The president's daughter and the Speaker of the House
The next day, the wedding of Alice Lee Roosevelt and Nicholas Longworth dominated the entire front page of The Washington Post. Not a single other news item appeared on page one. And their names continued to be celebrated for years. Sightseeing stages and then buses brought tourists by their house. They were so frequently entertained that a local cleaner boasted in advertisements that he had cleaned “fifteen hundred pairs of Alice Roosevelt’s gloves.” When they traveled the world royalty fell all over themselves to be seen in their company. At one point Alice remarked that if she saw one more King she would have him stuffed.
Nick Longworth, his career boosted by his wife’s popularity, went on to election as the Speaker of the House. But the great wedding day with all its promise was mocked by events. Nick was a drinker and a philanderer. Alice could not bring herself to seek a divorce. After giving up the White House, her father was making a concerted effort to get back in, and she loved him too much to hurt his chances. But her granddaughter later described the Longworth’s as “not married in any real sense.”
Almost all White House weddings have an interwoven link with the weddings that have gone on before them. On that sunny February 17, 1906, as Alice Roosevelt knelt at an improvised altar with Nick Longworth, watching back in the throng was Ellen “Nellie” Wrenshall Grant. At fifty, she was still a striking figure, looking elegant in gray chiffon velvet, a lace toque and gray furs. A wiser woman now than the eighteen-year-old bride she had been on her own wedding day, she was likely reliving that experience and comparing notes on how her expectations had compared to the reality of a painful marriage to Algernon Sartoris. It is likely that Nellie offered her best wishes to the couple, hoping that Alice Roosevelt would fare better. But history never tires of repeating itself. And we too often pay no attention. Thus, yet another great White House wedding would result in another disappointing marriage.
Nick would die twenty-five years later. The legend spread that Alice burned his Stradivarius. She would live on to the age of ninety-six, never marrying again, dying in 1980, only a few days after the anniversary of her famous wedding day.