The Rise and Fall of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

By Robert Underhill | Go to book overview
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“Veneer: an outward show that enhances but
misrepresents what lies beneath.”

—American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language


During this period of turmoil, President Roosevelt sought escape in fiddling with his stamp collections, taking supper in bed, perhaps reading a detective story, or spending a weekend at Hyde Park where he would have tea with his spinster cousins. He enjoyed gossip, small talk of gardens and weather, pets, and relatives.

He was fifty years old when he began his first term in the White House. He had been married for twenty-eight years then, but he and Eleanor were no longer living together as man and wife. They had agreed to change their marriage into a political alliance, and each was following a different living pattern; their marriage was a veneer presented to the public. The arrangement was carefully guarded and unknown to most people until after FDR’s death in 1945.1

Causes for the estrangement can be traced back to World War I when Franklin was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In the winter of 1914, his wife Eleanor, pregnant with Franklin Jr., decided to employ someone to come in to help her three mornings a week. Upon a recommendation from Auntie Bye, she hired Lucy Page Mercer.

Twenty-two-year old Lucy Mercer seemed an excellent choice. She was pretty, had a ready smile, was lively, and charming to all who met


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