American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague--Civil War

American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague--Civil War ""Belle of the North"" and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal

by John Oller


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Had People magazine been around during the Civil War and after, Kate Chase would have made its “Most Beautiful” and “Most Intriguing” lists every year. The charismatic daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's treasury secretary, Kate Chase enjoyed unprecedented political power for a woman. As her widowed father's hostess, she set up a rival “court” against Mary Lincoln in hopes of making her father president and herself his First Lady. To facilitate that goal, she married one of the richest men in the country, the handsome “boy governor” of Rhode Island, in the social event of the Civil War. She moved easily between the worlds of high fashion, adorning herself in the most regal Parisian gowns, and politics, managing her father's presidential campaigns. "No Queen has ever reigned under the Stars and Stripes," one newspaper would write, "but this remarkable woman came closer to being a Queen than any American woman has."

But when William Sprague turned out to be less of a prince as a husband, Kate found comfort in the arms of a powerful married senator. The ensuing sex scandal ended her virtual royalty; after the marriage crumbled and the money disappeared, she was left only with her children and her ever-proud bearing. She became a social outcast and died in poverty, yet in her final years she would find both greater authenticity and the inner peace that had always eluded her.

Kate Chase's dramatic story is one of ambition and tragedy, set against the seductive allure of the Civil War and Gilded Age, involving some of the most famous personalities in American history. In this beautifully written and meticulously researched biography, drawing on much unpublished material, John Oller captures the extraordinary life of a woman who was a century ahead of her time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780306822803
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 10/28/2014
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

John Oller, a lawyer and journalist, is the author of the critically acclaimed biographies of actress Jean Arthur and Kate Chase Sprague, Mary Todd Lincoln's great rival. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Woman in the Arena ix

Part 1 Miss Chase

1 "Qualified to Ornament Any Society" 3

2 "I Shall Strive to Be First Wherever I May Be" 12

3 "How Short Then Is This Life!" 20

4 The Belle of Columbus 28

5 The Belle of Washington 39

6 The Boy Governor 45

7 Mrs. Lincoln's Rival 60

8 Wedding of the Decade 74

Part 2 Mrs. Sprague

9 "Imagine My Disappointment" 87

10 "Our Accomplished Countrywoman" 96

11 "More Unfitness Day by Day" 101

12 "I Am Told That She Actually Controls the Entire Affair" 108

13 "You Have Been Most Cruelly Deceived" 120

14 "I Almost Hate This Man" 128

15 "She's Capable of Hitting Him" 134

16 Some Dared Call It Treason 142

17 End of an Era 148

18 End of an Empire 156

19 "Intended by Their Creator for Each Other" 163

20 "Mrs. Conkling Is Not Here This Winter" 172

21 "The Now Notorious Outbreak" 182

22 "The Bird Has Flown" 201

Part 3 Kate Chase Again

23 "A Dinner with the Queen" 211

24 "As Much Alone as Cleopatra" 216

25 Gilded Age Woman 228

26 Stalwart Woman 235

27 An Unmarried Woman 239

28 An Independent Woman 243

29 "What We Have Is Good" 252

30 "None Outshone Her" 260

Epilogue 267

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 275

Selected Bibliography 355

Index 365

Photographs following page 184

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