The Lost Lucy Letter

Roosevelt and Churchill first met, very briefly, in the summer of 1918. FDR was assistant secretary of the Navy, on a tour of England and the European front; Churchill was minister of munitions. On Roosevelt's return, his wife, Eleanor, discovered letters between her husband and her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. FDR and Lucy were in love. Facing the defining crisis of his marriage, Franklin chose Eleanor (and his career), and Lucy went on to marry the wealthy Winthrop Rutherfurd.

Historians have long known Lucy was in occasional touch with the president and returned to FDR's circle late in the war; she was with him when he died. But a hitherto unpublished letter of Lucy's to the president--found in FDR's daughter's papers at Hyde Park--now reveals much closer ties between the two than has been previously understood. Apparently written in 1941, the note is practical, emotional, chatty, and sad. Lucy jokes about catching a cold when he has one because they talk on the telephone and suggests businessmen who might help with the war effort. Mostly, the note is an epistolary effort to reassure the harried FDR, whom she calls "poor darling."

In a dreamy postscript, Lucy talks of things as she would like them to be--and, possibly, how she would have liked them to have been if affairs of the heart had turned out differently. "If only it will be a friendly world--a small house would be a joy--and one could grow vegetables as well as flowers--or instead of--oh dear--there is so much I should like to know--how much hope you have--..." Roosevelt had chosen duty over her, and she respected his decision. "I know one should be proud--very very proud of your Greatness--instead of wishing for the soft life--of joy--and... the world shut out," Lucy writes. "One is proud--and thankful for what you have given to the world... the fate of all that is good is in your dear blessed & Capable hands."