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The Elusive Trail of Lucy Hale




Details are few and far between. Was she beautiful? Was she really engaged to John Wilkes Booth? Were they really in love, or was the daughter of a New Hampshire senator, just one more pawn in the assassin’s plan? Here's the complete story from a NH perspective.







Was Lucy Lambert Hale o NH Engaged to John Wilkes Booth?

ALSO: The New Dying Words of John Wilkes Booth
ALSO READ: Lincoln the Vampire Hunger

Lucy Lambert Hale of Dover, NH, legend says, was secretly engaged to actor John Wilkes Booth when he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Both had been staying at the National Hotel in Washington, DC where they had met months earlier. Booth was among the most famous and recognizable actors in America and Lucy was the daughter of a former US Senator from New Hampshire. Her father, John Parker Hale, was a vocal abolitionist who himself ran unsuccessfully for president. Booth was an avowed Confederate sympathizer and an advocate of slavery.

Star-crossed lovers

Pinning down the details of this unlikely romance is a frustrating affair. Lucy appears in scores of modern books about Booth and Lincoln, but rarely earns more than a paragraph or footnote. She is sometimes called "Bessie" and more scrupulous scholars refer to her as Booth’s "alleged" fiancée. She is almost universally painted as a great beauty and the belle of Washington society. At first glance, this makes sense. Booth, after all, was a notorious playboy, and was even billed as the most handsome man in the nation. But look closer.

In a rare picture of her taken by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, Lucy Hale appears rather plain and matronly, even in her early twenties. John Ford, owner of Ford’s Theatre once described Lucy simply as "stout". A smaller "carte de visite" portrait of Lucy was found tucked in Booth’s pocket diary after he was captured and killed. But then, so were the portraits of four other women, all attractive young actresses.

Soon after they met, Lucy apparently used her influence to get Booth an invitation to Lincoln’s second inauguration on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC. Booth and five of his conspirators are visible in photographs of the March 4 inauguration, standing within "striking distance" of the president, as Booth later boasted. Booth returned the favor by taking Lucy to a performance at Ford’s Theatre where, days later, he shot Lincoln in the head with a bullet from a small derringer. Today Ford’s Theatre is a national museum where Booth’s derringer and portrait of Lucy are on display.


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