Thursday, August 3, 2017

White House Weddings: Elizabeth Tyler

The third wedding of a president's child in the White House was held January 31, 1842, uniting eighteen-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzie” Tyler, daughter of President John Tyler, and attorney William N. Waller.

Lizzie's mother, Letitia, had suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1839, so Lizzie and her sister Letitia accompanied her to Washington D.C., helping care for her and serving as hostesses in the White House. Lizzie was apparently a pretty young lady, and at some point she accepted a proposal from William, an old friend from home in Williamsburg, Virginia.

At the time of the wedding, the political climate was rough, to say the least. William Henry Harrison had been elected president in 1840, with John Tyler as his Vice President, but in April of 1841, just a month after being sworn in, Harrison died. John Tyler became president, and immediately moved into the White House, setting precedent for future successions.
BEP engraved portrait of Tyler as president.
Bureau of Engraving portrait of John Tyler. Public Domain
It didn't take long for Tyler to reveal himself to be of a different mind than Harrison on some issues, and he vetoed some of his own party's bills. Most of his cabinet resigned, he was expelled from his Whig party, and he was dubbed His Accidency

He was so unpopular that Congress forced him to pay all of his expenses out of his own funds. For two nights in August of 1841, a mob surrounded the White House with torches, burning him in effigy, to protest his veto of a bank bill. 

Therefore, when Elizabeth married, it is little surprise that Tyler invited many political figures, friend and foe, to the wedding as a show of friendship. Cabinet members and diplomats came, and there were so many guests the wedding had to be held in the East Room (previous White House weddings had been held in the smaller Blue Room).

The Rev. William Hawley of St. John’s Episcopal Church officiated, but other details about the ceremony are scarce. The largest surprise of the day was the public appearance of Letitia, the ill First lady, who was helped down stairs for the event. 
Letitia Tyler2.jpg
Portrait of Letitia Tyler, artist unknown. Public Domain.
The family surely treasured this event, for Letitia became the first First Lady to die in the White House, passing away in September of that year, apparently clutching a rose in her hands. Where mobs had crowded the White House in protest, crowds now gathered to mourn the First Lady. Her funeral was held at the White House, and she lay in state in the East Room where Lizzie and William had married months before.

Lizzie was not at all pleased when her widowed father remarried Julia Gardiner a few short months later, but she came to accept her new stepmother.

Elizabeth and William resided in Virginia after their wedding and had four or five children (depending on the source), sons sons who grew to adulthood and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War (one of whom married CSA President Jefferson Davis' sister) and a daughter who died in infancy. 

Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1850 after giving birth to son Robert. She was just 27, and now rests in the Waller Cemetery in Williamsburg, Virginia.


PictureBIO: Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of over 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, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. Her most recent novel is mail-order bride mix-up story My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight.


  1. Thank you, Suzanne for your very interesting post. It was tragic that Lizzie died so young.

    1. Hi Melanie! It is a sad story, isn't it? It's heartbreaking when women die of childbirth or a related problem.

      I hope you're having a good week. Thanks for coming by.

  2. Another white house wedding, I was not aware of. Definitely a happy occasion during the term of Tyler's Presidency with the other events that surrounded his terms. So sad when a young mother loses her life before her children are reaised. Thank you for sharing this informative post, Suzanne.

  3. Hi Marilyn! I learned something when researching this post, too. I didn't know about the Tyler White House wedding. it is so sad when a mom dies this way. I'm so thankful it doesn't happen as often these days.

    Thanks so much for coming by and saying hi. Have a good week.

  4. That was very interesting. I always find something to learn on this site! Most interesting was Congress voting to make the President use his own funds., thanks again for educating us.