Monroe, Elizabeth, 1768-1830

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<p>Elizabeth Jane Monroe (née Kortright; June 30, 1768 – September 23, 1830) was the First Lady of the United States from 1817 to 1825, as the wife of James Monroe, President of the United States. Due to the fragile condition of Elizabeth's health, many of the duties of official White House hostess were assumed by her eldest daughter, Eliza Monroe Hay.</p>

<p>Born in New York City on June 30, 1768, Elizabeth was the youngest daughter[1] of Lawrence Kortright, a wealthy merchant, and Hannah (née Aspinwall) Kortright.[2] Elizabeth Monroe's paternal 2nd great grandfather, Cornelius Jansen Kortright, was born in Holland, Netherlands in the year of 1645, and immigrated to New York in the year of 1663. His father, Jan Bastiaenson Van Kortrijk, was also born in Holland, Netherlands in the year of 1618 and immigrated with his son to New York. Jan Bastiaenson's father, Bastiaen Van Kortrijk, was born in the city of Kortrijk in Flanders, Belgium in the year of 1586, and immigrated to Holland, Netherlands in the year of 1615. Elizabeth's father was one of the founders of the New York Chamber of Commerce. During the Revolutionary War, he was part owner of several privateers fitted out at New York, and it has also been documented that he owned at least four slaves.[3] He purchased land tracts in what is now Delaware County, New York, and from the sale of this land the town of Kortright, New York, was formed.

<p>Elizabeth acquired social graces and elegance at an early age. She grew up in a household with four older siblings: Sarah, Hester, John and Mary. According to the parish records of Trinity Church, New York, Elizabeth's mother, Hannah, died on September 6 or 7, 1777, at the age of 39. The cause of death was recorded as resulting from Child Bed. An unidentified sibling of Elizabeth, age 13 months, succumbed to flux and fever a few days later. Mother and infant were both buried at St. George's Chapel in New York. At the time of their deaths, Elizabeth was nine years old. Her father never remarried.</p>

<p>On August 3, 1778, almost a year after the death of Elizabeth's mother, the home of the Lawrence Kortright family was nearly destroyed by fire during a blaze which caused damage and destruction to fifty homes near Cruger's Wharf in lower Manhattan. A historian later wrote that this blaze was due to the mismanagement of British troops while directing the firefighters. Elizabeth, age 10, with her father and siblings, survived the fire unscathed.</p>


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<p>Romance glints from the little that is known about Elizabeth Kortright’s early life. She was born in New York City in 1768, daughter of an old New York family. Her father, Lawrence, had served the Crown by privateering during the French and Indian War and made a fortune. He took no active part in the War of Independence; and James Monroe wrote to his friend Thomas Jefferson in Paris in 1786 that he had married the daughter of a gentleman, “injured in his fortunes” by the Revolution.</p>

<p>Strange choice, perhaps, for a patriot veteran with political ambitions and little money of his own; but Elizabeth was beautiful, and love was decisive. They were married in February 1786, when the bride was not yet 18.</p>

<p>The young couple planned to live in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Monroe began his practice of law. His political career, however, kept them on the move as the family increased by two daughters and a son who died in infancy.</p>

<p>In 1794, Elizabeth Monroe accompanied her husband to France when President Washington appointed him United States Minister. Arriving in Paris in the midst of the French Revolution, she took a dramatic part in saving Lafayette’s wife, imprisoned and expecting death on the guillotine. With only her servants in her carriage, the American Minister’s wife went to the prison and asked to see Madame Lafayette. Soon after this hint of American interest, the prisoner was set free. The Monroes became very popular in France, where the diplomat’s lady received the affectionate name of la belle Americaine.</p>

<p>For 17 years Monroe, his wife at his side, alternated between foreign missions and service as governor or legislator of Virginia. They made the plantation of Oak Hill their home after he inherited it from an uncle, and appeared on the Washington scene in 1811 when he became Madison’s Secretary of State.</p>

<p>Elizabeth Monroe was an accomplished hostess when her husband took the Presidential oath in 1817. Through much of the administration, however, she was in poor health and curtailed her activities. Wives of the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries took it amiss when she decided to pay no calls–an arduous social duty in a city of widely scattered dwellings and unpaved streets.</p>

<p>Moreover, she and her daughter Eliza changed White House customs to create the formal atmosphere of European courts. Even the White House wedding of her daughter Maria was private, in “the New York style” rather than the expansive Virginia social style made popular by Dolley Madison. A guest at the Monroes’ last levee, on New Year’s Day in 1825, described the First Lady as “regal-looking” and noted details of interest: “Her dress was superb black velvet; neck and arms bare and beautifully formed; her hair in puffs and dressed high on the head and ornamented with white ostrich plumes; around her neck an elegant pearl necklace. Though no longer young, she is still a very handsome woman.”</p>

<p>In retirement at Oak Hill, Elizabeth Monroe died on September 23, 1830; and family tradition says that her husband burned the letters of their life together.</p>


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Name Entry: Monroe, Elizabeth, 1768-1830

Found Data: [ { "contributor": "WorldCat", "form": "authorizedForm" }, { "contributor": "LC", "form": "authorizedForm" } ]
Note: Contributors from initial SNAC EAC-CPF ingest

Name Entry: Monroe, Elizabeth Kortright, 1768-1830

Found Data: [ { "contributor": "VIAF", "form": "alternativeForm" } ]
Note: Contributors from initial SNAC EAC-CPF ingest