Angelica Schuyler Church

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Angelica Schuyler Church
Mrs John Barker Church Son Philip and Servant John Trumbull.jpeg
Angelica Schuyler Church with her son Philip c. 1785
Born Angelica Schuyler
(1756-02-20)February 20, 1756
Albany, Province of New York
Died March 13, 1814(1814-03-13) (aged 58)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Trinity Church Cemetery
Spouse(s) John Barker Church (m. 1777)
Children Philip Schuyler Church
Catharine "Kitty" Church
John Barker Church, II
Elizabeth Matilda Church
Richard Hamilton Church
Alexander Church
Richard Stephen Church
Angelica Church
Parent(s) Philip Schuyler
Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler
Relatives Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (sister)
Peggy Schuyler Van Rensselaer (sister)
Philip Jeremiah Schuyler (brother)
Alexander Hamilton (brother-in-law)
Stephen Van Rensselaer III (brother-in-law)
Family Schuyler

Angelica Church (née Schuyler /ˈsklər/; February 20, 1756 – March 13, 1814[1]) was the eldest daughter of Continental Army General Philip Schuyler, wife of British MP John Barker Church, sister of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton), Margarita "Peggy" Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Philip Jeremiah Schuyler.

She was a prominent member of the social elite wherever she lived; first in New York, then in Paris, London, and New York again. The village and the town named "Angelica", both located in New York State, were named after her. Some of her personal correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette is preserved in the Library of Congress.

Early life[edit]

Angelica Schuyler was born in Albany, New York; the eldest child of Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. Both parents came from wealthy Dutch families prominent since early colonial days. Catherine was a descendant of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the founders of New Netherlands, the Schuylers were also fourth-generation residents. She had seven siblings who lived to adulthood, including Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Margarita "Peggy" Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Philip Jeremiah Schuyler.

Angelica came of age during the troubled times leading up to the American Revolution, and met many of the prominent revolutionary leaders, because of her father's rank and political stature, the Schuyler house in Albany was the scene of many meetings and war councils. One of the visitors, in 1776, was John Barker Church, a British-born merchant who made a fortune during the war supplying the American and French armies, at the time of their meeting and subsequent courtship, Church was on a mission from the Continental Congress to audit army supply records. Knowing that her father would not bless their marriage because of his suspicions about Church's past, Angelica and John eloped in 1777; in 1783, she and her family left for Europe, not to return to New York until 1797.

Angelica and John had eight children together, they were:

  • Philip Schuyler Church (1778–1861),[2] who served as aide de camp to Alexander Hamilton when he was named Major General of the new United States Army in 1798-1800 during the Quasi-War with France.[3] He married Anna Mathilda Stewart (1786–1865), daughter of General Walter Stewart and was a founder of the Erie Canal and Erie Railroad[4]
  • Catharine "Kitty" Church (1779–1839), who married Bertram Peter Cruger (1774–1854)[5]
  • John Barker Church, II (1781–1865)
  • Elizabeth Matilda Church (1783–1867), who married Rudolph Bunner (1779–1837)
  • Richard Hamilton Church (1785–1786), died young
  • Alexander Church (1792–1803), died young
  • Richard Stephen Church (1798–1889), who married Grace Church
  • Angelica Church (b. 1800)

Life in Europe[edit]

From 1783 until 1785, Angelica and her family lived in Paris while John performed his duties as a U.S. envoy to the French government. Angelica never failed to enchant the famous, intelligent men she met; and in Paris she soon befriended the venerable Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to France, she also developed lasting friendships with Franklin's successor, Thomas Jefferson, and with the Marquis de Lafayette.

After a brief visit to New York in 1785, the family sailed for England, taking up residence in London. Now the wife of a very wealthy man, Angelica entered a fashionable social circle that included the Prince of Wales, Whig party leader Charles James Fox, and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, she also befriended and sponsored émigré American painter John Trumbull, who went on to create some of the most famous paintings of the Revolutionary War era. Artist Maria Cosway also numbered among her European acquaintances with whom she kept a correspondence which is now held at the University of Virginia's archive.[6]

Always an American at heart, Angelica made a visit in 1789 to attend the inauguration of George Washington as the nation's first president.

Return to America and founding of Angelica, N.Y.[edit]

John and Angelica Church finally returned to the U.S. in May 1797 to be reunited with her family in New York. In lieu of capital, the young country repaid the loan from John Barker Church for funding the Revolutionary army with 100,000 acres of land in western New York. To take possession of the land, his son Philip traveled to the area of what is today Allegany and Genesee counties, near the Pennsylvania border. Philip Church selected the specific acreage, along the Genesee River, with his surveyor Moses Van Campen, the planned village was laid out with the plots and design to be reminiscent of Paris, France (a circular drive in the center, streets coming to that drive to form a star, and five churches situated around the circle). In the center of the circular drive is the village park. Philip named his planned village Angelica, after his mother.

The historian John S. Minard wrote of the town's establishment in Allegany County and Its People (1896):

The town was formed by an act of the Legislature, passed Feb. 25, 1805, and described as "being in width twelve miles," just that of the Morris Reserve, and in length "from south to north extending thirty-four miles from the Pennsylvania line," taking in about two-thirds of the towns of Granger and Grove. It was taken from Leicester, and when erected was a part of Genesee county. (The village had been founded three or four years before, and named by Capt. Philip Church for his mother, Angelica, the eldest daughter of Gen. Philip Schuyler.[7]

Philip left to marry Anna Matilda Stewart, daughter of General Walter Stewart (founder of the Erie Canal and Erie Railroad) in Philadelphia. For their honeymoon, they traveled first by boat, then by raft as far west as Bath, New York, then on horseback to the banks of the Genesee River, they constructed a small house, soon to be whitewashed and known as the "white house". In 1804, they had their mansion built (known as "Belvidere"), it still stands on the banks of the Genesee near Angelica, New York.

Correspondence and relationship with Jefferson and Hamilton[edit]

A series of letters Angelica Church received from Jefferson, Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette were kept in her family's possession until they were sold to the University of Virginia for $275,000 in 1996. The letters from Jefferson were of particular interest to the University, as it was he who founded the university almost 200 years earlier; in one note Jefferson wrote:

Think of it, my friend, and let us begin a negotiation on the subject. You shall find in me all the spirit of accommodation with which Yoric began his with the fair Piedmontese.

This is an allusion to a sexually charged scene in Laurence Sterne's popular novel A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy in which "Parson Yorick" has to negotiate sleeping arrangements when obliged to share a room with an attractive Italian woman and her maid.[8][9]

Angelica's correspondence with Hamilton, now preserved in the Library of Congress, demonstrates a strong affection between them. There has long been speculation that she may have had a romantic and possibly sexual relationship with Hamilton. Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow notes that "the attraction between Hamilton and Angelica was so potent and obvious that many people assumed they were lovers, at the very least, theirs was a friendship of unusual ardor..."[10]

One letter sent to Angelica's sister Elizabeth, Hamilton's wife, is suggestive of a relationship, but likely an innocent joke between sisters. Speaking of Elizabeth's husband, Angelica wrote to her:

...if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while.[11]

Despite a flirtatious attitude that fueled contemporary gossip, there is no conclusive evidence that Angelica's relationship with Hamilton ever went beyond a strong affinity between in-laws and the devotion that the whole Schuyler family showed to Alexander throughout his life. This, as well as the sisters' mutual affection and Angelica's 14 years absence from America, speak against any impropriety that would have hurt Elizabeth.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Angelica is a prominent featured role in the Tony-winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Renée Elise Goldsberry originated the role of Angelica in the show's off-Broadway and Broadway productions, and won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance. Angelica is portrayed in the show as extraordinarily witty and intelligent, and is notably featured in songs such as "Satisfied" and "The Schuyler Sisters", the show explores her relationship with Hamilton, including the "lend him to me" letter noted above.[13] Angelica is currently portrayed in the Broadway company of Hamilton by Mandy Gonzalez, in the Chicago company by Montego Glover, and in the touring company of Hamilton (currently in L.A) by Emmy Raver-Lampman.


  1. ^ Christoph, Florence A. Schuyler genealogy: a compendium of sources pertaining to the Schuyler families in America prior to 1800, Volume 2. Friends of Schuyler Mansion, 1992
  2. ^ "PHILIP CHURCH'S CAREER | One of the Most Prominent of Allegany's Early Settlers. | OF VERY DISTINGUISHED ANCESTRY | How the Famous Robert Morris Reserve Came into His Control and What He Did for Its Development.". The New York Times. June 23, 1895. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  3. ^ Hamilton, Alexander; Syrett, Harold Coffin (1976). The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 230. ISBN 9780231089234. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  4. ^ Clune, Henry W. (1963). The Genesee. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 9780815624363. Retrieved 20 October 2016. 
  5. ^ "National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution | Catalog of American Portraits". Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "Muse and Confidante: Angelica Schuyler Church". University of Virginia. Retrieved 1 August 2007. 
  7. ^ Minard, John S. (1896). Allegany county and its people. Alfred, NY: W.A. Ferguson & Co. p. 405. 
  8. ^ Jefferson's Letters to Angelica Schuyler Church Associated Press
  9. ^ Andrew Burstein, The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist, University of Virginia Press, 1995, p. 109
  10. ^ Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. The Penguin Press, (2004) (ISBN 1-59420-009-2). p. 134.
  11. ^ Elizabeth Hamilton (1757-1854) PBS American Experience
  12. ^ Chernow, Ron (2004). Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-59420-009-0. , chapter "Too near the sun"
  13. ^ Schulman, Michael (2015-08-06). "The Women of "Hamilton"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-03-10.