The King of Pop first struck up a friendship with blonde nurse Debbie Rowe at the doctor’s office where she worked.
“[He and Lisa Marie] had broken up and I was trying to console him because he was really upset,” Debbie later revealed of their early days.
Three months after Michael and Lisa Marie divorced, he and Debbie said their ‘I dos’, both dressed in black and with an eight-year-old boy as the best man.
Pop star Michael Jackson and his new wife Debbie Rowe pose for a wedding photo minutes after the ceremony in California in this November 14, 1996
At the time of the ceremony, Debbie was heavily pregnant with the first child she would ‘gift’ Michael.
Lisa Marie was reported to have point blank refused to start a family with the Thriller singer, saying he was too emotionally immature to raise a child.
But opening up in the 2003 TV special Michael Jackson: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See, Debbie revealed she took a different view of the pop star.
“He said ‘I really want to be a dad,’ and I said ‘So be a dad.’ He looked at me puzzled. I said, ‘Let me do this. I want to do this. You’ve been so good to me. Please let me do this: You need to be a dad.’ I nagged him into it, if you will.”
When asked about fatherhood by Martin Bashir in Living With Michael Jackson, the singer confirmed that Debbie had a child with him ‘as a present’, adding that both kids had been ‘natural conceptions.’
Just months after Debbie and Michael’s wedding, Prince Michael was born in February 1997.
Recalling the day of his arrival, Debbie said: “Michael was definitely more excited than I was. He was so excited when I had a contraction. He was welling up … and then his son was born.
“The look on his face … I’d never seen him that happy. That’s what made it wonderful for me, to see the look on his face,” she said.
It would be another six weeks before Debbie saw her son again.
Michael took the little boy to his Neverland ranch where he was put under the care of a dedicated team of nannies while Debbie went to stay with a friend.
14 months later, Debbie and Michael welcomed their second child a daughter Paris, who arrived in similarly strange circumstances.
Michael admitted to Martin Bashir that he had ‘snatched’ his little girl from hospital after she arrived into the world.
“I snatched her and just went home with all the placenta and everything all over her,” he admitted.
Prince Michael Jackson, Blanket Jackson and Paris Jackson appear on stage at the Michael Forever Tribute Concert after his death
Just 18 months after Paris was born Michael and Debbie divorced.
In Debbie’s own words, her relationship with their children was far from traditional and she gave up full custody rights to Michael after the break-up – in which she received an $8million settlement as well as a house in Beverly Hills.
She explained: “We have a family unit, and I will always be there for him and the children. People make remarks: ‘I can’t believe she left the children.’ I did not leave my children. My children are with their father, where they’re supposed to be.
“My kids don’t call me mum because I don’t want them to. They’re Michael’s children. It’s not that they’re not my children, but I had them because I wanted him to be a father. I believe there are people who should be parents, and he’s one of them. I could do something for him and this is what I could do.”
While Prince and Paris remained in Michael’s care, Debbie insisted she had some say in their upbringing – including the controversial decision to cover up their faces in public.
“That was my request, not his. He’s very proud of his children – I’m the one who’s terrified. I’m the one who’s seen the notes that someone’s gonna take his children,” she said.
“I’m sure one day he’ll ask the children ‘Do you want to wear the scarf?’ I will have immediate heart failure. But he’s not going to make his children do something they don’t want to do; he’s not that kind of parent,” Debbie insisted.
When Michael died in 2009, custody of Prince, Paris – and younger brother Blanket who was born via surrogate – went to their grandmother Katherine Jackson.
Debbie and Paris maintained a relationship, with the model and actress supporting her mum through her breast cancer diagnosis in 2016.
Hinting things were fractured between her and son Prince, Debbie tweeted: “One of the saddest things in this world is to see a child grow up hating one of their parents because they only got one side of the story.”