How Many Presidents Have Had More Than One Wife?

It's easy to forget in the sturm und drang of politics that pols themselves are actually people — real human mammals with families and lives. The White House is definitely American's most glamorous, least private, and most expensive public housing project, but it's also a domicile where lovers quarrel, make up, have sex, raise children, and sometimes even die.

Only one president was a bachelor, James Buchanan, and it's widely thought he was a closeted gay man, according to The Washington Post. (Sorry Mayor Pete, but he may have already got you beat.) Other White Houses observed unconventional marriages that probably stuck for appearances. Eleanor Roosevelt may have regretted hiring secretary Lucy Mercer when, in 1918, she found love letters between the young scribe and old Frankie D. Concerned over potential political doom, Franklin Roosevelt promised fidelity, but secretly stayed with his side chick till the actual day he died 30 years later, per Time. In deeper cover, Hillary Clinton even lied on TV in 1992 about husband Bill Clinton's philandering, which obviously didn't persuade him to stop either — but the marriage similarly survived.

Overall, only eight presidents in 46 have wed twice (or thrice). Divorce wasn't even part of the discussion until the 1980s. Multiple first ladies have even perished in the White House. But the story of these men and their wives is a good reminder the person with their finger on that button also has a pulse. These are the presidents who have had more than one wife.

President John Tyler remarried while in office

John Tyler was the 10th U.S. president and, according to Ducksters, one of the top three "fun" facts about him is he "liked big families." Tyler indeed fathered 15 children, per Mental Floss, and amazingly, still has one living grandson (via The Washington Post). He was also the first president to serve without being elected, taking the oath after William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia 32 days into his tenure. Tyler went on to annex Texas and was later elected to the Confederate Congress — but would die before he could ascend that low office.

Tyler married his first wife in 1813, 22-year-old Letitia Tyler, practically an old maid in that era. The marriage "was loving but somewhat restrained by [her] conservative and undemonstrative nature," according to the National First Ladies' Library. Sounds hot. But in 1839, the socialite and plantation manager suffered a stroke. In 1842, she died after a second stroke, becoming the first first lady to die in the White House. 

Two years later, a 54-year-old Tyler remarried 24-year-old Julia Gardiner, an aristocratic daughter of a state senator. Her father objected to the couple's 30-year age gap, but he was then killed in a bizarre accident when a gun exploded during "a presidential excursion on the naval frigate Princeton," per Britannica. With her father blown to pieces — and his objections with him — Julia became first lady for the eight remaining months of Tyler's only term.

Millard Fillmore was rich in love following his presidency

Millard Fillmore became Zachary Taylor's surprise VP in 1848, but two years later, President Taylor "came down with a stomach bug after attending a Fourth of July celebration," according to History. Since this was the mid-1800s, his doctor's quickly poisoned him to death with mercury. (Note to time travelers visiting this era: If you feel the sniffles coming on, suck it up.) Fillmore was also the last Whig Party president, and had no VP since he was previously the VP — this contingency had yet to be worked out constitutionally.

Fillmore, who came from humble origins, first married a preacher's daughter, Abigail Powers, in 1826. Powers became a teacher, and because of their mutual circumstances, became the first wife of a president to hold down a job after marrying, per History. When Fillmore lost his bid for re-election in 1853, however, Abigail attended her husband's successor's inauguration in freezing weather. She came down with pneumonia and passed away.

Undaunted, Fillmore shacked up with the wealthy widow of a successful merchant, Caroline Carmichael McIntosh. They wed in 1858. But McIntosh, being a woman in her mid-40s, was nobody's fool and made the pol sign a prenup. The 16-year marriage was happy, according to Forest Lawn, but when Fillmore died suddenly in 1874, the twice-widowed Caroline, in grief and mental decline, began an erratic series of changes to her will. So despite the prenup, upon her own death in 1881, the president's family squabbled over her riches.

President Benjamin Harrison married his own niece

Benjamin Harrison was a Lincoln Republican and Union Army officer emanating from a "prominent Virginia family," in a wild understatement via Biography — given he was the grandson of the ninth POTUS, William Henry Harrison. In 1889, Benjamin himself became the 23rd president of the United States.

Harrison had a difficult single term, presiding over a deeply divided country still reeling from the Civil War. America was also on the verge of a fiscal crisis, and Harrison chose not to campaign on his own behalf, instead staying with his gravely ill wife, Caroline Lavinia Scott. A vigorous mother and history enthusiast with talents in art and music, she had overseen extensive White House renovations and even raised start-up funds for what would become The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, according to Britannica. Caroline had tragically contracted Tuberculosis in 1892 and died that same year, becoming the second first lady to perish in the White House. 

But this story of marital fidelity comes with a slightly Oedipal twist. Shortly before her death, Caroline had invited her niece, a young widow named Mary Scott Dimmick, to move into the White House as "social secretary" to the first lady, per Three years after Caroline's untimely death, Mary would indeed marry her own uncle (by marriage), former POTUS Harrison. The match was a scandal that Harrison's children never accepted, and he would eventually be buried next to his first wife after his death in 1901.

Theodore Roosevelt's incredible grief prior to becoming president

Theodore Roosevelt ignored doctor's advice about his supposedly weak heart to become the most vigorous of presidents, full of Romanticist 19th-century virtues. The hunter, naturalist, and historian eventually also became the nation's most consequential conservationist, creating the Forest Service and "set[ting] aside almost five times as much land [for wildlife] as all of his predecessors combined," according to Britannica.

Roosevelt's life was also riven by tragedy. Both his mother and first wife would die on Valentine's Day 1884, per Biography. Teddy's mother, only 48, passed suddenly of Typhoid Fever. His beloved 22-year-old wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, had been suffering kidney failure from Bright's disease since the birth of their child. She, too, died hours later. A devastated Roosevelt wrote in his diary that night (via The Washington Post), "The light has gone out of my life. I do not think ever a man loved a woman more than I love her." He could not speak Alice's name for the remainder of his life.

A reeling Roosevelt eventually returned home to New York, where he ran into childhood friend — and college girlfriend — Edith Kermit Carow. The two wed in 1886 and had five children as Teddy ascended to the vice presidency. In 1901, after William McKinley was shot to death by an assassin, Edith became a very well-regarded first lady, who "never made a mistake," as she renovated what is now the West Wing of the executive mansion her husband historically and officially first dubbed the "White House" in 1902.

Woodrow Wilson's complicated presidential legacy and marriages

Woodrow Wilson was POTUS 28, serving from 1913 to 1921, and had some notable quirks, including having a herd of sheep grazing on the White House lawn, according to Mental Floss. Wilson also built the White House movie theatre and screened the infamous and influential Klu Klux Klan fan-film, The Birth of a Nation, per History. Wilson likewise segregated government offices, and in 2020, Princeton — where Wilson once served as the college's president — dropped his name from their School of Public Affairs, reported The New York Times.

Wilson married his first wife, Ellen Louise Axson, in 1885. Ellen was a respected painter, a mother to their three daughters, and "played a large part" in her husband's career, according to Britannica. Both she and Wilson supported giving women the right to vote and, despite her husband's views, she also "lobbied vigorously to improve the housing conditions of African Americans." Ellen was also gravely ill and passed away in 1914, only 17 months into her tenure as first lady, the second wife of a president to die of Bright's disease. 

Wilson wasted little time mourning and, in 1915, married wealthy widow Edith Galt, who alleged to be a direct descendent of Pocahontas (via History). Wilson's quick second marriage concerned his advisors, but World War I focused Americans on bigger issues. Edith would become an intimate part of Oval Office business and was even "accused" of signing official documents for the president after he suffered a stroke.

President Ronald Reagan's historic divorce

POTUS 40 Ronald Reagan was probably the most consequential republican since Abraham Lincoln, given how America's mutually-assured nuclear death pact with the Soviet Union ended on his watch. But in 1938, at 27, the former college football star was just a Hollywood B-actor working on the Warner Bros. lot when he met 21-year-old co-star Jane Wyman. Wyman was already twice married, but a 2018 biography, Reagan: An American Journey (via the Daily Mail), claims that she attempted suicide as a "tactic" when Reagan initially resisted proposing.

The two wed in 1940 and quickly had a daughter. Following the passing of their second child in 1947, Wyman won an Oscar a year later, but the marriage had "lost its glitter" for her, according to Belleville News-Democrat. "I know she loves me, even though she thinks she doesn't," a heartsick Reagan wrote to a fan. Wyman filed for divorce and later pursued further failed marriages, eventually describing herself as "not the permanent marrying kind." She died in 2007 and never shared dirt about her famous ex, The Washington Post reports.

Reagan would meet the real love of his life, actress Nancy Davies, in 1951. When Ronald won the White House thirty years later, he was the first divorced man elected president. Nancy is perhaps best known for her "just say no" anti-drug campaign, but later became an advocate for stem cell research following Ronald's deterioration and ultimate death from Alzheimer's disease in 2004, per Britannica.

Donald Trump was the first twice-divorced president

Donald Trump's love life is better documented than other presidents. POTUS 45's first marriage was to a Czechoslovakia skier and model, Ivana Marie Zelnícková, later more famous as Ivana Trump. They were very much the toast of New York in the 1980s, but the marriage collapsed, and she cashed out with a settlement worth $14 million in 1991, according to The New York Times.

The split was a tabloid sensation, and Donald played along, telling Vanity Fair in 1990, "When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of a** — a good one! — there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left." Donald had dumped Ivana for actress and Hawaiian Tropic model Marla Maples. He and Maples divorced in 1999, three years after a supposed incident where police caught Maples under a lifeguard stand at 4 a.m. with her husband's own bodyguard, according to Inside Edition. Donald had a more careful prenup this time, though, and the divorce only cost him $1 million, claimed anonymous sources handing over the "draconian" documents to Vanity Fair

The Apprentice alum entered the White House as the first twice-divorced president — historic stuff. He, of course, finally married underrated polyglot and Slovenian model Melanija Knavs in 2005, the future first lady's maiden name initially Germanized to Melania Knauss, and made even greater in American as Melania Trump, according to Biography.

President-elect Joe Biden tragically lost his first wife

Joe Biden will make a bit of executive history, becoming, upon electoral certification, the first consecutive president with multiple marriages. Biden's presidential accomplishments include ... nothing as of this writing, but give him time. While in waiting though, he tripped playing with his dog and broke his foot, according to Time. It's a concerning injury for a president who will be the oldest man ever elected to the office — older on day one, 78, than a previously "old" president on this list, Ronald Reagan, who upon his exit from the White House was 77.

Long life is a gift that also necessarily comes with tragedy. It was "love at first sight" for the future president when on a college vacation in the Bahamas he met a senior from Syracuse University, Neilia Hunter, as she was sunbathing. The two wed in 1966, but in 1972, Neilia was taking the couple's three children Christmas shopping. She "pulled past a stop sign," per Biography, and was struck flush by a tractor-trailer going full speed. Neilia was killed along with their 13-month-old daughter, Amy. Their two boys, Beau and Hunter, were seriously hurt, but survived. 

In many ways, this tragedy has defined Biden's compassionate approach to politics. In 1977, Joe remarried divorcee and eventual English professor Jill Tracy Jacobs, according to CNN. "Dr. B" — as her students call her — will be the "first president's wife to continue her professional career as first lady," according to Politico.