the end of the day, I know I love my wife."
And for a while it seemed that would be the final word. The duo welcomed their third son, Cruz, in Madrid on Feb. 20, 2005 and pocketed an undisclosed settlement from News of the World in 2006.
By the next year, they were ready for a fresh start. David, having been wooed by America's struggling Major League Soccer to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, uprooted his family of four to the states with a grand plan of making soccer cool in the United States. Victoria snapped up a $22 million, 13,000-square-foot villa in Beverly Hills, appropriately distanced from David's training center, Barney's and their new, American pals Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and a six-episode NBC reality show called Victoria Beckham: Coming to America.
Her stateside ambitions expanded beyond the small screen. While in California, she would launch a denim line and a sunglasses collection—the seedlings for what would become her phenomenally successful eponymous fashion brand.
As for all of those tabloid reports? Firmly behind them, she insisted to W. "I'm not going to lie. It was a really tough time. It was hard for our entire families. But I realized a lot of people have a price," she explained. "David and I got through it together. No one said marriage was going to be easy. Yes, there have been bumps along the road. But the fact is we've come out of everything we've been through stronger and happier. It's even better now than when we were first married."
Perhaps, in part, because they had both mastered the art of tuning out the noise. To this day the parents of four, daughter Harper will turn 9 July 10, remain tabloid fixtures, their attractive faces plastered on covers proclaiming to have the real story about their union.
It's a part of fame Victoria acknowledged in her letter to British Vogue, writing, "People will say awful things. You will be a laughing stock. Every time you turn on the television or look at a newspaper it will seem as though someone is having a go at you and your family...Others would crack under the pressure, but you won't."
The most recent round of reports a few years back seemed to have been driven by the pair's separately thriving careers. While David, who released his own line of grooming products called House of 99, inspired by the year he married Victoria, had been focused on launching an MLS franchise in Miami, Victoria was largely based in England with the kids.
David acknowledges he could simply lounge around their West London manse, counting his previously earned millions, but that's simply not his style. "People turn around to me after my career and say, 'What are you going to go sit on the beach? You're going to go relax? You don't have to work anymore,'" he explained in a January 2018 interview with Good Morning America. "And I'm like, 'No,' because the lesson that I want to teach my kids is yes, Daddy worked hard as a footballer for the last twenty-two years, but now I'm working on hard on the business side."
That means he'll be "spending a huge amount of time" in Florida spearheading this new team while the kids (minus Brooklyn, attending NYC's Parsons School of Design) stay in their London schools to maintain "normality," he said, adding, "whenever they can, they'll be coming over."
He's made his fair share of trips across the Atlantic as well. After divorce rumors surfaced, the duo made an appearance at the Kent & Curwen spring/summer 2019 capsule collection fashion show and lunch in London June 10 and Victoria gave him a shout out on Father's Day a week later. (She also flashed a seemingly new emerald-cut yellow diamond on her left hand during at Paris Fashion Week June 23—the 14th ring she's worn on that finger throughout their marriage.) More recently, they've turned out together on luxe vacations, making Victoria's London Fashion Week show a family affair and, of course, holing up at home in England to wait out the effects of the coronavirus.
Keeping it all together, she shared on Today last year, requires some juggling. "Communication is key," she said. "You know, we love our family. Everything we do revolves around our family. I think it's just being focused, working hard [and] having a great support team around us. Both of our parents are very, very present and help with the kids."
A total team effort, she explained at the June 2018 Forbes Women's Summit in New York, according to the Daily Mail, "We really are equal with everything we do at home with the children. When I'm away he's the one doing the school run and doing the cooking."
It's a balance David also stressed while speaking with BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 2017. Asked the secret to their marriage, he replied, "I think because we're a strong family unit."
While many have speculated the duo are simply keeping up appearances at this point, afraid to make waves by revealing they've split, the truth is actually much simpler, Victoria explained to ET in 2017: "He's my soulmate."
And what they've built is worth a bit of strife. "People have talked about, you know, 'Do we stay together because it's a brand?'" David commented to BBC Radio 4. "Of course not. We stay together because we love each other; we stay together because we have four amazing children, and do you go through tough times? Of course you go through tough times. It's part of relationships, it's part of marriages, it's part of having children, it's part of having responsibilities."
Even back when he spied his crush across the room all those years ago, David never assumed their pairing would be easy. "Of course you make mistakes, and we all know that marriage is difficult at times," he said. "It is about working through it. We have come up against tough times. But we know each other better than anyone else knows us."
And, if need be, they'll keep proving it.
(Originally published July 4, 2018, at 3:00 a.m. PT)