Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler is a bit of a third wheel to her older sisters, Angelica and Eliza, in the Tony winning, Hamilton: An American Musical. She doesn’t quite make it as far as Act II when the actress portraying her switches roles to play Maria Reynolds. A footnote in the recently published book, “Hamilton: The Revolution,” simply tells us, “Poor Peggy. She married well and died young.”
There is, however, a bit more to her story. She was born Margarita Schuyler on September 25, 1758, the third of the eleven children of Philip Schuyler and his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Van Rensselaer (three did not live to adulthood). As a young woman, she would’ve have met such notable figures of her era, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, James Madison, and “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne when the British General was a prisoner-guest at her father’s mansion after the Battle of Saratoga.
Peggy was described by her contemporaries as a charming young woman who was, as one of her mother’s biographers, stated “destined to further distinction.” In 1783, Peggy married the young Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer III. The marriage took place in Saratoga where the Schuyler’s had a country house and was apparently an elopement. A good friend of the groom described it as “precipitate,” a “source of surprise,” and a “momentary impulse of youthful Passions.” Some felt that Stephen Van Rensselaer, who was just 19 and would take possession of the vast family estates until the age of 21, was simply too young to enter into any marriage, even though Margarita Schuyler was by no means an objectionable bride (despite being six years his senior). Her wedding dress, described a mauve silk with a brocade of “bright bouquets” and old point lace,” survived at least until 1893 when a brief account of it was published in a Niagara Falls newspaper.
By all accounts, the marriage was a success. Stephen celebrated his majority with grand celebrations at the Manor. The young Mrs. Van Rensselaer was known for being a pretty, charming figure in society. She and her husband were frequent guests at the New York City home of her sister, Elizabeth, who had married Alexander Hamilton in 1780. Peggy had three children, but only one – Stephen Van Rensselaer IV (known as the Last Patroon) – lived to adulthood.
Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer died on March 14, 1801. She was laid to rest in a private family vault on the grounds of the Van Rensselaer Manor House. In 1802, Stephen Van Rensselaer married Cornelia Paterson, daughter of William Paterson. In 1848, the old vault (which stood near modern day North Pearl and Pleasant Streets) was demolished. By then, it had received a century’s worth of burials, including Peggy’s parents and husband, as well as General Abraham Ten Broeck and several generations of Van Rensselaers. They were all removed to an underground vault in Lot 1, Section 14 at the Rural Cemetery. Above the vault is a large white marble monument. The east face of the monument bears the inscription “Margaret Schuyler Wife of Stephen Van Rensselaer Died March 14th, 1801.”
( from Paula Lemire’s Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond The Graves)