During Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, the White House hosted what is considered the grandest wedding ever held there. It drew media attention and the curiosity of the nation, and the bride was one of America's greatest celebrities: Roosevelt's oldest child, Alice.
|Alice Roosevelt by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1903. Public Domain
Roosevelt returned two years later, married his childhood friend Edith Carrow, and reclaimed Alice, but the little girl had a strained relationship with both of them (although Edith nursed Alice through a mild case of polio). Edith reportedly told Alice her mother would have bored Theodore to death had she lived. Perhaps in response to the tension, Theodore spoiled Alice and gave her anything she wanted. She had little education but enjoyed reading and had a sparkling wit.
Alice was 17 in 1901 when her father assumed the presidency after the assassination of President McKinley (when, in her own words, she experienced "sheer rapture" and danced a jig). She was a beauty, she was bold, and the press dubbed her "Princess Alice." At her debut the following year, she wore a gown of pale blue; thereafter, the shade was known as "Princess Alice Blue." Songs were written about her, including "Alice Where Art Thou?"
Alice did not behave like the typical young lady of her time. She smoked, chewed gum, drove a car, placed bets with bookies, kept a pet snake, and went out with men, unchaperoned--all in public.
Mindful of his daughter's celebrity, President Roosevelt sent Alice on a delegation with Secretary of War Taft to Japan, Hawaii, China, the Philippines, and Korea in 1905. Sailing to Japan, Alice jumped fully clothed into the ship's swimming pool and invited an Ohio congressman, Nicholas Longworth, to jump in with her.
That December, Alice and Nicholas became engaged. Nicholas was 14 years her senior and had a reputation as a drinker and a playboy, but he played the violin and had money. Alice was smitten.
The wedding on February 17, 1906, was a grand affair. The House of Representatives adjourned for the day. A thousand guests came, fighting for parking spots for their new automobiles. People lined Pennsylvania Avenue for a glimpse of the bride, who was determined to marry in her own way.
The 22-year-old bride wore a blue dress with an 18-ft long train of silver brocade to the East Room Ceremony. She refused bridesmaids, apparently because she didn't wish to be upstaged, and was walked down the aisle by her father.
Later, she cut the cake with a sword she took from a military aide. When the newlywed couple left the White House, Edith bid her stepdaughter farewell with these words: “I want you to know I am glad to see you leave. You have never been anything but trouble.”
|Wedding postcard, Public Domain
The couple honeymooned in Cuba, where Alice declared the hills her father had conquered as a Rough Rider to be "mildly sloping." A few years later, when Theodore left the White House, Alice buried a voodoo doll of Taft's wife, Nellie, in the front yard. (She was banned from the White House by Taft, as well as by Woodrow Wilson due to her bawdy jokes.)
Alas, Nicholas did not leave his playboy ways behind when he married. Although he eventually became Speaker of the House, politically-minded Alice was disappointed that he supported Taft's re-election. Both parties had extramarital affairs.
Alice kept busy with politics. She opposed the League of Nations and her cousin Franklin Roosevelt. When Alice was 41, she gave birth to a daughter, Paulina, and both Alice and Nicholas knew the baby's father was Idaho senator William Borah. Alice joked that the baby should have been named Deborah, and apparently some of Alice's friends called the baby "Aurora Borah Alice."
|Alice on her 43rd birthday with her daughter, Paulina. Public Domain
|The Longworths, 1926. Public Domain
Alice continued to stay active politically, but made money by appearing in tobacco advertisements and publishing a candid autobiography. Paulina married, but her husband died when she was 26. She died five years later of an overdose of sleeping pills, leaving a daughter, Joanna, to Alice's care.
Being a grandmother didn't slow Alice, however. She remained a favorite dinner party guest at political events and lived how she wished. On the February 17, 1974 broadcast of the program "60 Minutes" (on what would have been her wedding anniversary), Alice told Eric Sevareid she was a "hedonist."
She died in 1980 at age 96.
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of almost a dozen historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com
|Susanne's latest release is The Rails to Love Collection