The Roosevelts and the Royals by Will Swift
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Dr. Will Swift
Will Swift on writing The Roosevelts and The Royals

Although I did not know it at the time, I began working on this book when I was eleven years old. Already a confirmed anglophile, I had heard that the official biography of King George VI had been published in the United States, and I badgered my British-American mother for a month until she relented and drove me thirty minutes north of our home in Melrose, Massachusetts, to a biography bookstore, where I purchased the book. As a boy, I also had what I thought was a completely separate interest in U.S. presidential history and in presidential families. In 1971, when Joseph Lash published his landmark biography of Eleanor and Franklin, I became enthralled with their forty-year relationship. As I completed my doctorate in clinical psychology and began a practice specializing in couple's therapy, I became intrigued with how a husband and wife managed the rhythms of closeness and separateness within a marriage, the effect of political and public life on a marriage, and how couples kept a marriage together for higher purposes. I began to see the Roosevelts and the Kennedys (and later the Adamses and the Bushes) as America 's democratic versions of the British royal dynasty.

The inspiration for this book came in 2001 when Majesty magazine asked me to write an article detailing the relationship between British monarchs and American presidents. My article, "Resolute Relations," spanned more than a hundred and fifty years, from Queen Victoria and James Buchanan through Franklin Roosevelt and George VI, to Elizabeth II and eleven U.S. presidents. I became fascinated with the significance of the alliance between the Roosevelts and the British royal family, as evidenced in two decades of correspondence between the two families - most vividly in their wartime letters - and was surprised by the extent and the calculation of the British government's carefully orchestrated campaign to win the United States to England's side in the 1930s and 1940s, when democracy was threatened by totalitarianism.

I began researching this book in the archives of Franklin Roosevelt library at Hyde Park. Impressed with the wealth of letters and material about the King and Queen's 1939 state visit to Washington and Hyde Park, I continued my research at the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle, where I found further confirmation of the breadth of the connection between the British royal family and the Roosevelts. Several of the Roosevelt grandchildren, most particularly Christopher Roosevelt and Nina Gibson, generously helped me understand Eleanor and Franklin's royal connections.

As an outgrowth of my research, I represented the Roosevelt family in negotiations with the Queen Mother's private secretary to obtain a statement from the Queen Mother for placement on a plaque in Top Cottage, the site of the famous picnic, at the Hyde Park historical site. When I met with Sir Alastair Aird, at Clarence House on March 27, 2002, he said that "it is a very dark day"- the Queen Mother had grown quite ill. Right after our meeting, he paid his last visit to her. Three days later the Queen Mother died in her one hundred and second year.

The more I studied Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the more I admired them- even as I discovered all of their foibles and weaknesses. Spending several years intimately researching the lives of these four noble leaders changed me. Now I spend much more time in public service and use my historic home (built by Martin Van Buren's best friend and visited by FDR) for charity fundraisers and community events.

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Articles by Will Swift

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The Roosevelts and the Royals
Franklin and Eleanor, The King and Queen of England, and the Friendship that Changed History

by Will Swift
John Wiley & Sons: June 2004; ISBN: 0-471-45962-3; Hardcover; 384 pages
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