Mean Girl

Alice Roosevelt

I've been reading a book, Franklin and Lucy, about Franklin Roosevelt's many relationships with women including one of my grandmother's cousins Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd. In the course of the book, multiple family members keep popping up. Even the Roosevelts (Oyster Bay branch) were distant cousins. If my grandmother were still alive, I'd love to know if everyone knew they were related with all the complex interactions and connections. It's a tangled web, that points to a world with fifty people total.

Alice Roosevelt, Eleanor's cousin, and Teddy Roosevelt's daughter is one of the characters. She was married to Nicholas Longworth, another cousin. Between Longworth and Alice, I've discovered some wonderful quotes. I wish I were this quick on my feet. When insulted I tend to simply stammer and say, "uh, no." So enclosed today are some of these quotes that you may use whenever you need. And you can needlepoint a pillow, like everyone on the Upper East Side with Alice's most famous quote, “If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.” 

One day, while lounging in a chair at the Capitol, another member of the House ran his hand over Nicholas Longworth's bald head and commented, "Nice and smooth. Feels just like my wife's bottom." Longworth felt his own head and returned an answer: "Yes, so it does.

When asked about his wild daughter, Alice, Teddy Roosevelt said, "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."

Alice Roosevelt Quotes:

“I have a simple philosophy: Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. Scratch where it itches.” 

“The secret to eternal youth is arrested development” 

 On a Washington senator was discovered to have been having an affair with a young woman less than half his age: "You can't make a soufflé rise twice."

On President Calvin Coolidge: "He looks as if he were weaned on a pickle"

On President William Taft : "He has so much brain and so little beauty."

On President Herbert Hoover: "The Hoover Vacuum Cleaner is more exciting than the president. But, of course, it's electric."

 On President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was "One-third sap and two-thirds Eleanor."

On President Teddy Roosevelt: “My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding, and the baby at every christening”

When President Lyndon B. Johnson proudly showed off an abdominal surgery scar Alice commented dryly, "Thank God it wasn't his prostate."

When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, Alice asked, "Hasn't anyone ever warned Jacqueline Kennedy about Greeks bearing gifts?"

The late Senator Joseph McCarthy once took the liberty of calling her by her first name. In response she looked at him icily and declared, "The policeman and the trash man may call me Alice; you.can.not."

Asked by a Ku Klux Klansman in full regalia to take his word for something, she refused, saying, "I never trust a man under sheets."

Oh baby, when I look in your eyes I go crazy

Amelie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy

One of the benefits of having a family obsessed with old family stories is, just that, many old family stories. My grandmother is from an ancient Virginia family and she often referred to cousins, aunts, and great-great grandparents in polite and obscure language. “Well,” she would say, in a very slow Virginia drawl, “she was a true beauty, and quite eccentric.” And that would be that. As I’ve looked deeper into some of these relatives, the truth is far more interesting.

For example, my grandmother’s cousin Amelie Rives' godfather was General Robert E. Lee and granddaughter of Senator William Cabell Rives. She was born at the end of the civil war and lived at Castle Hill, built by one of my distant grandfathers Dr. Thomas Walker, near Charlottesville. In 1888, she married John Armstrong “Archie” Chanler, grandson of John Jacob Astor. The marriage was a disaster with details including morphine addiction in France, affairs, and eventual madness. The Astor family claimed that Amelie drove Archie mad, my family claimed that he was already mad. Donna M. Lucey’s biography, Archie and Amelie, Love and Madness in the Gilded Age retells the story, albeit in a salacious way.

In the end, Archie descended into madness, including delusions that he could put himself into a sort of trance in which his face would somehow morph into the death mask of Napoleon. In the meantime, Amelie became the toast of European society, divorced Archie, and married Russian Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy, "an artist and an aristocrat," who possessed more glamour and panache than money. The two settled at the family home, Castle Hill and were together for the rest of their lives. The scandals continued, when Amelie began writing novels and plays including the shocking The Quick and the Dead?, an erotic story. However, as my grandmother said, “Why, she was such a fine beauty.”

Castle Hill, near Charlottesville, Virginia

Amelie Rives Troubetzkoy

Amelie Rives 1890

John Armstrong "Archie" Chanler

John Armstrong "Archie" Chanler as Napoleon's death mask, and riding

Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy

Amelie Rives Troubetzkoy by Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy c. 1890