COLLATERAL RELATIVES: Washington was a half first cousin twice removed of President James Madison, a second cousin seven times removed of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-) of the United Kingdom, a third cousin twice removed of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and an eighth cousin six times removed of Winston Churchill.
CHILDREN: Washington had no natural children; thus, no direct descendant of Washington survives. He adopted his wife's two children from a previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis. John's granddaughter Mary Custis married Robert E. Lee.
BIRTH: Washington was born at the family estate on the south bank of the Potomac River near the mouth of Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia, at 10 A.M. on February 22, 1732 (Old Style February 11, the date Washington always celebrated as his birthday; in 1752 England and the colonies adopted the New Style, or Gregorian, calendar to replace the Old Style, or Julian, calendar). He was christened on April 5, 1732.
CHILDHOOD: Little is known of Washington's childhood. The legendary cherry tree incident and his inability to tell lies, of course, sprang wholly from the imagination of Parson Weems. Clearly the single greatest influence on young George was his half brother Lawrence, 14 years his senior. Having lost his father when he was 11, George looked upon Lawrence as a surrogate father and undoubtedly sought to emulate him. Lawrence thought a career at sea might suit his little brother and arranged for his appointment as midshipman in the British navy. George loved the idea. Together they tried to convince George's mother of the virtues of such service, but Mary Washington was adamantly opposed. George, then 14, could have run away to sea, as did many boys of his day, but he reluctantly respected his mother's wishes and turned down the appointment. At 16 George moved in with Lawrence at his estate, which he called Mount Vernon, after Admiral Edward Vernon, commander of British forces in the West Indies while Captain Lawrence Washington served with the American Regiment there. At Mount Vernon George honed his surveying skills and looked forward to his twenty-first birthday, when he was to receive his inheritance from his father's estate-the Ferry Farm, near Fredericksburg, where the family had lived from 1738 and where his mother remained until her death; half of a 4,000-acre tract; three lots in Fredericksburg; 10 slaves; and a portion of his father's personal property.
EDUCATION: Perhaps because she did not want to part with her eldest son for an extended period, perhaps because she did not want to spend the money, the widow Washington refused to send George to school in England, as her late husband had done for his older boys, but instead exposed him to the irregular education common in colonial Virginia. Just who instructed George is unknown, but by age 11 he had picked up basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Math was his best subject. Unlike many of the Founding Fathers, Washington never found time to learn French, then the language of diplomacy, and did not attend university. He applied his mathematical mind to surveying, an occupation much in demand in colonial Virginia, where men's fortunes were reckoned in acres of tobacco rather than pounds of gold.
RELIGION: Episcopalian. However, religion played only a minor role in his life. He fashioned a moral code based on his own sense of right and wrong and adhered to it rigidly. He referred rarely to God or Jesus in his writings but rather to Providence, a rather amorphous supernatural substance that controlled men's lives. He strongly believed in fate, a force so powerful, he maintained, as "not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of human nature."
RECREATION: Washington learned billiards when young, played cards, and especially enjoyed the ritual of the fox hunt. In later years, he often spent evenings reading newspapers aloud to his wife. He walked daily for exercise.
EARLY ROMANCE: Washington was somewhat stiff and awkward with girls, probably often tongue-tied. In his mid-teens he vented his frustration in such moonish doggerel as, "Ah! woe's me, that I should love and conceal,/ Long have
I wish'd, but never dare reveal,/ Even though severely Loves Pains I feel." Before he married Martha, Washington's love life was full of disappointment.
Betsy Fauntleroy. The daughter of a justice and burgess from Richmond County, Virginia, she was but 16 when she attracted Washington, then 20. He pressed his suit repeatedly, but, repulsed at every turn, he finally gave up.
Mary Philipse. During a trip to Boston to straighten out a military matter in 1756, Washington stopped off in New York and there met Mary Philipse, 26, daughter of Frederick Philipse, a wealthy landowner. Whether he was taken with her charms or her 51,000 acres is unknown, but he remained in the city a week and is said to have proposed. She later married Roger Morris, and together they were staunch Tories during the American Revolution.
Sally Fairfax. From the time he met Sarah Gary "Sally" Fairfax as the 18-year-old bride of his friend and neighbor George William Fairfax, Washington was infatuated with her easy charm, graceful bearing, good humor, rare beauty, and intelligence. Although the relationship almost certainly never got beyond flirtation, the two had strong feelings for each other and corresponded often. In one letter written to her in 1758, at a time when he was engaged to Martha, he blurted his love, albeit cryptically lest the note fall into the wrong hands. He confessed he was in love with a woman well known to her and then continued, "You have drawn me, dear Madam, or rather I have drawn myself, into an honest confession of a simple Fact. Misconstrue not my meaning; doubt it not, nor expose it. The world has no business to know the object of my Love, declared in this manner to you, when I want to conceal it." As heartbroken as Washington appears to have been over the hopelessness of the relationship, the anguish might have been greater had he pressed the affair, for the Fairfaxes would not come to share Washington's passion for an independent America. In 1773, the year American resentment over British taxes erupted in the Boston Tea Party, Sally and George Fairfax left Virginia for England, where they settled permanently, loyal subjects to the end.
MARRIAGE: Washington, 26, married Martha Dandridge Custis, 27, a widow with two children, on January 6, 1759, at her estate, known as the White House, on the Pamunkey River northwest of Williamsburg. Born in New Kent County, Virginia, on June 21, 1731, the daughter of John Dandridge, a planter, and Frances Jones Dandridge, Martha was a rather small, pleasant-looking woman,