First of all, on their honeymoon, Varina & Jefferson visited Jefferson’s aged mother, and went to the grave of his first wife. Hmmmm. That sounds a bit underwhelming for a bride!
And then, get this – soon after the marriage, Jefferson’s widowed and penniless sister Amanda Davis Bradford, came to live on the property with her seven youngest children. And it was decided by Amanda’s brother,s she should share the large single storied galleried house that was being constructed at Brierfield, a decision that was evidently made without Varina’s consent or liking. (trouble at River City)!
Life for the newlyweds was further strained by long periods of separation while Davis campaigned. They enjoyed a brief period of happiness in Washington, after he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but soon he left to serve in the Mexican War. Correspondence from the period shows us they were going through a “difficult period”. Ultimately they reconciled, due to Varina’s apologies for her “inconsiderations” – guess he got the last word that time at least!
Things became much better, it seems, after they returned to Washington. Varina loved the social life there, and after seven childless years, she gave birth to a son, Samuel Emory Davis in 1852. They were devastated when he died, but soon after she gave birth to a healthy daughter and two more sons.
She expressed dismay when Davis was elected President of the Confederate States of America and did not accompany him when he was inaugurated in Montgomery. She did come a few weeks later and they occupied the First White House in the spring of 1861, until they moved to Richmond in early summer.
In December of that year she gave birth to their fifth child, William Howell Davis, named after her father. In the spring of 1864 their son Joseph was killed in an accident at the Executive Mansion in Richmond. A few weeks later Varina gave birth to their last child, Varina Anne, called Winnie.
I will wind these observations up tomorrow with a few more comments.