Hamilton: The True Story of Angelica Schuyler

One of the most pivotal and heartbreaking songs in Hamilton, the revolutionary Broadway hit newly-released on Disney+, is “Satisfied.” It’s a stirring, sensual, sorrowful ode to an attraction that can never be fulfilled between Angelica Schuyler and her future brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton. But what was the truth about the relationship between the penniless immigrant “flying by the seat of his pants” and the New York socialite?

For the uninitiated, Hamilton chronicles the rise of the titular founding father from his humble beginnings to political power. Imbued with a hip-hop twist, historical figures including Aaron Burr, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson populate the musical. But perhaps the most compelling characters are the trio of enterprising Schuyler siblings. Although Alexander ends up marrying Eliza, it is the eldest sister Angelica (portrayed by Renée Elise Goldsberry) who initially grabs his attention. Below, a guide to the real-life Angelica and those persistent romance rumors.

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She was born into one of New York State’s most influential families.

Angelica Schuyler was born in Albany, New York on February 20, 1756, to parents who “represented two of New York’s most prominent landholding families.” Her father was Continental Army General Philip Schuyler and her mother was Catherine Van Rensselaer. Her line in “Satisfied” which says, “My father has no sons so / I’m the one who has to social climb for one,” is not accurate; Angelica was one of fifteen Schuyler children, eight of whom survived past childhood. She had three brothers and two sisters not portrayed in Hamilton.

a portrait of catharine schuyler van rensselaer

A portrait of Catharine Schuyler Van Rensselaer, circa 1795.

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Angelica was a well-known socialite in the area. In 2015, the three actresses who play the Schuyler sisters (Phillipa Soo is Eliza and Jasmine Cephas Jones is Peggy) visited the Morristown, N.J. Schuyler-Hamilton House, where Hamilton originally pursued Eliza, with The New York Times. There, the historical site’s docent Patricia Sanftner referred to the Schuyler sisters as “the Kardashians” of 1780.

The Schuylers also faced controversy. Philip, the family patriarch, feuded with Aaron Burr prior to his fatal duel with Hamilton; Schuyler lost his senate seat in a 1791 reelection to Burr. He got it back in 1797 but became ill soon after and retired. Last month, the mayor of Albany announced the city would remove a statue of Philip Schuyler in front of City Hall; the Times Union reports that in the late 1700s, Philip was “was the largest slave owner in Albany.”

Angelica was already married when she met Alexander.

At age 21, Angelica married British politician and businessman John Barker Church. In Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, which inspired the Broadway musical, the author refers to Church as a “strange choice” for Angelica. The pair met in 1776 when Church worked for the army department run by General Schuyler. “While there, he managed to both woo Angelica and antagonize her father,” Chernow wrote. The family was suspicious of Church, and discovered he was operating under the name John B. Carter—and left the U.K. under suspicious circumstances. The pair eloped against her family’s wishes in 1777 and “the Schuylers were predictably incensed,” Chernow noted.

Alexander Hamilton

Ron Chernow


By the time Angelica locked eyes with Hamilton for the first time, she was already married and mother to the first two of her eight children. (That’s conveniently left out of her lovelorn solo in the musical.) Hamilton would go on to marry her younger sister Eliza in 1780. Angelica would move to Paris with Church, who later became a member of British Parliament.

Like Philip Schuyler, Angelica and Church were slave owners, according to a New York Times fact-check of Hamilton. Hamilton even reportedly assisted the couple “with their slavery-related transactions, including the $225 purchase of a mother and child.” Church also dueled with Aaron Burr in 1799, before the latter’s own standoff with Hamilton.

Angelica and Hamilton did exchange some flirtation-fueled letters.

Although Angelica was already betrothed when she met Alexander, the duo developed “a friendship of unusual ardor,” Chernow wrote in his 2005 book. The author described their letters as “buoyant and flirtatious” and the dynamic between Angelica, Eliza, and Alexander a “curious ménage-a-trois.”

In one letter, Angelica wrote to Eliza, “If you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while.” Hamilton explores the subtle sentimentality of their exchanges via a comma placement: In the musical, Angelica spirals after Alexander writes, “My dearest, Angelica,” suggesting she was his beloved. But it was actually Alexander who parsed Angelica’s punctuation in a 1787 letter. “There was a most critical comma in your last letter. It is my interest that it should have been designed; but I presume it was accidental. Unriddle this if you can. The proof that you do it rightly may be given by the omission or repetition of the same mistake in your next,” he wrote, after she penned the phrase, “Indeed my dear, Sir” in her own letter.

54th new york film festival   "manchester by the sea" world premiere

Goldsberry, who played Angelica Schuyler, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who played Alexander Hamilton, in 2016.

Brad BarketGetty Images

There was never proof that Angelica and Hamilton’s textual flirtation ever leapt off the page and into a full-fledged affair. But Chernow wrote in his biography, “It seems plausible that Hamilton would have proposed to Angelica, not to Eliza, if the older sister had been eligible. Angelica was more Hamilton’s counterpart than Eliza.”

Angelica boasted an elite group of friends and a New York village is named for her today.

When Angelica wasn’t engaging in thirsty correspondence with her brother-in-law, she was taking meetings with high-profile figures. During her marriage, she often traveled between Britain and America, and counted Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette as friends. She also attended George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and returned New York permanently in 1797.

Church and Angelica settled on 100,000 acres of land, granted by the U.S. government in lieu of loans it owed Church, in Western New York along the Genesee River. The couple’s oldest son Philip named a village on the land Angelica after his mother. Angelica Schuyler died on March 13, 1814 at age 58. As explained in Hamilton, she was buried in New York City’s Trinity Church Cemetery alongside both her sister Eliza and brother-in-law Alexander.

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