Julia Gardiner Tyler


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Julia Gardiner Tyler

by Michael Gabriele


Julia Gardiner Tyler was the second wife of the tenth President of the United States, John Tyler.  Julia was born on May 4th, 1820, on Long Island, New York, to parents who were both from privileged New York families. She went to an elite school for daughters of wealthy, established New York families, completing a formal education. She returned home after she had finished her education. Julia was thought of as very beautiful and was sometimes called the “rose of Long Island.”

In 1842, the Gardiners visited Washington D.C. for the social season.  Wealthy families often made annual pilgrimages to Washington D.C. to socialize with the political elite. Julia and her parents were invited to the White House by President John Tyler during their stay and became close with him. The following year, when the Gardiner’s returned to Washington, Julia’s father was killed when a naval gun exploded during their tour of a naval steam frigate.  Julia was devastated, but was comforted by the President, whose wife had died five months prior to Mr. Gardiner’s accident from complications of a stroke.  Their shared pain allowed them to grow close and Tyler proposed to Julia on February 22nd, 1843, at a masquerade in the White House.  She had rejected previous marriage proposals from Tyler in the past.

The engagement and wedding were kept a secret, and the couple married on June 26th, 1844, in New York. They appeared in public together and released the news to the public soon after. Julia became the second youngest First Lady.  She was thirty years younger than her husband.  Nevertheless, Julia took her role as the First Lady very seriously and made efforts to cultivate her public image. She befriended journalists, promoted herself, and ensured White House events were opulent.  After eight months of serving as the First Lady, Julia moved out of the White House with her husband at the end of his term and went back to Virginia with him. John died in 1862, after joining the Confederate Congress before the Civil War. Julia continued to support the Confederates until the end of the war, which resulted in strained relations with her family in New York.  She died in 1889 at the age sixty-nine in a home she leased in Richmond, Virginia.