Closest Companion

Closest Companion

The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley

Book - 1995
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Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's marriage was famously difficult, and it is widely known that FDR enjoyed the company of women. But this remarkable book reveals a secret that has been carefully guarded for more than half a century: Roosevelt's closest companion during the last years of his life was his sixth cousin Margaret "Daisy" Suckley. FDR became friendly with Daisy in the 1920s and invited her to his first inauguration in 1933. The friendship deepened; then, on a September afternoon in 1935, their feelings for each other intensified dramatically. From that day until FDR's death in 1945, Daisy and the president were intimate companions. But the secret of this passionate relationship remained hidden until after Daisy's death in 1991, when her family found a battered suitcase under her bed. Stuffed inside were years of diaries and letters, including thirty-eight letters in FDR's own hand that no one had ever seen. Now Geoffrey Ward, the eminent historian and biographer, has woven th
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
ISBN: 9780395660805
Branch Call Number: 973.917 CLO
Characteristics: xx, 444 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Apr 30, 2013

When I saw the film Hyde Park on Hudson, I had never heard of Margaret Suckley, but I know something of FDR and his era, so I found myself questioning what I was seeing. Of course, so-called historical films have limited time and a need for dramatic tension, so the facts are going to be altered. I noted that this was based on a play which was based on a book. I went home and placed a hold on the only copy in the library. It took three months for my turn to come up. At first, I thought the wait had been a waste of time. Geoffrey C. Ward is not the author of this book, but the editor and annotator of the collected letters and diaries of Margaret Suckley, whom he had met while researching his own books on FDR. My disappointment gradually abated as I read further. Margaret (aka "Daisy") was articulate, idealistic, and absolutely in love with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, her distant (sixth) cousin. (His wife Eleanor Roosevelt was her fourth cousin.) Daisy was a product of her time and class. Although her family had lost much of their wealth during the twenties and thirties, her viewpoint was one of privilege and her attitudes towards people of colour, although liberal then, would get her into a lot of trouble today. She does come across as sweetly naive, and there is not a word against FDR whom she worshiped. This very lack of criticism and her willingness to stay in the background no doubt kept her in the very inner ring of FDR's circle long after the intensity of their friendship slackened. Did this relationship ever involve a Bill-Clinton-ish encounter as the movie suggests? After reading Daisy's letters and diaries (FDR's letters to her are included), I doubt it. Both FDR and Eleanor had intense and romantic friendships, and some of them may have involved physical intimacy. However, Daisy's starry-eyed adoration over many years doesn't seem to fit in with that. We need to remember that it was a very different time. For those interested in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this book is indispensable, and Ward's annotations are even-handed and unobtrusive.

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