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Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton by Ralph Earl

Mrs. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

“Portrait of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton” by Ralph Earl

This “Portrait of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton” by Ralph Earl portrays Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757 – 1854), the wife of Alexander Hamilton, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Founding Father. 

In 1787, Elizabeth sat for this portrait while Ralph Earl was being held in debtors’ prison.

Alexander had heard of Earl’s predicament and asked if Elizabeth might be willing to sit for him, to allow him to make some money and eventually buy his way out of prison, which he later did.

Elizabeth Schuyler was born in Albany, New York, and her family came from a wealthy and politically influential family.

Her family was among the wealthy Dutch landowners who had settled around Albany in the mid-1600s. In 1780 Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth met during the middle of the American Revolutionary War and married in the same year.

Together they had eight children.

In 1804, Alexander Hamilton became involved in an “affair of honor,” which led to his infamous duel with Aaron Burr and untimely death. Before the duel, he wrote Eliza two letters, telling her:

“The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you;
and these you have a right to enjoy.
Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted.
With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.
Adieu, best of wives and best of Women.
Embrace all my darling Children for me.”

Elizabeth remained dedicated to preserving her husband’s legacy.

She was devoted to Alexander’s writings, and she wore a small package around her neck containing the pieces of a sonnet which Alexander wrote for her during the early days of their courtship. 

In 1806, two years after her husband’s death, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton became co-founder and then deputy director of the first private orphanage in New York City.

She served for twenty-seven years in this role. Alexander Hamilton’s personal history fueled her passion for this cause.

Alexander Hamilton, as a child, was born out-of-wedlock in Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean Sea, and was orphaned as a child.

He was fortunate enough to be taken in by a prosperous merchant.

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton died in Washington, D.C., at age ninety-seven, having outlived her husband by fifty years. 

Elizabeth is buried near her husband in the graveyard of Trinity Church in New York City.

Portrait of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton

  • Title:                  Portrait of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton
  • Artist:                Ralph Earl
  • Year:                  1787
  • Material:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     31.75 × 26.88 in (80.6 × 68.3 cm)
  • Museum:          Museum of the City of New York

Ralph Earl

  • Name:                Ralph Earl
  • Born:                  1751 – Massachusetts. US
  • Died:                  1801 – Bolton, Connecticut, US
  • Nationality:      American
  • Notable works:

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton: Triumph and Tragedy

True Story of Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler’s Love Affair

A Tour of the Museum of the City of New York

A Tour of New York’s Museums

The Hamilton Affair

The Schuyler Flatts Burial Project

Eliza Hamilton


“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.”
– Alexander Hamilton


Photo Credit: Ralph Earl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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