Hamil-Fam: Angelica Schuyler’s Elopement

Angelica Schuyler’s marriage to Englishman John Barker Church jolted Albany society, and angered her father, who had disapproved of the match.  Angelica and John, who was traveling under the assumed name of John Carter to avoid trouble after a duel, met and began a secret romance without consulting her father, General Philip Schuyler.  They then  eloped at the home of the young Patroon Stephen Van Rensselaer III (who would later secretly elope with Angelica and Eliza’s sister Peggy!!)

General Schuyler wrote to his friend William Duer (who had provided Church/Carter with a letter of introduction to the General) of his disapproval of the match and his gradual forgiveness of the couple:

“Carter and my eldest daughter ran off and married on the 23rd July.  Unacquainted with his family, his connections and situation in life, the match was exceedingly disagreeable to me, and I had signified it to him.  But as there is no undoing this gordian knot, I took what I hope you will think the prudent part: I frowned, I made them humble themselves, forgave, and called them home.”

After this awkward family reunion, the couple was welcomed back into the Schuyler home, and Church stopped using his fake identity.

Catherine Schuyler’s biographer, Mary Gay Humphreys stated:

“The mystery concerning Carter proved to be alarming only in the fact that it was a mystery.  He had left England on account of a duel, assuming the name of Carter for that of John Barker Church, which he subsequently resumed.  At the time he was Commissary for Rochambeau, and was afterwards associated with General Wadsworth in the same department.  In this capacity he had the opportunity of amassing a large fortune, and the wayward couple became prominent in the social life of New York, London, and Paris.”

 

Mrs John Barker Church Son Philip and Servant John Trumbull.jpeg
John Trumbull painting of Angelica and her son from Wikipedia

In Historic Houses of New Jersey, Weymer Jay Mills provides some romantic color to the story and writes:

“There was another Revolutionary love-affair in General Schuyler’s family which history has scarcely noted,- overshadowed as it is by that of Hamilton and his Betsey- and that is the elopement of Angelica, his eldest daughter with John Barker Church, a gentleman of fortune masquerading in America under the nom de guerre of Carter.  The vivacious and clever Angelica, who far outshone the more retiring Elizabeth, met him at a Philadelphia assembly at the beginning of the war.  Possessed of dashing manners and almost godlike beauty, it is small wonder that he attracted the attention of the maiden.  From his mother, Elizabeth Barker, celebrated at the court of George III for her loveliness, he inherited the languishing blue eyes and finely-chiseled features which Reynolds and Cosway have immortalized.  Although but a few years past his school days, he was already the hero of many adventures and a breaker of hearts.  To escape a marriage with a wealthy kinswoman, whose Lowestoft estates joined his own, and the consequences of a duel, he fled from London without baggage or credentials; and it was under this assumed name that he wooed and won the most brilliant daughter of one of New York’s first families.  General Schuyler at first did not approve of the marriage, but through the influence of the Patroon Van Rensselaer, who encouraged and sheltered the young couple at his manor, he gradually relented, and finally received them with open arms at the Albany homestead.

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