The Sad Truth About Franklin And Eleanor’s Marriage

Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, not long after his election to an unprecedented fourth term as president. His health had declined throughout World War II. By the time of his final campaign in 1944, many noted his gaunt appearance and declining faculties, according to UVA’s Miller Center. After his reelection and the Yalta Conference the following February, Franklin retreated to a favorite residence in Warm Springs, Georgia, for rest. Eleanor Roosevelt was not with him on the trip. She remained in the White House, and it was there she received the sad word of her husband’s passing.

There was more heartbreak waiting for Eleanor when she arrived in Warm Springs. As told by Joseph P. Lash in “Eleanor and Roosevelt,” after she had seen her husband’s body, the first lady was told that her former secretary, Lucy Mercer, now Lucy Rutherfurd, had been with Franklin when he died. Contrary to his promises never to see Rutherfurd again after their 1918 affair, Franklin maintained a friendship with his former mistress, going so far as to invite her to White House dinners. Anna Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor’s only daughter, played hostess at these dinners, and other members of the Roosevelt and Delano families were aware of the clandestine rendezvous. Lash speculates that this last betrayal contributed to Eleanor’s feeling that Franklin’s death was more an abstract grief at the loss of a symbol than a personal sorrow for her.

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