Saturday, March 17, 2007

March 17, 1905:

Teddy Roosevelt Gives Away the Bride

Less than two weeks after his inauguration for a full term in his own right, President Theodore Roosevelt was in New York City on March 17, 1905, to attend a wedding. In fact, standing in for the bride’s deceased father, he did the honor of giving the bride away.

The bride was his niece, the 20-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt, daughter of his brother, Elliot. The groom was a distant cousin of his and hers, 23-year-old Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“Before the wedding the engaged couple took time off to attend Uncle Theodore’s inauguration…” wrote Joseph P. Lash in Eleanor and Franklin (1971). “During the ceremonies on March 4 they sat on the Capitol steps just behind the president and his family and heard his ringing appeal: ‘All I ask is a square deal for every man.’ They went to the White House to lunch with the president and again joined him and his immediate family on the reviewing stand for the parade and at the inaugural ball that evening. Then they hurried back to New York, Eleanor, at least, thinking that was the last inauguration of a family member that she would attend.”

Maybe Franklin had other ideas. In any case, when their wedding day came -- March 17, which also happened to be Eleanor’s mother’s birthday -- President Roosevelt arrived “top-hatted and buoyant, a shamrock in his buttonhole,” noted Lash. Like most society weddings, a lot of detail was recorded: “The bridesmaids, in taffeta, with demidevils and three silver-tipped feathers in their hair, moved with measured step down the circular stairway and up the aisle formed by satin ribbons held by the ushers. Behind them came the gravely beautiful bride on the arm of her uncle… Her satin wedding gown was covered with Grandmother Hall’s rose-point Brussels lace, which Eleanor’s mother had also worn at her marriage. The veil that covered her hair and flowed over her long court train was secured with a diamond crescent that had belonged to her mother.

“At the altar she was met by Franklin. Alice took her bouquet of lilies of the valley and the rector began the Episcopal wedding service… The vows were exchanged. Hand touched hand. It was done. ‘Well, Franklin,’ the president’s high-pitched voice could be heard saying, ‘there’s nothing like keeping the name in the family.’ ”

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