27/03/2011 05:37 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Secret Of Elizabeth Taylor's Incredible Eyes

Elizabeth Taylor may have died last week, but few people will surely disagree that her beauty will live on. But what made her so beautiful? If you asked any number of people that question, chances are many would say it was her eyes.

Elizabeth Taylor, photographed in 1963 on the set of the 20th Century Fox movie, Cleopatra. Photo: Getty Images, Hulton Archive

Even her husband, the late actor Richard Burton – who wasn't always very complimentary about Liz's beauty (he famously criticised her for having short legs, an over-large chest and a double chin) – described her eyes as 'wonderful'.

And it's true. Liz's violet eyes are the stuff of legend. She even named one of her perfumes after them (Violet Eyes: a sensual, floral fragrance by all accounts). But since genetically speaking only albinos have true violet eyes, it's more likely that Liz's were in reality a striking dark blue, and that, under film lighting, they simply appeared to be violet.

There was, however, something else very special about the movie star's eyes. According to various sources, she had a form of genetic mutation - that is, double rows of eyelashes. This is often the result of a FOXC2 gene mutation, which also causes a disease called lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome - a syndrome that, in 7% of sufferers also causes congenital heart disease (and, as we now know, Liz died of congestive heart failure).

The double rows of eyelashes no doubt enhanced Liz's eyes, though some people with the FOXC2 double eyelash mutation aren't so lucky, as the extra lashes can grow inwards instead of outwards, which can damage the eyes.

But for Liz it was a happy accident. After all, as her former co-star, actor Roddy McDowall is once reported to have said, "Who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?"

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