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U.S. President Warren G. Harding Personal Life

About the U.S. President Warren G. Harding, personal life and marriage, history and biography.

FULL PORTRAITS OF SELECTED PRESIDENTS

29th President

WARREN GAMALIEL HARDING

Personal Life: At the age of 25, Harding married Florence Kling DeWolfe, a divorcee and the daughter of the town's richest banker. Five years older than Harding, Florence was an unattractive woman with a plain, puffy face and a domineering temperament, who was known to Harding and his friends as "the Duchess." No one has ever been able to explain satisfactorily why Harding married the Duchess, especially since her father, who disapproved of the union, promised to cut the couple off without a cent. The Hardings never had children, and whatever the feeling between them, it did not appear to be love. In the White House, servants were scandalized by the bitter quarrels between the President and his wife. Nevertheless, the Duchess was certainly the driving force behind Harding's career; she continually urged him upward and onward and took personal charge of the circulation department of his newspaper.

In 1905, while the Duchess was briefly hospitalized in Columbus, Harding began a passionate affair with Carrie Phillips, the handsome wife of one of his good friends. This romance--which is documented by some 250 love letters in Harding's handwriting--continued over a period of 15 years but remained a well-concealed secret. The two couples saw each other constantly and even traveled abroad together. As Harding advanced in the political arena, his mistress began to demand that he secure a divorce, and this insistence forced him to terminate the relationship. When his affair with Carrie began to wane, he found a new object for his affections, a pretty 20-year-old blonde named Nan Britton. He had met her seven years before through her father, who occasionally contributed articles to the Marion Star. She became hopelessly infatuated with the handsome publisher-politician and pasted his campaign pictures all over the walls of her room. Their affair did not begin, however, until 1916, when Nan moved to New York and wrote to Senator Harding asking for his help in locating a job. Harding agreed to meet with his young constituent during his next visit to New York. Although he was unable to offer her a job, he tucked $30 into her brand-new silk stocking after they had spent several hours together in her room in the Hotel Manhattan. Harding continued to support Nan generously as their affair flourished. In 1919 they conceived a child on a couch in Harding's Senate office, and the girl was named Elizabeth Ann Christian. As president, Harding used the Secret Service to send messages to his mistress, and they met as often as possible. Their favorite hideaway was a small clothes closet adjoining the President's office. Mrs. Harding probably knew of the affair, but for political reasons she did little to interfere. Though gossip in Washington was widespread, the first public hint of Harding's extramarital adventures came four years after his death, when Nan Britton wrote her best-selling autobiography. Until recently, Nan Britton was said to be still alive in Chicago.

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