In November 1783 her mother married David Stuart, an Alexandria physician and later a member of the Convention of 1788. Her mother's frequent pregnancies deprived Eliza Custis of the attention she craved. George Washington's election to the presidency and the Stuarts' subsequent move to Hope Park, a country estate in Fairfax County, further isolated her from the grandparents she loved and the stimulation of Georgetown and Alexandria society. Custis later complained that because she was a girl her education had been limited to less rigorous topics than she would have preferred. She was fond of music and horses, and a relative later commented that "in her tastes and pastimes she is more man than woman and regrets that she can't wear pants."
The Laws, among the earliest residents of Washington, D.C., enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. They took an active part in society in Washington and Georgetown, entertained many dignitaries, and numbered members of both emerging political parties among their friends. Following his extended business trip to England, however, the couple separated in the summer of 1804. Rumors about the breakup were widespread, but his correspondence from the period cast no blame on her, and family members believed that the couple's thorny personalities were equally at fault. A legal settlement at the time of the separation allowed her $1,500 per year, but her husband received legal custody of their daughter.
In her final years, Custis lived a peripatetic existence, traveling between friends and relatives. Her daughter died in 1821, and estrangement from her son-in-law limited contact with her three grandchildren. Like her younger brother and sisters, Custis saw herself as one of the stewards of the Washington legacy. She had family memorabilia in her care and often made gifts of items that had belonged to her grandmother and stepgrandfather. Custis took care to identify, for the benefit of her grandchildren, the objects that she still retained. Custis died in the home of a Richmond friend on December 31, 1831, and was buried six days later in the family vault at Mount Vernon.
August 21, 1776 - Elizabeth Parke Custis is born at Mount Airy, Prince George's County, Maryland.
November 5, 1781 - John Parke Custis dies at Eltham, in New Kent County.
November 20, 1783 - Eleanor Calbert Custis and David Stuart, a physician, marry.
March 21, 1796 - Elizabeth Parke Custis and Thomas Law, an Englishman twenty years her senior, marry at Hope Park, in Fairfax County.
Summer 1804 - Elizabeth Parke Custis and Thomas Law separate.
January 15, 1811 - Elizabeth Parke Custis and Thomas Law divorce.
December 31, 1831 - Elizabeth Parke Custis dies in the home of a Richmond friend. She is buried at Mount Vernon.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Thompson, M. V., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Elizabeth Parke Custis (1776–1831). (2017, January 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Custis_Elizabeth_Parke_1776-1831.
- MLA Citation:
Thompson, Mary V. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Elizabeth Parke Custis (1776–1831)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Jan. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: January 6, 2017 | Last modified: January 18, 2017
Contributed by Mary V. Thompson and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Mary V. Thompson is a Research Historian at Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens .