The inside story of the Beckhams’ 25-year marriage

David and Victoria Beckham
David and Victoria Beckham

For years, the Beckhams have been selling us the fairy tale – and the merchandise to go with it. Whether you’re ordering a Victoria Beckham lip gloss or an Inter Miami football shirt, tuning in to Brooklyn Beckham’s TikTok cookery demonstrations or watching David’s glossy Netflix documentary, you’re buying into the dream. And helping to bolster that £455 million fortune. In his new biography The House of Beckham: Money, Sex and Power, Tom Bower charts the “ruthlessly successful” global brand and just how much effort goes into building and maintaining it.

According to Bower, the Beckhams’ perfect world is not all it seems. He has revisited the stories out there that the authorised Netflix docuseries somehow left out. And there is a rich seam on which to draw: the multiple times David has been accused of cheating, his fury at being overlooked for a knighthood by the “unappreciative c---s” on the honours committee, and his willingness to overlook Qatar’s human rights record in exchange for a reported £150 million deal to sing the Gulf state’s praises. The relaxed Victoria we saw in the Beckham documentary is not the one who emerges from the pages of Bower’s book: she is portrayed as jealous, demanding and in need of a good meal.

Judge this couple via their Instagram posts, and it’s a love story for the ages. Asked by an American magazine last year when she and David last fought, Victoria furrowed her brow: “I might have to come back to you on that, because I can’t remember the last time we fought.” Among the memorable fights alleged in Bower’s book is a scene in which pregnant Victoria, suspicious of David’s claims to have booked a midnight fake tanning session at a Madrid hotel, jumped into his Lamborghini in her pyjamas and set off to confront him, her security detail following in a third car.

Watch footage of Posh and Becks in their early days – the Spice Girl and the Manchester United star announcing their engagement to the press a few months into their relationship – and there is an endearing sweetness about them. David is naturally shy. Victoria can’t stop smiling, something she would later cease to do in public (“I’m smiling on the inside. I feel I have a responsibility to the fashion community,” she deadpanned to Vogue in 2015). But they were learning to be media savvy, helped in the early days by Alan Edwards, the smartest PR in the business.

He secured a £1 million payday from OK! magazine for the exclusive rights to their wedding, where the couple now known for their studied designer style wore matching outfits of Ribena purple, with baby Brooklyn decked out in a tiny cowboy hat. “I don’t think any of us realised this was the beginning of Brand Beckham, the business,” Edwards writes in his newly published memoir, I Was There.

Three more children followed – Romeo, Cruz and Harper Seven – and this tight family unit has become integral to the Beckham image. (Victoria trademarked Harper’s name when the little girl was five.) The clan are together on the front row at Victoria’s fashion shows, on the cover of Vogue, and in countless Instagram shots at home (in Holland Park, the Cotswolds, California and Miami) or on holiday. And at the centre of this is the enduring marriage of David and Victoria, who celebrate their 25th anniversary next month.

David and Victoria in 2003, after he received his OBE
David and Victoria in 2003, after he received his OBE - Fiona Hanson/AFP via Getty Images

But if the Netflix documentary reignited rumours of David’s alleged affair with Rebecca Loos – albeit referenced only obliquely on camera – then Bower’s book goes further.

Loos came into David’s life at his loneliest moment. In 2003, he left Manchester United for Real Madrid. Relations with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had been rocky for some time – the Scot was unimpressed by his player’s celebrity status – and tensions between them boiled over in the dressing room after a defeat by Arsenal. Beckham answered back to the boss, throwing in an F-word, and Sir Alex kicked a pile of kit on the floor – resulting in a boot flying out and hitting Beckham in the face.

“What do you mean, we’re going to Spain?” Victoria recalled asking him when Beckham said he was leaving United. “We don’t have anywhere to live, we don’t have schools for the children.” While her husband relocated that summer, she remained in England, visiting at weekends. “I remember being upset on the phone to Victoria because I felt lonely,” he said.

There followed the biggest crisis in the Beckhams’ relationship – a union that had been “marketed”, as BBC News put it at the time, “as a marriage made in heaven”. First, the News of the World published a picture showing the footballer cosying up to Loos in a Madrid nightclub. Then, in April 2004, came the bombshell headline: “Beckham’s secret affair.”

“Lonely star beds aide,” the NOTW trumpeted, characterising the alleged affair as “wild romps and text sex behind Posh’s back”. Loos soon spilt the details in a deal bartered by disgraced tabloid fixer Max Clifford and worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Rebecca Loos
Rebecca Loos

She once claimed that the couple were drawn together “like magnets” and that they had sex in his hotel room before matches. For good measure, she threw in the claim that David had also cheated on his wife with model Esther Cañadas. Observers noted that Loos was “more posh than Posh”, being the privately educated, well-spoken daughter of a Dutch diplomat (that image lasted only as long as Loos signed up for a Channel 5 celebrity reality show set on a farm in which she was required to “pleasure a pig”. These days, she is a married yoga teacher in Norway).

The Loos story so dominated the headlines that other allegations of David’s infidelity have since been forgotten. But more women did come forward making claims: Sarah Marbeck, an Australian “model” said to have been employed by a company named Boardroom Escorts (without Beckham’s knowledge), claimed that they had a two-year affair. Dannielle Heath, an Essex beautician, told a newspaper that she was intimate with Beckham after giving him a spray tan. “Thank God I didn’t have full sex with him,” she said. “It would have made me feel really cheap.”

In a statement at the time, Beckham said that he had “become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life”, and his team dismissed all the allegations. However, when asked about Loos in the Beckham documentary, the couple noticeably didn’t deny an affair.

“We’re fighters. And at the time we needed to fight for each other,” said a teary-eyed David, while Victoria admitted: “I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was and how it affected me.”

The couple on the red carpet in 2004, the year the affair allegations were made
The couple on the red carpet in 2004, the year the affair allegations were made - Steve Finn/Getty Images

At the time, though, the couple dealt with the stories in the most Beckham of ways: frolicking in the snow at a French ski resort for the benefit of photographers, and publicly insisting that everything was great.

“I think it’s always healthy to have a certain amount of jealousy in a relationship,” Victoria once said, and David has arguably provided her with plenty of opportunities, from partying with aristocrat Lady Mary Charteris at Glastonbury to hanging out with his friends Poppy Delevingne, Rita Ora and Alexa Chung.

When Victoria told David that doctors had booked her in for a C-section to give birth to Cruz in 2005, he informed her that the date clashed with a photoshoot for a Pepsi advert he was doing with Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. (Though he eventually rearranged it so he was there for the new arrival.)  Recovering in hospital, she opened a newspaper to see the three of them posing on the red carpet, beneath the caption “What would Posh say?” In the documentary, Victoria has the answer to this: “Posh was pissed off.”

Beyoncé, David Beckham and Jennifer Lopez at the launch of the Pepsi ad in 2005
Victoria was unimpressed to see David on the red carpet with Beyoncé and J-Lo. promoting his Pepsi advert - Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy

Victoria was bullied throughout her school days, and it would not be surprising if this left her with an enduring sense of insecurity.

An introvert, albeit one said to be a riot in private and happy to send herself up – David, by contrast, is not renowned for his sense of humour – she prefers the company of a handful of close friends and family members, including her sister, Louise, and actress Eva Longoria. She remains close to her parents, Tony and Jackie.

David’s friendship circle is wider, and through his best friend, the extremely well-connected Dave Gardner – a former Manchester United youth teammate of David’s turned sports agent, and now his business partner – has accessed a broader social life, from men-only holidays motorbiking around Brazil to nights on the town with James Corden and Jason Statham.

Madrid is said to have represented the unhappiest time in the couple’s marriage, and Victoria was overjoyed when David joined LA Galaxy in 2007. “I’ve got my family together and I let go of a lot of pain,” she has said. She loved the lifestyle, the celebrity welcome – Tom Cruise threw them a welcome party – and the healthy Californian diet.

But in 2009 he was off again, this time to AC Milan, after new England boss Fabio Capello told him that he would only have a chance of making the World Cup squad the following year if he re-joined a top-tier European club. “I wasn’t thinking about my family, I was thinking about me. If there’s an opportunity to play for my country in a World Cup, I will do whatever I can to make that happen,” David said.

He would pull a similar move in 2013, assuring his wife that the family could move back to England to be near their families, then announcing that he was signing for Paris St Germain.

There followed a few years of calm on the marriage rumours front until 2018, with online whispers that the couple were preparing to announce their divorce. “This is nonsense. There is no statement due, no divorce,” their spokesman said firmly, calling the rumours “fake social media news” and “an embarrassing waste of time”.

Meanwhile, their respective careers have continued apace. From their earliest days as a couple, Posh and Becks have understood how to monetise their image.

Victoria makes no secret of being a “control freak” and the amount of self-discipline that goes into looking the way she does – although it was David who revealed quite how restrictive her diet is, saying: “Unfortunately, I’m married to someone that has eaten the same thing for the last 25 years. Since I met Victoria, she only eats grilled fish and steamed vegetables.”

But David is equally shrewd about his public image, going back to the time when his hairstyles could make the front pages and he stepped out for dinner wearing a sarong. Even his apparent OCD tendencies are stylish, resulting in a beautifully organised walk-in wardrobe.

David wearing THAT sarong that caught so much attention
David wearing THAT sarong that caught so much attention - ABSOLUTE/D'ARCANGELI

“In those days, footballers were largely just blokes who kicked a ball around on Saturday afternoons. They didn’t grace the pages of fashion magazines like GQ,” Alan Edwards writes of his early days as David and Victoria’s PR. “David, however, was determined to change that.”

He says the Brand Beckham masterplan in those days was to develop David “as a global brand that existed beyond the world of football. It was all very informal. The meeting notes were often written on the back of a Chinese takeaway carton lid on a Friday night at Victoria’s parents’ house.”

Advertisers fell over themselves to work with David: Pepsi, Vodafone, Armani, Gillette, Jaguar, Samsung… These days his partnerships include Adidas, Tudor watches and Nespresso, alongside his own Haig Club whisky and DB eyewear range. By far his savviest deal, though, masterminded by former business manager Simon Fuller, was the clause built into his contract with LA Galaxy, the team he joined in 2007.

In what one US sports analyst dubbed “one of the greatest sports deals of all time”, David secured the option to purchase a Major League Soccer “expansion” team for a fixed-rate fee of $25 million. Inter Miami has since been valued at $1 billion after the signing of Lionel Messi. Beckham is said to have a 25 per cent stake in the club. No wonder Victoria tweeted last year: “I love Miami!!!!”

David Beckham
David is president and co-owner of Inter Miami - Eric Espada/Getty Images

If David appears to have a knack for minting money, Victoria’s business endeavours have proved more financially challenging. After the Spice Girls split in 2001, her solo career ended a couple of years later, and after a brief foray into television (in the 2007 reality show Victoria Beckham: Coming to America), she moved into fashion. This, she has since said, had always been a far greater passion for her than music.

Her first collection in 2008 surprised many who had dismissed her as a joke: a range of 10 beautifully cut and satisfyingly expensive dresses. Fashion editors started to take her seriously, and subsequent collections have won rave reviews and a clientele that includes Hollywood A-listers and the Princess of Wales. But the business needed repeated cash injections to stay afloat – David reportedly bailing out the brand with £23 million over three years – and during the pandemic she was roundly criticised for taking Government money to furlough 30 staff. Victoria subsequently reversed the decision; that same year, she and David had splashed out $24 million on a Zaha-Hadid-designed penthouse in Miami.

Happily, the brand now appears to be in a good place: turning a profit in 2022, partly thanks to a desirable accessories line and the success of her make-up range (it is said that one of her £30 Satin Kajal eyeliner pencils is sold every 30 seconds). The label shows at Paris Fashion Week and Anna Wintour is a fixture in the front row next to the Beckham clan.

Victoria Beckham at her London Fashion Week catwalk show in 2019
Victoria has had success in the fashion world - NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

The Bower book will undoubtedly infuriate the couple, but will it damage them? They have ridden out every negative story over the years. Victoria’s sometimes testy relations with her fellow Spice Girls and her refusal to take part in another reunion did not stop the former bandmates turning out for a night of friendship at her 50th birthday party in April. And the leaked comments about the honours committee have not stopped fresh speculation that David may finally receive a knighthood.

Their brand has endured because they are willing to work hard at it. And the same goes for their marriage. On social media, Victoria regularly posts messages to David telling him – and their collective 121 million followers – how much she loves him. But she has also acknowledged that they are more than just a married couple – they’re a business.

“We both realise that we are stronger together than we are as individuals,” she once 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?”