Louisa Adams spent much of her stressful married life as a diplomat’s wife in foreign countries. Louisa’s return to London was a rare happy period for the Adamses.
A few months after leaving Russia in 1815, John Quincy Adams was named minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain. The family left Paris for London, Louisa Adams’ birthplace. The time the Adamses spent in London was the happiest period of their marriage. This happiness would only last a short while, for John Quincy had bigger political ambitions.
An Idyllic LifeAfter spending six agonizing years in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Louisa Adams was delighted to learn that she would next be moving to her native London. Accordingly, Louisa rented a country house in Ealing, a village just outside the capital city. She and John Quincy began spending the two happiest years of their life together.
In Great Britain, the Adamses enjoyed family life immensely. John Quincy and Louisa did everything together, including playing music and taking long walks in the English countryside. More importantly, they were able to partake of the London social life– on their own terms. Louisa got to indulge in one of her passions: fishing. This had been impossible in Russia, which was frozen most of the time.
According to Louisa, life in the English countryside also treated John Quincy well. By this point, he was 49 years old, overweight, and balding, but Louisa claimed that her husband “never looked so well or so handsome as he does now.” In addition, he became sort of a devoted husband.
As for the Adams’ three sons, George and John joined their parents in England. Along with youngest Adams brother Charles, they were enrolled in a prestigious school that was close to home. This thrilled their mother, who had been separated from George and John during the Russia years. (George and John were raised in Quincy, Massachusetts, by their grandparents, John and Abigail Adams, while their parents and Charles lived in Saint Petersburg.) The entire family was finally under one roof, and they cherished every second this togetherness.
Reality Interrupts the Dream
The domestic bliss and tranquility, however, was short-lived. President James Monroe made John Quincy his secretary of state. Accepting this position meant that John Quincy would take a cut in pay, which would be painful his family, given the fact that the Adamses had always struggled with finances. On the other hand, this post was a traditional stepping stone to the presidency. Thus, John Quincy, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, absolutely could not refuse the offer. Louisa, meanwhile, wanted to simply fade into the background. It was not to be. The Adamses returned to Quincy, and Louisa stoically accepted the reality of her situation. Louisa promoted her husband and fulfilled the Washington social obligations that she despised. For the next several years, Louisa made sure voters knew John Quincy Adams. In 1824, she prepared herself for her inevitable life as America’s First Lady. Perhaps her brief respite in her beloved native country gave Louisa the strength she needed to fulfill this role.
- Harris, Bill. The First Ladies Fact Book, p. 114-15. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2005.