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Hamilton: when historical truth is more interesting than musical fiction

Posted on: 11/10/2016 with tags: American Revolution, author blog, Elizabeth Cobbs, Hamilton, historical fiction, historical novel, American Revolution, Georgian

Elizabeth  Cobbs, author of The Hamilton Affair reveals that, whilst the hit musical Hamilton may tell a good tale, the marital histories of the real-life Schuyler sisters were even more intriguing.

In the brilliant new musical Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler shocks viewers by admitting that her sexy brother-in-law’s fiery intellect—and tight military uniform—set her “e’vry part aflame.” But duty calls. When she and her sister Eliza meet the penniless West Indian upstart, Angelica shrewdly, if reluctantly, chooses prudence over passion. Papa has no sons. It’s on her beautiful shoulders “to marry rich” and preserve the family fortune. Meanwhile, her beloved and naïve sister, smitten with the glamorous revolutionary, is clearly “helpless.”

The scene makes for incandescent theatre, yet the true story burned hotter. Papa actually had three sons and plenty of money. The wealthy Philip Schuyler married heiress Kitty Van Rensselaer and they enjoyed 100,000 plush acres in the Hudson River Valley. General Schuyler commanded the northern front of the revolution. His enchanting eldest daughter had her pick of gallants swarming the family mansion.

Yet these proper parents were unable to tame their impetuous child. Angelica met mysterious John Church in 1776, four years before Alexander and Eliza locked hands at their first dance in the rebels’ winter encampment. A whiff of danger and impropriety trailed the cosmopolitan Englishman who supplied the revolutionaries. He sometimes called himself Carter, other times Church. Angelica admired John’s roguish sophistication. He was an emissary from the mesmerizing world across the Atlantic, leagues from dull old Albany.

They fell in love. Knowing her parents would object, Angelica and John traded secret notes, a scandal in an era when an unmarried woman’s virtue was her most prized possession and suitors begged permission to court. Locked in a life-and-death struggle to turn back the British army barreling down from Canada, General Schuyler missed the warning signs. Managing seven children and the family’s extensive plantations, his wife Kitty was blind, too.

Naughty Angelica slipped out of the house under cover of dark. She eloped with a man who broke every rule and proved the love of her life. Philip and Kitty may not have been entirely surprised by their daughter’s unquenchable ardor. They had welcomed Angelica only five months into their own marriage.

Angelica Church met Alexander Hamilton after the young lieutenant colonel began wooing Eliza. Angelica was pregnant with her second child and accompanied by her now affluent, respectable husband.

It’s true that Angelica and Alexander admired one another vastly and flirted outrageously. The late eighteenth century was less prudish than the Victorian era that followed. A witty bon vivant, Hamilton crossed swords with numerous bold-tongued ladies, including his three sisters-in-law. When apologizing to a friend’s wife for his delay in sending some information she had requested, he saucily pledged himself “bound by all the laws of chivalry to make the most ample reparation in any mode you shall prescribe. You will of course recollect that I am a married man!”

As it turned out, Alexander was the one who forgot he was married—and with someone very different from loyal Angelica. That’s what makes for a real story.
, Angelica Schuyler shocks viewers by admitting that her sexy brother-in-law’s fiery intellect—and tight military uniform—set her “e’vry part aflame.” But duty calls. When she and her sister Eliza meet the penniless West Indian upstart, Angelica shrewdly, if reluctantly, chooses prudence over passion. Papa has no sons. It’s on her beautiful shoulders “to marry rich” and preserve the family fortune. Meanwhile, her beloved and naïve sister, smitten with the glamorous revolutionary, is clearly “helpless.”

The scene makes for incandescent theatre, yet the true story burned hotter. Papa actually had three sons and plenty of money. The wealthy Philip Schuyler married heiress Kitty Van Rensselaer and they enjoyed 100,000 plush acres in the Hudson River Valley. General Schuyler commanded the northern front of the revolution. His enchanting eldest daughter had her pick of gallants swarming the family mansion.

Yet these proper parents were unable to tame their impetuous child. Angelica met mysterious John Church in 1776, four years before Alexander and Eliza locked hands at their first dance in the rebels’ winter encampment. A whiff of danger and impropriety trailed the cosmopolitan Englishman who supplied the revolutionaries. He sometimes called himself Carter, other times Church. Angelica admired John’s roguish sophistication. He was an emissary from the mesmerizing world across the Atlantic, leagues from dull old Albany.

They fell in love. Knowing her parents would object, Angelica and John traded secret notes, a scandal in an era when an unmarried woman’s virtue was her most prized possession and suitors begged permission to court. Locked in a life-and-death struggle to turn back the British army barreling down from Canada, General Schuyler missed the warning signs. Managing seven children and the family’s extensive plantations, his wife Kitty was blind, too.

Naughty Angelica slipped out of the house under cover of dark. She eloped with a man who broke every rule and proved the love of her life. Philip and Kitty may not have been entirely surprised by their daughter’s unquenchable ardor. They had welcomed Angelica only five months into their own marriage.

Angelica Church met Alexander Hamilton after the young lieutenant colonel began wooing Eliza. Angelica was pregnant with her second child and accompanied by her now affluent, respectable husband.

It’s true that Angelica and Alexander admired one another vastly and flirted outrageously. The late eighteenth century was less prudish than the Victorian era that followed. A witty bon vivant, Hamilton crossed swords with numerous bold-tongued ladies, including his three sisters-in-law. When apologizing to a friend’s wife for his delay in sending some information she had requested, he saucily pledged himself “bound by all the laws of chivalry to make the most ample reparation in any mode you shall prescribe. You will of course recollect that I am a married man!”

As it turned out, Alexander was the one who forgot he was married—and with someone very different from loyal Angelica. That’s what makes for a real story.

 

The Hamilton Affair

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs is out now in trade paperback and ebook.

Alice Morley

Post author: Alice Morley

Alice Morley represents Hodder & Stoughton in team H for History and is a self-confessed history nerd, and can usually be found at the weekend dragging her reluctant children round some castle or other. Favourite period of history: has to be the Tudors, although the French Revolution is also an area on which it’s not possible to have read enough Favourite historical read: Antonia Fraser’s historical biographies are the reason I fell in love with history. And also Citizens by Simon Schama (see above).

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