Skip to content

Queen of the Confederacy

Text by ,
As intelligent as she was beautiful, 19th-Century Southern belle Lucy Holcombe Pickens charmed her way around the world, from Texas to Russia to South Carolina.
Lucy Petway Holcombe moved with her family to Marshall, Texas, from Tennessee in 1850, when she was 17. Her beauty and personality soon captured the hearts of many Texans, but this early feminist refused to accept Victorian notions of male domination. Desiring recognition for her intelligence, Lucy gave political speeches and championed the cause of a Cuba free from Spanish rule. Lucy's lover was killed in a free-Cuba expedition, and the young woman, saddened but not dejected, wrote a historical novel titled The Free Flag of Cuba, or The Martyrdom of Lopez.

The book and her numerous published poems met with literary success, but Lucy was not satisfied. She longed to be a part of the political milieu of Washington. In August of 1857 in Virginia, she met Francis Wilkinson Pickens, a wealthy senator from South Carolina. Pickens soon proposed to Lucy, and the couple married in April 1858 at Wyalusing, the Holcombe family plantation in Marshall.

Lucy had accepted Pickens' offer of marriage on condition that he gain an important U.S. government position. Mad with love for her, he accepted an appointment from President Buchanan as American minister to the Imperial Court of Russia. For two years abroad, the new Mrs. Pickens dazzled members of the Russian court ("Mine has not been a position free from incidents," Lucy wrote to her sister, Anna) and captured the hearts of Tsar Alexander II and Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna.

With the Civil War looming, the Pickenses and their young daughter (Eugenia Frances Dorothea Olga Neva, born at the Imperial Palace, her last two names bestowed by the Tsarina) returned to America, where, by action of the state legislature, Francis became governor of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union.

As "the uncrowned Queen of the Confederacy," Lucy devoted her time, talent, and money to the "Cause." The South returned the favor by engraving her image on Confederate Treasury Bills, the only woman of her time so honored. Although she spent her remaining years in South Carolina, Lucy frequently visited Texas, which she had once described as her "home in the prairied [sic] west," where "Nature inspires in place of Champagne."

Read 1200 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

Back to top