While in their respective corners she was one-fifth of pop sensation the Spice Girls and he was an up-and-coming Manchester United midfielder, together they became Posh and Becks, the U.K.'s most glamorous couple. They quickly transcended the confines of regional fame and turned into a full-on global sensation, paparazzi snapping away wherever they went, in good times and bad.
And the times got particularly bad for a spell.
"I don't know how we got through it, in all honesty," David says in the new Netflix docuseries Beckham, reflecting on explosive 2004 cheating allegations that he adamantly denied but which still threatened to relegate his marriage to divorce court. "Victoria's everything to me. To see her hurt was incredibly difficult. But, we're fighters. And at that time, we needed to fight for each other, we needed to fight for our family. And what we had was worth fighting for."'
Victoria agreed that it was "the hardest period for us. Because it felt like the world was against us. And here's the thing: We were against each other, if I'm being completely honest."
The parents of four celebrated 24 years of marriage on July 4, a testament to just how much they wanted, then and now, to stay on the same team.
In fact, it was a different sort of team seating when Victoria first spied her husband in 1997 while hanging out, appropriately enough, in the Man U players' lounge.
"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," Victoria wrote in a letter to her 18-year-old self, a bit of homework for British Vogue in 2016. "You, too, are close to your family, and you will think how similar he feels to you. He's going to ask for your number. (He still has the London-to-Manchester plane ticket on which you wrote it.)"
"She stalked me," David joked to W in 2007 when asked how they met before acknowledging, "I fancied her."
In fact, he claims he saw a Spice Girls video in 1996, before they met in person, and said to his teammate Gary Neville, "'That one there, that's the girl I'm going to marry.'"
As grown-up Victoria wrote to younger Victoria, "...love at first sight does exist...although you will get a little drunk, so exact details are hazy."
"I'm quite shy. I just waved from the other side of the bar," David recalled to W, noting that he actually blew it on day one by not asking her out.
A week later, Victoria and a fellow Spice Girl attended another game, and rest assured he didn't miss that shot. She wrote her number down on the aforementioned plane ticket, he called her the next day and drove down to London later that same night to see her.
As it turned out, they had grown up 15 minutes away from each other in their own respective versions of working-class families, both planning from a young age to be big stars.
They welcomed son Brooklyn Beckham on March 4, 1999, and married on July 4, 1999, at a castle in Ireland. Neville, whom Beckham had revealed his marital intentions to several years prior, served as best man.
The bride and groom wore (two) matching outfits and sat atop his-and-her gold thrones. Victoria said "I do" in Vera Wang and changed into Antonio Berardi for the reception.
"That was pretty bold. Victoria's [party dress] was pretty nice. Mine, I'm like what was I thinking?" Beckham recalled, poking fun at himself in 2017 on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. "I look like the guys out of Dumb & Dumber when they went to that party and wore those ridiculous outfits. I even had a top hat in purple. Unbelievable. What was I thinking?"
The following year, with the Spice Girls more or less disbanding after a few wildly successful years, Victoria went solo and released a hit single, "Out of Your Mind."
Her debut album, Victoria Beckham, sold a modest 50,000 copies upon its release in October 2001, and though she planned on releasing a follow-up and continued to have her singles chart, she was one and done. The Spice Girl reunion rumors began the second the group split up, but otherwise the erstwhile Posh Spice focused on fashion and her growing family, giving birth to son Romeo Beckham on Sept. 1, 2002.
At the same time, David star was rocketing ever higher.
He was appointed captain of England's national team in 2000 and had a whole movie, 2002's Bend It Like Beckham, named after his prowess on the pitch. The modeling world wanted a piece of him (usually his abs) as well. Then in the summer of 2003, after spending his entire career with Man U, Becks signed with Real Madrid for almost $30 million (by today's pound sterling-dollar exchange).
And so began the most trying year of the storied Beckham union.
In September 2003, Beckham was reportedly spotted with a woman—later identified as his assistant Rebecca Loos—at a nightclub in Madrid. The athlete denied the subsequent tabloid reports that his marriage was in trouble.
He and Victoria remained nothing but united, however, and she was by his side when Queen Elizabeth II made him an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at Buckingham Palace that November.
But the now-defunct News of the World ran a story in April 2004 detailing, via a source identified as a so-called "close family friend," several sexual encounters David and Rebecca allegedly had after that night at the club, after which they continued to exchange racy texts. Victoria contacted Rebecca, the story claimed, warning her to back off.
So, a few months shy of the Beckhams' fifth wedding anniversary, the British tabloids were having their own field day covering the increasingly explosive cheating allegations, which blew up further after Rebecca's brother alleged his sister had "confirmed" to him that she'd had an affair with the soccer star in Spain.
"Rebecca phoned home early this morning. I am overwhelmed with shock," Rebecca's brother John Charles told the Daily Mail in April 2004. He continued, "Rebecca was upset when she parted company with David and Victoria last year. She became very down and cried a lot. At times she looked heartbroken. I thought it was because of professional reasons. But now I am beginning to understand there must have been more to it."
At the time, Victoria had reportedly packed up her sons and flown to Switzerland, and David was planning to join her from Madrid immediately.
Aides speaking for the family said the trip was a long-planned vacation with her parents and his mother, not a hasty escape from the public eye.
With the scandal refusing to go away, David broke his silence, saying in a statement: "During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life. 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."
Later that month, in a joint deal with Sky Television and News of the World (both News Corp. entities at the time) that netted her a reported $600,000 for exclusive rights to serialize her story, Rebecca told her long tale to Sky One's Kay Burley.
"I don't expect any sympathy from [Victoria] at all," said Rebecca, who had reportedly been working in sports PR for SFX, the company that managed David, when she was assigned to his staff in Madrid.
"I think it's bad enough for me to do what I have done without me expecting any words of sympathy," she continued. "I really hope that they get through it. I think the problems were in their marriage long before I came into the picture. I in no way intended to break up their marriage especially when there are young children involved. I hope they stay together."
Asked about the Beckhams' stated intention to get lawyers involved, Rebecca replied, "What are they consulting their lawyers for? What can they do? I think they have worked very hard at getting the image they have and I think they will do everything they can to maintain it.
"So whether that involves having happy shots taken or calling their lawyers it's up to them. I am 100 percent sure of what I am talking about, there's no doubt in my mind, I have no reason to lie—why should I? I am just here to tell you my experience. He knows the truth and I know the truth."
Adding to the couple's mensis horribilis in April 2004, Sarah Marbeck told News of the World she slept with Beckham in Singapore in 2001 back when he was on a tour with Manchester United and then they continued to exchange sexually suggestive texts for two years.
David called the story "absurd and unsubstantiated," while Victoria reportedly told The Sun at the time, "We have been through a lot worse than this, and we're definitely going to get through this."
In May 2004, 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."
In the meantime, Victoria moved to Spain with Brooklyn and Romeo full-time and by August 2004 she was pregnant with their third child.
The Beckhams ultimately did file suit against News of the World, in response to a September 2004 story titled "Posh and Becks on the Rocks." Then the tabloid published claims that a beautician named Danielle Heath had an affair with the athlete.
"We are sick and tired of people trying to make money at the expense of our family," the Beckhams said in a statement. "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 lawyers."
The couple then amended the complaint in 2005 to include another NOTW story alleging, based on tales from a former nanny, that their marriage was a sham. They also sued the nanny, Abbie Gibson, who had worked for them since 2003, 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 said in April 2005. "I can't say much more because there is a legal process...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 that I love my wife."
The Beckhams collected an undisclosed settlement from News of the World in March 2006 and dropped their suit. (The tabloid shut down in 2011 after it turned out multiple staffers had conspired to hack into private voicemail accounts, including those belonging to celebrities such as Hugh Grant, who gave public testimony in the case, members of the royal family and a teenage murder victim.)
Rebecca, who parlayed her name recognition into some reality TV appearances before moving to the Norwegian mountains with her husband and children, said on ITV's Daybreak in 2013 that she didn't regret coming forward but lamented the media circus.
"I'm a mother now and married and knowing what I know now I would definitely have gone about things quite differently," she said. "I was young and foolish and very reckless. I didn't think things through and acted on impulse a lot. I think I regret the impact on everybody. I think I could have gone about it in a kinder way. I don't regret speaking out but I regret the way I went about it."
Meanwhile, the Beckhams were busy working on their marriage and carrying on with their lives. Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley were among the guests at a dual christening for Brooklyn and Romeo in England in December 2004, and their third son, Cruz Beckham, was born Feb. 20, 2005, in Madrid.
But it soon became apparent that another change of scene might be in order as David's football career started to plateau. He wasn't winning championships with Real Madrid and was left off the national team after England's World Cup quarterfinal loss in 2006.
So they did what a lot of people would do—they moved. In 2007, the Los Angeles Galaxy—of then-struggling Major League Soccer in the U.S.—wooed David across the pond with a five-year contract worth a reported $250 million (about $32.5 million from the team, plus endorsements and other incentives related to his mega-stardom).
"Another challenge has come up and it is the right time for us to do it," the famous midfielder—who would go on to win the La Liga title with Real Madrid in his final season—said in an interview in January 2007, calling his decision to uproot his family and leave European soccer "extremely difficult."
"David Beckham coming to MLS might be viewed by some as one of the most important moments for soccer in this country and perhaps the history of professional sport," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "David transcends the sport and is a cultural icon. David is clearly one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. People are going to feel really good about David Beckham spending the rest of his career in the U.S."
Victoria made the most of the deal as well, signing up for NBC's Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, a six-episode show chronicling the family's move to Beverly Hills, Calif., where they settled just a short Range Rover ride away from then-married pals Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
"We were surprised that anybody actually even knew who we were, or the fact that we were coming," Victoria humbly told E! News that August, though by then the red carpet had been fully rolled out on their behalf. "We think L.A. has got so many really famous people, so we just kind of see ourselves as 'David and Victoria from London.'"
"So, we were completely shocked and overwhelmed," she continued, "but everybody was so nice. We got to the airport and everyone was saying, 'Welcome to America,' 'welcome home.' You turn up in England and they just tell you to get back on a plane and get out of there...so we're very, very excited."
She said it would only be a matter of time before the paparazzi figured out "we're actually quite boring, we don't do that much. We just hang out at home with our kids and keep ourselves to ourselves." The most recent exciting place she'd led the photographers to was Toys R Us.
Victoria also quipped to W that she planned to "try and smile more for America" in photos, but at some point that fell off her to-do list—though her sense of humor about it remained intact.
Asked about her famously close-lipped look, she told E! that someone had actually gone up to her and asked if she had an issue with her teeth. "There's nothing wrong with my teeth!" she insisted. "I can't help the fact I actually look dead in most paparazzi pictures. I just think there's often so many paparazzi, I'm always sort of 'head down, get in the car and off we go'...I'm just not a big grinner on camera."
She felt that her series would show a side of her that was more reflective of the truth. "I don't take myself too seriously," she said. "I have a very dry, British sense of humor and I enjoy to send myself up."
The family's L.A. abode was a 13,000-square-foot villa they bought for a reported $22 million because, as Victoria told W, "we didn't want anything too huge, too fancy, too ostentatious."
"It's a light, happy house, with a great corridor the kids are going to love when they are roller-skating," she added, while David joked that they wouldn't have any live-in staff because "we like to lock the doors at night and wander around naked."
Victoria admitted that the scandal, which wasn't in the too-distant past yet then, had made for "a really tough time" for them, "hard for our entire families. But I realized a lot of people have their price."
Referring to their only recently weathered scandal, Victoria told the magazine (with her husband reportedly sitting quietly next to her, holding her hand), "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. After all these years, we can just come home and have a laugh together."
And as countless people embarking on a new chapter had learned before them, moving to sunny California can indeed help you start anew. Or sometimes even turn back time.
At the end of 2007, Victoria embarked on a tour with the Spice Girls on behalf of their greatest-hits album, which was greeted with all the fanfare you could imagine. She also dug in her stilettos and started to expand her Britain-born fashion empire, launching her eponymous label in 2008. She won Designer Brand of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2011 and in 2017 became the latest high-end designer to collaborate with Target.
David suffered some injuries early on but ultimately thrived with the Galaxy, winning two titles and turning the team's Carson stadium into a real destination.
Asked in 2007 if more kids were in their future—"I see you with a little girl so you can dress her up," E!'s Michael Yo said at the time—Victoria said she'd love to have another child, but at that point having three boys was less about parenting and more "about crowd control."
She got her wish a few years later, when daughter Harper Seven Beckham was born July 10, 2011.
And the family only got more famous, though David shrugged off the importance of name brand recognition.
"I've got my wife. I've got my four kids. I've got parents, grandparents still, and three really good friends. It's all you need," David explained to Men's Health in 2012. "I'd rather have three really good friends than 20 good friends."
He retired in 2013 at 38, playing his last game for Paris Saint-Germain, which hoisted their Ligue 1 trophy that night in a picture-perfect moment.
"I wouldn't have achieved what I have done today without my family," read part of his gracious sign-off on social media. "I'm grateful for my parents' sacrifice, which made me realise my dreams. I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period."
Since 2016 their home base has been a $45 million spread in London's Holland Park, a convenient four-minute drive to Victoria's Hammersmith headquarters. Their portfolio also includes an $8 million weekend cottage in the Cotswalds and a $24 million abode in Miami.
Because Victoria's days in the stands at soccer matches are far from over: David is club president and co-owner of MLS' Inter Miami CF, which has been the toast of the league since bringing Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi onboard earlier this year.
In April 2022, David and Victoria welcomed Nicola Peltz into the family when the actress wed their eldest boy, Brooklyn, in Palm Beach, Fla., and Romeo's longtime girlfriend Mia Regan was along for the Beckham premiere in London on Oct. 3.
Brooklyn revealed the words of wisdom he got from his parents about married life, sharing on E!'s Daily Pop in August 2022 that they advised the newlyweds, "Just love each other, try and not worry about anything. Keep working and just try and have fun."
Sounds like a couple of folks who know what they're talking about.
David has attributed his and Victoria's enduring partnership and "strong family unit" to a number of factors, including the inspiring examples that were set for them.
"We have got strong parents too, and they taught us the right values," he told BBC Radio 4 in 2017. "Of course you make mistakes, and we all know that marriage is difficult at times. 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 we talk."
To any skeptics who assume it's just better business to stay married, he added, "Do we stay together because it is a brand? Of course not. We stay together because we love each other and because we have four amazing children."
Which also means having four other hearts and minds—plus the heart and minds of the kids' partners—to look out for as well.
"People have been making things up about our relationship for 20 years," Victoria told British Vogue in 2018, "so David and I are pretty used to ignoring the nonsense and just carrying on as normal. But these things have a wider effect on the people around us, and that's unfair."
At the end of the day, she and David "both realize that we are stronger together than we are as individuals," she said. "Would either of us be in the position that we are in now had we not met and been together all those years ago? It's all about the family unit."
Keep reading to relive even more sweet—and always stylish—Beckham family moments:
(Originally published Feb. 13, 2018, at 5 a.m. PT)