The story of United States of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was largely unknown until he inspired a hit musical.
The multi-talented Lin-Manuel Miranda debuted his hit musical Hamilton in 2015, which examined the historical tale of an American icon but through hip-hop, R&B, and show tunes and with modern sensibilities.
A smash-hit from its original Broadway run, it huge box office sales and endless award wins proved that Hamilton wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Now Hamilton is coming to streaming service Disney Plus with a filmed version of performances from 2016, featuring original cast members such as Snowpiercer’s Daveed Diggs, Broadway favourite Leslie Odom Jr., Tony-winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Frozen star Jonathan Groff.
The musical examines the American Revolution against King George III (Groff), but also the personal troubles and career of Hamilton himself.
However, what scandals befell Alexander Hamilton in real life?
The Reynolds Affair
As portrayed in the musical itself, Alexander Hamilton was at the centre of the first political sex scandal to befall the United States of America.
As Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, Hamilton had a great deal of power in the US government and was held in high regard.
He had been married to his wife and philanthropist Eliza Schuyler since 1780.
Two years after the US government was established and in the summer of 1791, a 34-year-old Hamilton crossed paths with the married 23-year-old Maria Reynolds.
The young woman approached Hamilton for financial help after her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her and left her struggling.
Hamilton had no funds to reward her but later paid a visit to her boarding house, where the pair went on to have sexual relationship.
The affair continued for months but it would soon become clear to Hamilton that James Reynolds was aware of the affair and used knowledge of it to extort money from the politician.
Hamilton attempted to break-off the affair with Maria but James pressured him to continue it but also pressured for him for money.
It would seem that Maria colluded with James to obtain money from Hamilton, with the Founding Father even musing that she had engineered a blackmail plot with her husband.
He certainly later claimed it in the ‘Reynolds Pamphlet’ of 1791, writing: “The charge against me is a connection with one James Reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation.
“My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife, for a considerable time with his privity and connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design to extort money from me.”
The affair ended in June 1792, but scandal erupted in November the same year.
After James Reynolds was arrested for financial misconduct, he used knowledge of the affair to escape trouble.
When other US politicians discovered the possibility of corruption in the government, Hamilton was confronted and he admitted the truth of the affair.
Letters from the Reynolds were handed over from Hamilton to the politicians, who agreed to keep this quiet – but when they were given to Hamilton’s rival Thomas Jefferson by lawyer James Monroe, he used them years later in 1797 to besmirch Hamilton’s name after he was no longer Secretary of the Treasury.
Admitting the affair and apologising in his pamphlet, Hamilton denied ever being guilty of corruptly using his political position, saving some of his reputation but still leaving it damaged for many.
His political supporters and George Washington continued to hold him in very high regard.
Eliza Hamilton was six months pregnant when Hamilton publicly confessed to the affair and she had initially not believed the gossip surrounding his adultery.
She departed New York and her husband for her parents in Albany and gave birth to her son William Stephen.
Eliza eventually returned to her husband and after some time, managed to forgive him.
They had two more children together before his death in 1804.
Rumours have also persisted throughout history that Alexander Hamilton had an affair with his wife’s sister Angelica prior to his marriage.
No explicit evidence exists of Angelica and Alexander having an affair, but they did certainly have a highly strong and flirtatious friendship.
However, it does seem that his wife Elizabeth was comfortable with their chemistry, as Angelica made sexual remarks in letters to her sister.
Angelica had eloped with British MP John Barker Church in 1877, prior to Alexander marrying Elizabeth.
She was a fixture of high-society wherever she went and remained close to her sisters for their whole lives.
The musical depicts her holding a candle for Hamilton, but this is, alas, unrequited.
Death of Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton had been in a vicious rivalry with Aaron Burr for over a decade, with much political backstabbing between the pair.
However, after Hamilton helped defeat Burr in the 1804 New York gubernatorial race, Burr challenged him to a duel where they would decide the fate of their rivalry.
Hamilton ultimately sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
He wrote to Eliza before his death: “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.”
His wife went on to preserve his legacy and spread his political messages until her own death in 1854.
Hamilton is available now to watch on Disney+.
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