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Princess Margaret plays with Anne Glenconner’s hair. The two women had been friends since they were preschoolers. Undated photo. Anne Glenconner Collection.

Lady Anne Glenconner served as Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret from 1971 until Margaret’s death in 2002. Her husband, Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, was a member of the “Margaret Set,” a group of close friends of the Princess, almost entirely male, and completely wild. Lord Glenconner was once considered a possible husband for the Princess but that didn’t happen. Both Anne and Colin were slavishly devoted to the Princess.

Pictured: Colin Tennant (Lord Glenconner), Princess Margaret, and Anne Tennant, (Lady Glenconner) stroll onto the island of Mustique in the Caribbean. When newlyweds Tony Armstrong-Jones (later, Lord Snowdon) and Princess Margaret stopped at Mustique on their 1960 honeymoon, Colin Tennant gave them a gift of land on the island. Later, Margaret would build a home there. In the 1970s, when the Snowdons’ marriage began falling apart, Margaret would retreat to her “bolthole” on Mustique. Tony would never again return. Tony never warmed to Anne and Colin. He had been the photographer at their wedding yet had not been treated as a guest. Anne’s father referred to him derisively as “Tony Snapshot.” PA Images

The following includes excerpts from Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner.  1 The excerpts appear in a bold, purplish print. My comments appear in black.

Everybody she [Princess Margaret] had ever met had always treated her with the utmost respect. Except Tony [her husband], who was spiteful in creative ways and liked writing vile little one-liners which he hid in her glove drawer, or among her hankies or tucked into books.

The Princess had stopped opening drawers, afraid of finding nasty little notes from her husband. One said: ‘You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.’ The marriage was on the rocks. Trading tit for tat, both Margaret and Tony became openly unfaithful. They traded insults “like gunfire.” Tony refused to speak to Princess Margaret, even when the children were present. He would spy on her through a hole in the wall. He reverted to a bachelor life, spending nights away from Kensington Palace. Margaret’s drinking picked up speed and she gained weight. The marriage had deteriorated so much by the early 1970s that the two led virtually separate lives. 2 

Princess Margaret and her husband, Tony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon, in happier times. 1963

This was the state of affairs in 1973 when we invited the princess for a long weekend at Glen, Colin’s [Anne’s husband’s] ancestral home in the Borders [Scotland].

Anne Glenconner, being the Princess’ Lady in Waiting, was hard put to keep the miserable Princess entertained, especially now that her marriage with Tony was so strained.

The Glen, an estate and country house in southern Scotland

I’d planned a huge dinner party, but a late cancellation left us one man short. Colin suggested that I should ring his ‘Aunt Nose’ — Violet Wyndham (who had a large nose) — because she was bound to come up with a suitable suggestion.

She did: she gave me the number of Roddy Llewellyn, whose equestrian father Harry had won the only gold medal for Great Britain in the 1952 Olympics.

We’d never met Roddy, but he was young and available. I remember feeling awkward ringing him up, but to my relief he accepted my invitation.

Colin drove to Edinburgh station to meet him, accompanied by our teenage son Charlie, and Princess Margaret, who was intrigued because she knew Roddy’s father. I stayed behind.

They didn’t return for hours. Forewarned by her protection officer, however, I was outside, ready to greet them, when the car pulled up. In the back, Princess Margaret and Roddy were more or less holding hands.

Colin explained that they’d met him off the train and gone for lunch at a bistro. The princess and Roddy had immediately clicked, even though he was 17 years younger. She’d then whisked him off shopping to find some tight swimming trunks — which my son described as ‘budgie smugglers’.

I said to Colin, ‘Oh, gosh, what have we done?'”

Roddy Llewellyn wears swim trunks Princess Margaret bought for him. Note the pattern is the Union Jack. ca. 1973

Roddy Llewellyn, Princess Margaret, Lady Anne Glenconner, and her son, Charlie. 1970s. Anne Glenconner Collection

According to Anne, Princess Margaret always took an interest in young men.

 

1 Glenconner, Anne. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown. (2020)

2 Bradford, Sarah. Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen. (1996)

Readers: For more on the Royal Family, click here

 

Princess Margaret of Great Britain sits in her living room at Kensington Palace. The walls are painted Kingfisher Blue, Margaret’s favorite color.

It was a summer day in 1980 when biographer Christopher Warwick first visited Princess Margaret in her home:

The first time I had lunch with her, we were just the two of us sitting in the dining room, having lunch at Kensington Palace, the house that William and Kate now live in.”

It would be the first of many such visits for the author. Margaret had selected Warwick to write her biography. Warwick said,

I got to know Apartment 1a very well indeed. The best way to describe it, it was like walking into an English country house. It was very elegant, it had an 18th-century quality about it, it was furnished with lovely antiques.

The entrance to Prince Margaret’s Apartment 1a was through Clock Court. 1961

When you went through the front door… straight ahead of you on the wall was [Pietro] Annigoni’s fabulous portrait of her from 1957.”

Biographer Christopher Warwick poses with Princess Margaret in the spacious entryway of her home, Apartment 1a, at Kensington Palace. June 1980. Note the 1957 portrait of Princess Margaret by Annigoni.

The painting features the 27-year-old royal standing in an English rose garden, a nod by the Italian artist to Margaret’s given name, Margaret Rose.

Princess Margaret by Pietro Annigoni, 1957. Exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery courtesy of then Viscount Linley. Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd, 2006. The artist captured Margaret’s sensuous beauty.

At that point in time, Margaret desperately needed Christopher Warwick or someone like Christopher Warwick. Her well-publicized affairs and 1978 divorce from her husband of 18 years, Lord Snowdon AKA Antony Armstrong-Jones, had made for bad headlines.  Her divorce was the first for a senior British royal in four centuries-since King Henry VIII.

Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, stand in the Clock Court outside their home at Kensington Palace, with their two children, ca. 1964.

The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret (1930-2002) had established herself as the royal family’s ‘wild child’. She was an enthusiastic party princess – drinking a vodka and orange juice pick-me-up upon her noon awakening, wine at lunch, and guzzling Famous Grouse scotch all night long, chain-smoking Chesterfield cigarettes in a long, tortoise shell holder-even while eating, and mingling like a commoner with rock stars like Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.

Mick Jagger parties with Princess Margaret on the island of Mustique in the Caribbean. Both Mick and Margaret had homes there.

Spoiled and pampered, she kept late hours and did and said what she pleased—infamous for her acid-tongued put-downs and perverse cruelty to her hosts and guests—only occasionally performing royal duties such as ribbon-cuttings at new schools or showing up for a tour of a British factory to earn her keep of £55,000 annually, paid by the British people.

In 1970, the film producer Robert Evans flew to London to attend the Royal Command Performance of his film Love Story, in the presence of the Queen Mother. He was later to recall their brief encounter.

All of us stood in a receiving line as Lord Somebody introduced us, one by one, to Her Majesty and her younger daughter. It was a hell of a thrill, abruptly ending when the lovely princess [Margaret] shook my hand.

Margaret spoke. ‘Tony saw Love Story in New York. Hated it.'”

Princess Margaret defying convention. Smoking in public was just not done, not by a royal and certainly not by a lady. Undated photo.

Her servants and ladies-in-waiting were required to keep her ashtrays emptied after three cigarette butts and excoriated if they let her scotch glass run out of ice. If she was invited to a party, she required the hostess to let her see the guest list in advance. She struck off and added names of new guests as she pleased. As a guest at country homes or London dinner parties, she did not allow anyone to speak in her presence until she spoke first. Guests had to stay at the party until she left first. This might be 4 a.m. Upon her arrival at movie openings or galas, a tiara balanced on her elaborate, large and lacquered updo, she was presented with bouquets by adoring children. Women curtseyed. Men bowed and scraped. Flashbulbs popped.

Princess Margaret attends the opening of the Parliament in Jamaica, 1962.

The public could not get enough stories about Margaret—of her royal appearances and, later, of her bohemian life style—and the press kept churning them out. People had been engrossed in reading and hearing about the Princess since she had been born in 1930 in Glamis Castle, Scotland, during a thunderstorm.

Princess Margaret with her father, King George VI, ca. 1930

King George VI of Great Britain holds his daughter, Margaret Rose. 1931

Their interest heightened in the 1950s when she was eligible for marriage. She was glamorous and set fashion trends.

Who would Princess Margaret marry? Intense interest and speculation

An adoring fan broke into Margaret’s hotel room while she was touring Italy just to discover what color nail polish she used. Any indiscretions she made in the 1960s were largely suppressed by the press, in deference to the Queen and the Royal Family. But the Anti-Establishment changes brought about by the Swinging Sixties changed all that. By the 1970s, tabloids featuring lurid stories of famous people had become big business. The Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, and the Sun were just some of the British tabloids paying large sums to anyone with a telescopic lens taking embarrassing pictures of famous people.

Then there were those published 1976 swimsuit photographs of Princess Margaret in the Caribbean with the drifter/sometimes landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn, a man 17 years her junior, while Margaret was still married to Lord Snowdon. To worsen matters, Roddy was offered a music contract and he became a sort of pop star, always available for interviews. He had lived at a commune in Wiltshire and Margaret had gone there. Even the townspeople of Wiltshire and the anti-Establishment hippies at the commune had a price, it turns out, as they awarded the highest bidding tabloid with interviews about the goings-on between Margaret and her toyboy lover.

Princess Margaret swims off the coast of Mustique where she kept a private home. Feb. 1, 1976.

Roddy Llewellyn, Princess Margaret’s paramour, in the surf off Mustique, with Princess Margaret. Feb. 1, 1976.

Their romance became a scandal of major proportions.

The Princess’ reputation was damaged and so was the Crown’s. At the time, the economy of Great Britain was in a free fall, and poverty was on the rise. Headlines appeared,

ROYALS: DO THEY EARN THEIR KEEP?

Give up Roddy or Quit!

The Queen was livid, asking her prime minister,

 ‘What are we going to do about my sister’s guttersnipe life?’”

For some time, there had been a steady drumbeat to get rid of the Monarchy—the cost!—and Margaret fed the flames, sparking some serious anti-monarchical threats in Parliament to cut off her allowance. A Labour Member of Parliament called on Princess Margaret to resign the Royal Family and give up her £55,000 for those in need. He called her a “parasite.”

Princess Margaret did give up Roddy. She divorced Tony, a serial philanderer who benefited from Margaret’s notoriety; the Queen Mum adored Tony. Headlines followed,

Goodbye, Roddy: Margaret Cools Romance

Then Margaret hired the biographer Christopher Warwick to revamp her image. The biography was released in 1983. Kirkus Reviews called the authorized biography “tame” and “fawning”. Warwick himself confesses to having fallen under her spell from that first luncheon meeting. When they sat down, she had turned to him and said,

‘I expect before you met me, you thought I was the sort of person the tabloids said I was.'”

She then paused and said,

‘And now you know I’m not.'”

Warwick said,

‘It was so true that the woman I was talking to, the person I was getting to know, really wasn’t the person that I had read about in the tabloid press. I suppose it’s not unfair to say the public perception of her is divided.'”

The title of Warwick’s biography is Princess Margaret: A Life in Contrast. Readers complained that there was no contrast in the supposed “tell-all”. Margaret was portrayed in a flattering light as the dutiful royal.

The book’s other emphasis is on Margaret’s busy schedule (samples are provided) in justification of her cost to the Realm. (Kirkus)

I’ll offer you some contrast.

About that painting in that entrance hallway. To truly appreciate the story I am about to tell you, it is necessary to acquaint you with the physical layout of Princess Margaret’s home at Apartment 1a, Kensington Palace, London. This is where, three years after their marriage in 1960, Margaret and Tony made their home. It is a royal residence, known as a “grace and favor” home, one that the Queen bestows on qualifying individuals. As Warwick mentions, Apartment 1a, Kensington Palace, is where the five Cambridges—Prince William, Kate, George, Charlotte, and Louis—live today. Although there are over 120 such grace and favor homes in  Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the ones at “KP” are the most splendid.

Bird’s eye view of Kensington Palace. Find the highlighted apartment belonging to Prince William and Duchess Kate. Note the Clock Tower. The entrance to the inner courtyard known as Clock Court is under that Clock Tower. The entrance to the Cambridges’ home is through that private court.

President and Mrs. Obama visited the Cambridges and Prince Harry at Kensington Palace, Apartment 1a, in April 2016. These pictures give a better view of the entrance to the home.

The Obamas meet with the Cambridges and Prince Harry, April 2016, in Clock Court at Kensington Palace, just outside the entrance to the home of William, Kate, and their three children.

Princess Margaret dances with her husband, Lord Snowdon, 1962.

Apartment 1A is a four-story home with over 20 rooms. It is long and narrow. It is one of the homes in Kensington Palace, a grand, royal compound for many Windsors in Central London. To enter the home, one must drive under the Clock Tower into the secluded courtyard. The front door of 1A opens onto a long, wide, and spacious hall. This is where the romantic Annigoni portrait of Princess Margaret was hanging in February 1964 when Tony’s very good friend, the actor Peter Sellers, came for lunch. Tony had a brilliant career as a portrait photographer and was known widely. Sellers was famous for his “Pink Panther” role as the clumsy Inspector Clouseau.

On Seller’s arm that winter day was his new girlfriend. She was the Swedish film actress Britt Ekland, beautiful, big-eyed, with long, blond hair ALA Brigitte Bardot. She was 21 to Peter’s 38. Sellers had only met her the day before. He had seen her photograph in the newspaper and wanted to meet her, appearing at her room at the Dorchester Hotel.

Britt Ekland and Peter Sellers, early 1960s

On the way to KP, Sellers drilled Ekland on the protocol for being in the presence of a royal princess. Say, ‘Your Royal Highness’, on first being presented and ‘Ma’am’ thereafter. A deep curtsey was mandatory.

Ekland was surprised to discover that the Princess was quite relaxed. They sat down to a lunch of consommé, roast beef, and red wine. Brandy followed. Then Snowdon pounced. Would Britt like to pose for some ‘glamour pictures’? According to Ekland, the Princess supported this idea, rallying to the cause. Tony gave her one of his shirts to wear. Ekland said:

I was in a tweed costume and once the royal couple had gone, I slipped off my jacket and blouse and bra and exchanged it for the shirt.”

As she was changing, Tony and Sellers were hunting for the perfect place for the photo shoot. They settled on the wide hallway, where the Annigoni portrait was hanging. They opened the front door to let in the sunlight. Ekland did what she was told to do: pose in such a way that the incoming sunlight would silhouette her breasts and make them clearly visible through the shirt.

Ten days later, Sellers and Ekland were married. In April, they were in Hollywood, where Sellers was filming the Billy Wilder sex comedy, “Kiss Me, Stupid.” Around noon, Sellers took the sexual stimulant amyl nitrate. Over the next three hours, he suffered 8 heart attacks. He was rushed to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where he remained for several weeks. On hearing of Sellers’ heart attack, Billy Wilder is reputed to have said, “Heart attack? You need a heart to have a heart attack!” Wilders replaced Sellers in the movie with the actor Ray Walston.

Ekland would go on to make more movies that revolved around her looks, including her turn as a James Bond girl, in 1974, starring alongside Roger Moore in “The Man With the Golden Gun.” She and Sellers divorced after four miserable years together, Sellers exhibiting a serious jealous streak. “I was really his little toy,” she recalled in an interview on “Loose Women.”

left to right: Peter Sellers, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret, Britt Ekland, 1965

left to right: Peter Sellers, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret, Britt Ekland, 1965

Lord Snowdon and Britt Ekland, 1967.

 

Nancy Pelosi is greeted by a scrum of reporters as she leaves the speaker’s meeting. July 24, 2019. Vanity Fair. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-CA), the most powerful woman in the history of American politics, legendary for her strong work ethic, has a weakness.

“I’ve been eating dark chocolate ice cream for breakfast for as long as I can remember, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (b. 1940) told Food & Wine. “I don’t see it as different from having a cup of coffee,” which she doesn’t drink, preferring a cup of hot water with lemon. Among her favorite ice cream flavors is New York Super Fudge Chunk.

Pelosi doesn’t restrict herself to just having chocolate for breakfast. Her husband got her a stationary bike once, and during the brief period that she actually used it, as she doesn’t exercise, she ate pints of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream the entire time.“It’s okay to eat ice cream while you’re riding a bike,” Pelosi told The Huffington Post. “If you can’t eat ice cream while you’re doing it, why would you do it?”

Surrounded by her grandchildren and other children, Nancy Pelosi is sworn in for her second time as U.S. Speaker of the House. She is second in line for the presidency. Jan. 3, 2019

For Pelosi, eating chocolate is not just a pleasure trip. When asked how she managed to get through the grueling health care debates of 2009-2010 that resulted in the victorious passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pelosi replied, “Chocolate. Very, very dark chocolate.” She eats chocolate round the clock and in many forms. By 4 p.m. on the day of the Huff Post interview, for example, she had already eaten chocolate truffles, chocolate candy, and a dark chocolate bar that day. Sometimes she eats chocolate before bed and regrets it, waking at 3 a.m. with a sugar high. She admits her vice openly:

I don’t know what it is. But some call it dedication, some call it an addiction, others call it an affliction.

Pelosi’s Capitol Hill office is always fully-stocked with Ghiradelli chocolate bars, which are made in her San Francisco district. When she’s back home, Pelosi makes a point to go to ice cream shops and get “all-around brown” milkshakes, which involve chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and chocolate milk. Some shops don’t carry chocolate milk anymore, she notes, but she just makes up for that gap by “going heavy” on the syrup, which adds to the cost but pays off in richness of flavor.

On March 26, 2014, then Speaker John Boehner sent then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pints of chocolate gelato for her birthday.

 

“Here’s hoping — and guessing — you didn’t give up chocolate for Lent,” Boehner wrote. Lent is a time on the Christian calendar that falls in the early spring. During Lent, many Christians choose to give up a favorite food or something else important to them.

That year, Nancy Pelosi had indeed given up something important to her—and that something was chocolate. Asked by a colleague, “How’s it going?” meaning her Lenten sacrifice, Pelosi replied, “Terrible. I’m dying.”

In November of 2018, Speaker Pelosi showcased her love of chocolate when she appeared in the green room for a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Blindfolded and smiling, she performed a chocolate taste test for the cameras.

Related: Roald Dahl: The Joy of Chocolate

Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate, a property of the British Royal Family

Since retiring from public service in August 2017, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has spent most of his time at Wood Farm, a secluded cottage on the edge of the royal Sandringham Estate on the Norfolk coastline. The modest red-brick, five-bedroom property, just a few miles from the big house, allows Philip privacy and a place to indulge his many hobbies, among them, oil painting.

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Prince Philip, 1965. Credit: Rex Features

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“The Queen at Breakfast, Windsor Castle,” by H.R.H. Duke of Edinburgh. oil on canvas, 1965. This intimate view of the Queen of England, relaxing and reading the Racing Post at breakfast, is one of the pieces in Prince Philip’s private collection. Both the Queen’s reading material and the two paintings displayed on the walls of the Windsor Dining Room allude to her delight in horses.

Harriet Tubman, 1885, by H. Seymour Squyer.

From the Daily News: 

In “Harriet,” the first feature film biopic celebrating the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, moviegoers get a chance to see the legendary fugitive freedom fighter like never before.

Starring Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo as the African-American woman who helped shepherd hundreds of slaves to freedom during the mid-1800s, the Kasi Lemmons-directed epic, which hits theaters Friday, breathes new life into the legacy of someone who has been a Black History Month fixture for decades.

Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross (c.1822 –1913) but changed her name to Harriet shortly after she was married. She was nicknamed “Minty.” There’s a lot to know about Harriet—she was a Union spy, for one—but I thought you might want to see this wanted posted for Harriet and her brothers, when they escaped their slave master in September 1849.

Harriet Tubman reward poster

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Novelist Patricia Highsmith, ca. 1950, Swiss Literary Archives, Bern.

Here is a transcription of a page from one of the journals of American novelist and short story writer Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995).

6/1/50 I am interested in the murderer’s psychology and also in the opposing planes, drives of good and evil (construction and destruction) whereby a slight deflection one can be made the other, and all the power of a strong mind and body be deflected to murder or destruction! It is simply fascinating!

…For perhaps even love by having its head persistently bruised, can become hate. For the curious thing yesterday. I felt quite close to murder, too, as I went to see the house of the woman who almost made me love her when I saw her a moment in December, 1948. Murder is a kind of making love, a kind of possessing. Is it not, too, a way of getting complete and passionate attention, for a moment, from the object of one’s affections? To arrest her suddenly, my hands upon her throat (which I should really like to kiss) as if I took a photograph, to make her in an instant cool and rigid as a statue.

And yesterday, people stared at me…wherever I went, in the trains, the bus, on the sidewalk. I thought, does it show in my face?

Now, more than twenty years after her death, Highsmith’s secret life will become public, as her estate prepares to publish hundreds of pages like this one from her personal diaries which also include her drawings and watercolors. Spanning nearly 60 years, these memoirs—56 spiral-bound notebooks, totaling some 8,000 pages—were found after Highsmith’s death, tucked away behind sheets and towels in a linen closet in her home in Switzerland.

In editing the diaries and notebook, Anna von Planta aims to offer an unvarnished look at the controversial author. Highsmith embraced strong anti-Jewish sentiments, cavalierly dismissing the Holocaust as the “semicaust” because some Jews were spared. Liveright Publishing plans to release the diaries in a single edition in the U.S. in 2021. Von Planta hopes the volume will “show how Patricia Highsmith became Patricia Highsmith” (for those who want to know).

Patricia Highsmith is known for her psychological thrillers, including Strangers on a Train (1950) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955). Both books were made into movies and increased her fame.

Prickly and eccentric, Highsmith was a mystery even to her friends and lovers. She found no pleasure in men. She was a chronic alcoholic and her hostility toward people grew as her condition worsened.

Patricia Highsmith appearing on the British TV program, “After Dark,” June 18,1988, Open Media Ltd.

She preferred animals:

Highsmith loved cats, and she bred about three hundred snails in her garden at home in Suffolk, England. Highsmith once attended a London cocktail party with a “gigantic handbag” that “contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails” which she said were her “companions for the evening.” wiki

“Patricia Highsmith,” composed of snail shells and cigarette butts, from blog,  “Book Dirt“. Art by Jason Mecier.

Asia Booth Clarke

The 19th-century American writer, Asia Booth Clarke (1835-1888), was born into a family of actors. Her famous brothers were Edwin Booth, Junius Booth, and John Wilkes Booth.

 

booth bros.

Credit…Brown University Library

On the morning of April 15, 1865, Asia was in bed in her Philadelphia mansion, sickly pregnant with twins, when she was handed the newspaper. She screamed when she read the headlines: her brother, John Wilkes Booth, was wanted for the murder of President Abraham Lincoln.

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the U.S.

Asia could not believe it—and yet it was true. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, the actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. Asia—and the nation—would never fully recover from Booth’s terrible act, his retaliation for Lincoln’s freeing of American slaves.

A copy of a hand colored 1870 lithographic print by Gibson & Co. provided by the U.S. Library of Congress shows John Wilkes Booth shooting U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as he sits in the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre

In the immediate aftermath of the crime, the nation went into shock. Disbelief gave way to tears, sobs, and solemn displays of mourning. The newspapers dubbed the moment “our National Calamity.” Easter Sunday came and went with little notice. The people were focused on the President’s funeral procession which was to take place Wednesday.

Lincoln’s body lies in state in the East Room of the White House. Harper’s Weekly, May 6, 1865.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the nation’s capital. Every hotel in Washington, D. C., sold out. Thousands of visitors slept in parks or on the streets.  Somber black crepe and bunting replaced the patriotic banners adorning buildings from just a week before when the city had been positively giddy with excitement, ablaze with candles and gaslights in every window, marching bands, dancing, singing, and the ringing of bells upon learning of the fall of Richmond, the capitol of the Rebel States, spelling a Union victory in the American Civil War.

In his diary, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles noted the city’s sad transformation from celebration to gloom:

Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor…the little black ribbon or strip of cloth… (1)

On the morning of April 19, the funeral procession carrying the President’s body slowly made its way to the Capitol, “the beat of the march measured by muffled bass and drums swathed in crepe.”

Lincoln’s funeral on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 1865. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

At the Capitol, the President’s coffin was received in the rotunda, where, beneath the Great Dome, thousands of mourners streamed by to view the President’s remains in the open casket.

It was a sacred day except for one detraction. Five days had passed since John Wilkes Booth had killed this most beloved of men and Booth was still a free man.

John Wilkes Booth

The manhunters were aggressively tracking the fugitive’s movements in and around the capital, following all plausible leads and, still, they could boast of NO ARREST. The newspapers abounded with tales of those who had spotted someone matching Booth’s description. Meanwhile, the authorities descended upon anyone associated with Booth, questioning many and arresting scores. Asia Booth Clarke and her husband, the comedic actor, John “Sleepy” Clarke, were not spared. The day of Lincoln’s funeral, swarms of detectives appeared at their door. John Clarke was seized, taken to Washington, and imprisoned in the Old Capitol with two of Asia’s other brothers, Joe and Junius Booth. The Clarke’s house was raided. (2)

Booth was on the run a full twelve days before he was cornered. He refused to surrender and was killed. Three weeks after his death, Asia wrote her friend Jean Anderson:

Philadelphia, May 22, 1865.

My Dear Jean:

I have received both of your letters, and although feeling the kindness of your sympathy, could not compose my thoughts to write — I can give you no idea of the desolation which has fallen upon us. The sorrow of his [Wilkes Booth’s] death is very bitter, but the disgrace is far heavier; – 

Junius and John Clarke have been two weeks to-day confined in the old Capital – prison Washington for no complicity or evidence — Junius wrote an innocent letter from Cincinnati, which by a wicked misconstruction has been the cause of his arrest. He begged him [John Wilkes Booth] to quit the oil business and attend to his profession, not knowing the “oil” signified conspiracy in Washington as it has since been proven that all employed in the plot, passed themselves off as “oil merchants”.

John Clarke was arrested for having in his house a package of papers upon which he had never laid his hands or his eyes, but after the occurrence when I produced them, thinking it was a will put here for safe keeping — John took them to the U.S. Marshall, who reported to head-quarters, hence this long imprisonment for two entirely innocent men –

I was shocked and grieved to see the names of Michael O’Laughlin and Samuel Arnold. I am still some surprised to learn that all engaged in the plot are Roman Catholics — John Wilkes was of that faith — preferably — and I was glad that he had fixed his faith on one religion for he was always of a pious mind and I wont speak of his qualities, you knew him. My health is very delicate at present but I seem completely numbed and hardened in sorrow.

The report of Blanche and Edwin are without truth, their marriage not to have been until September and I do not think it will be postponed so that it is a long way off yet. Edwin is here with me. Mother went home to N.Y. last week. She has been with me until he came.

American actor Edwin Booth as Hamlet. Edwin Booth was so beloved that he was not arrested after the Lincoln assassination, although two of his brothers were. He testified at the trial of the conspirators.

I told you I believe that Wilkes was engaged to Miss Hale, — They were most devoted lovers and she has written heart broken letters to Edwin about it — Their marriage was to have been in a year, when she promised to return from Spain for him, either with her father or without him, that was the decision only a few days before the fearful calamity — Some terrible oath hurried him to this wretched end. God help him. Remember me to all and write often.

Yours every time,

Asia (3)

“Miss Hale” refers to Lucy Lambert Hale (1841-1915), the younger daughter of Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire.

Lucy Lambert Hale, ca. 1865, courtesy of Ford’s Theatre.

Lucy met John Wilkes Booth at one of his performances in Washington, D.C., when he played the character Charles De Moor in “The Robbers” (1862 or 1863). She presented him with a bouquet. (4) By early 1865, Booth was regularly lodging at the National Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Lucy lived with her parents and sister, Lizzie. We know they were close as Lucy’s cousin stayed in Booth’s rooms during Lincoln’s Second Inauguration. Lucy also procured a pass for Booth to attend the March 4, 1865, inauguration, a pass no doubt she obtained through her father, as only about 2,000 tickets for entrance inside the Capitol were issued. (It was later learned that Booth contemplated killing Lincoln then and there but was talked out of it by an associate also present.)

Although Lucy Hale and John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) reportedly were seen in each other’s company around the city, it was not publicly known that they were engaged. This plan was kept secret, since Society considered an actor to be in a social class beneath the dignity of the daughter of a U.S. senator. Just a month before, President Lincoln appointed Senator John P. Hale to be the new ambassador to Spain. Shortly, Lucy, Lizzie, and their mom would be moving to Spain with Senator Hale.

By some accounts, Lucy, an ardent abolitionist, had broken off the engagement with Booth when she learned he had strong secession views. A newspaper article suggested that this rejection occurred ten days before the assassination, fueling Booth’s “mental excitement, occasioned by drink.” (5) However, Lucy’s letters to Edwin Booth—written after John Wilkes Booth’s death (as mentioned in Asia’s letter here)—suggest otherwise. According to those accounts, the engagement was very much active when Booth died.

A veiled reference to Lucy Hale’s grief over Booth’s death appeared on page five of the New York Tribune on April 22, 1865:

Lucy Lambert Hale, 1863, photo by Mathew Brady, courtesy of wikimedia commons.

On the afternoon or early evening of April 14, 1865, the day of the assassination, Lucy Hale, age 24, was reportedly studying Spanish with two old friends from the Boston area, where she had attended boarding school. They were President Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and the president’s assistant private secretary, John Hay. She had many suitors but her heart was set on only one. She was one of multitudes of women around the country who were captivated by the charm and beauty of the romantic star of the stage, John Wilkes Booth.

When the fugitive John Wilkes Booth was killed at age 26 by U.S. troops, he carried a diary. Tucked inside were photographs of five women, four actresses and a well-known belle of Washington society. The horrified authorities recognized the society belle as the daughter of the new American ambassador to Spain and, as only Washington gossips knew, Booth’s secret fiancée: Lucy Lambert Hale. Someone ordered the pictures to be suppressed so tongues wouldn’t wag with the tale that Lucy Hale was engaged to a murderer! That knowledge would shred her reputation and Lucy would never find a suitable husband

It would be decades before those five photos were made public. The one of Lucy in Booth’s wallet is the photo of her face in profile.

Had Booth used Lucy to get into social and political circles denied to him as a mere actor? Or, as some close to him say, was he smitten by Lucy, head-over-heels in love to such a degree that he would commit to just one woman when so many threw themselves at his feet?

Lucy went off to Spain with the family. It was nine long years before she would wed—a senator.

As for Asia, when her husband returned home from prison mid-May, he announced he wanted a divorce and wanted nothing further to do with the name “Booth.” John Wilkes Booth had been right about John Sleeper Clarke. Booth had warned his sister not to marry “Sleepy.” He believed that Sleepy wanted to marry Asia only in order to capitalize on the name “Booth” to further his own acting career. The marriage continued but the union was an unhappy one.

Asia went on to establish herself as a writer, writing John Wilkes Booth: A Sister’s Memoir, a slender volume that offers us a close look at the childhood and personal preferences of the complex arch villain John Wilkes Booth. To remove themselves from the stigma of association with the president’s killer, Asia and her family eventually decided to move away from America and settle in England, where her husband got involved with a mistress and treated her with “duke-like haughtiness and icy indifference.” (6)

Sources:

  1. Diary of Gideon Welles. Manhunt, James L. Swanson, p. 213.
  2. Manhunt, pp. 217-219.
  3. Asia Booth Clarke to Jean Anderson, 22 May 1865, BCLM Works on Paper Collection, ML 518, Box 37, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland. cited in John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day, Arthur F. Loux. Note: Only 3 conspirators were Catholic. There is no corroboration that John Wilkes Booth converted to Catholicism.
  4. John Wilkes Booth: Day by Day, Arthur F. Loux.
  5. Chicago Times, April 17, 1865, p. 2, bottom 3rd column.
  6. John Wilkes Booth: A Sister’s Memoir, Asia Booth Clarke.

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