George & Martha Washington: A Revolutionary Marriage

Published on 1st November 2015

George and Martha Washington, of Mount Vernon, Virginia, were America’s original first couple. From the 1750s, when young soldier George wooed and wedded Martha Dandridge Custis, a pretty and rich young widow, to the forging of a new nation, Flora Fraser traces the development, both personal and political, of an historic marriage.

The private sphere – their love of home and country, the two children Martha brings to this union from a previous marriage, and the confidence she instilled in her beloved second spouse – forms the backdrop to an increasingly public partnership. The leading role played by Virginia in the resistance to British taxation galvanised the pair, radicalising their politics, and in 1775 George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the American ‘rebels’.

In the eight harsh years of the American War of Independence which followed, Martha’s staunch support for her husband never wavered. But the eventual victory at Yorktown in 1781 and Washington’s retirement which followed were overshadowed by the death of her son, Jacky.

Interweaving the progress and reversals of war – the siege of icebound Boston, the loss of New York and the crossing of the Delaware – with George and Martha’s private joys and sorrows, this is a mesmerizing rendering of two formidable characters.

Flora Fraser’s revealing account is the first scholarly portrait of a union which owed its strength in equal measure to both parties. in a narrative enhanced by a close reading of personal, military and presidential papers, Fraser brings George and Martha Washington to life afresh: he, a man who aspired to greatness; and she, a woman who, when tested, proved an ideal spouse to commander and president alike.

GEORGE & MARTHA WASHINGTON: A REVOLUTIONARY MARRIAGE was published by Bloomsbury in November 2015.

“Flora Fraser has provided an insightful portrait in elegant prose with a dash of wit. The book is based on a mastery of the original sources and brings to life, with much imagination, a wonderful marriage in a period of revolution and war. It is written with a light touch, but is a serious account in every respect. This is a book worthy of its subject”
Robert Middlekauf, author of The Glorious Cause ,

“A portrait of marriage rather than a conventional biography … vivid and detailed … carefully researched and clearly argued”

“An intimate portrait of America’s original power couple … Impeccably researched and entertaining”
The Lady

George and Martha tells the story of a couple, a family and country with sympathy and huge skill; it is also beautifully illustrated, Fraser is a respectful biographer, scholarly, unshowy and unsensational. She does not attempt to fill the archival gaps with speculation, is explicit about the things that remain unknowable. Fraser’s telling restores Martha Washington to the historical narrative, both as Mother of the Nation and a woman in her own right. Her complex portrait of Washington, meanwhile, frees him from the cult of hero-worship****”
Sunday Telegraph

“Elegant … Fraser mines the sources available to her to reveal the depth of her subjects’ attachment to one another”
Literary Review

“Scrupulously researched … Fraser paints a wonderfully detailed picture of American family life at the end of the pioneering colonial period … Fraser makes a strong case for Martha as the good woman behind the Great Man of the American Revolution ****”
Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday