Elizabeth Taylor’s Family Shares Never-Before-Seen Photos of Star

Elizabeth Taylor with son, Michael

Roddy McDowall

11/25/2013 AT 5:30 PM ET

From the set of Cleopatra to the Cannes International Film Festival to Mexico to Switzerland, Elizabeth Taylor’s children saw plenty of the world.

Growing up the son of a screen legend “was great, kind of circus-like,” says Christopher Wilding. “The big tent folds and moves to the next city.”

And wherever they called home, the 58-year-old adds, Taylor “took great pains to create a stable family life” for the four children she adored.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Taylor’s family shares intimate memories and rare pictures of their mother for the first time in honor of her AIDS activism, leading up to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. Never-before-seen photographs taken by her close friend (and Lassie Come Home costar) Roddy McDowall show Taylor as you ve never seen her, at ease and unposed. “He was the only one who could get really genuinely relaxed pictures of my mother,” says Christopher.

An ultra-private family, three generations of Taylors share warm, often surprising memories of the matriarch they loved.

While she was not a disciplinarian, Christopher says, “she wouldn’t hesitate to call you out if you were being close-minded or intolerant or judgmental.”

Elizabeth Taylor with son, Michael

Roddy McDowall
Her family remembers her as both a fierce activist, who co-founded amfAR in 1985 and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1991, and the mom who loved to laugh, cuddle and play in her jewelry closet. “She was very intimate and real and open,” says her granddaughter, Laela Wilding.

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