The Sappy, Poignant, and Risqué Love Letters of 7 World Leaders

Ronald Dumont/Express/Getty Images
Ronald Dumont/Express/Getty Images

Napoleon Bonaparte was a bit of a clinger. Richard Nixon was shockingly sweet. And Warren Harding was a smut peddler.

We learn a lot about world leaders when the love letters they’ve written to their sweethearts become public. The results can either be humanizing or humiliating—and there’s been plenty of both over the years. Check out some of the sweetest, strangest, and steamiest love letters written by seven world leaders.

1. Richard Nixon's shockingly sweet Love Letters to his future wife, Pat.

Sappiest line: "Let’s go for a long ride Sundays; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours."

The list of words used to describe Richard Nixon over the past 70 years is long and not particularly flattering—and chances are, not many people would have described the 37th President of the United States as a romantic. But it turns out the brusque politician could really lay on the schmaltz in his pre-White House days.

In 2012, love letters written to his soon-to-be wife, Pat, were put on display at the Nixon Library, and they show a whole different side of Tricky Dick:

"Dearest Heart

As I look out the window at the clouds with the sun trying to break through, I am thinking of how much you have meant to me the past two years.

Do you remember that funny guy who asked you to go to a 20-30 ladies night just about two years ago?

Well—you know that though he still may be funny—he’s changed since then. But you may not know—dear one—that he still gets the same thrill when you say you’ll go someplace with him—that he did when you said one time that he could take you for a ride in his car!

And did you know that he still looks out the window toward wherever you are and sends you the best he has in love, admiration, respect, and 'best of luck'?

And when the wind blows and the rains fall and the sun shines through the clouds (as it is now) he still resolves, as he did then, that nothing so fine ever happened to him or anyone else as falling in love with Thee—my dearest heart—

Love,

Dick"

The two met while auditioning for roles in a community theater production of The Dark Tower in 1938—Nixon, the thespian!—and were married after two years of courtship and maudlin letters. Though critics called their marriage loveless and "dingy" while they occupied the White House, those closest to them told a different story. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that "[Nixon] worshipped Pat," and the couple was often found watching movies together or relaxing at the Camp David pool during their rare downtime.

The couple remained together until Pat’s death in 1993. Less than a year later, Richard Nixon would follow at the age of 81.

2. Warren Harding's X-rated letters to his mistress.

Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Most scandalous lines: "Wouldn’t you like to get sopping wet out on Superior—not the lake—for the joy of fevered fondling and melting kisses? Wouldn’t you like to make the suspected occupant of the next room jealous of the joys he could not know, as we did in morning communion at Richmond?"

Yikes. Of all the historical documents the U.S. government would unearth, the erotic writings of President Warren G. Harding couldn’t have been high up on anyone’s wishlist. These ribald notes were written while Harding was lieutenant governor of Ohio and later through his stint as senator, stopping before his presidential inauguration in 1921. The only problem is that the letters weren’t written to his wife, Florence, but instead to her close friend—and the couple's neighbor, Carrie Fulton Phillips—whom he had an ongoing affair with.

In the letters, Harding described the "glorious kisses and fond caresses" of their secret dalliances, while bemoaning his own marriage as "merely existence, necessary for appearance’s sake." To throw people off their trail, Harding concocted a lurid code for his writing, referring to his penis as "Jerry" and her genitalia as "Mrs. Pouterson." ("Wish I could take you to Mount Jerry. Wonderful spot," Harding once wrote.)

And it's more than just the standard letters of lust—Harding also threw in some racy poetry, like this little number from January 1912:

“I love to suck
Your breath away
I love to cling —
There long to stay...

I love you garb’d
But naked more
Love your beauty
To thus adore...”

Eventually, the whole affair went south, with some theories saying Phillips’s pro-German sentiment was a strain on Harding as a politician during World War I (some even believed she was a spy), and others claiming she became infuriated over his affairs with other women (of which Harding apparently had many).

The letters themselves were ordered sealed by the courts until July 29, 2014, when they were released for all the world to blush over. Phillips probably should have just listened to Harding's plea from a January 1913 letter when he told her, "I have been thinking about all those letters you have. I think you [should] have a fire, chuck ’em!"

3. Napoleon Bonaparte’s turbulent love letters to Josephine.

Spencer Arnold Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most fiery lines: "You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come ... A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!"

Before he was crowned Emperor of France in 1804, Napoleon was leading armies, consolidating his power, and pitching woo to Josephine de Beauharnais, who would become his wife and Empress. And one look at his early love letters shows a conqueror who isn’t shy about displaying his passions—or his clinginess:

"Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude. The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart. When, free from all solicitude, all harassing care, shall I be able to pass all my time with you, having only to love you, and to think only of the happiness of so saying, and of proving it to you? I will send you your horse, but I hope you will soon join me."

But in many of his letters to her, Napoleon just bemoans how many notes he writes and how few he receives in return:

"I have your letters of the 16th and 21st. There are many days when you don't write. What do you do, then? No, my darling, I am not jealous, but sometimes worried. Come soon; I warn you, if you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much."

There may be a reason for the seemingly one-sided passion in their relationship: During the First Italian Campaign, just months after their marriage, rumors of Josephine’s infidelity reached Napoleon’s ears. This changed the tenor of their relationship, and by November 1796, his letters took a turn for the erratic:

"I don’t love you anymore; on the contrary, I detest you. You are a vile, mean, beastly slut. You don’t write to me at all; you don’t love your husband; you know how happy your letters make him, and you don’t write him six lines of nonsense…

Soon, I hope, I will be holding you in my arms; then I will cover you with a million hot kisses, burning like the equator."

Eventually, Josephine’s affair was confirmed to Napoleon, and the passion he once had for her slowly fizzled. They both took new lovers, but they remained officially married until 1809, when Napoleon announced plans to divorce Josephine, mainly because she couldn’t bear any children for him.

4. Joseph Stalin’s playful love letters to his wife, Nadya.

Keystone/Getty Images

Most uncharacteristic line: "I miss you so much Tatochka—I'm as lonely as a horned owl."

The man who once chillingly said, "If the opposition disarms, all is well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves," was also known to end his love letters to his second wife, Nadya, with the adorable sendoff, "My kisses! Your Joseph."

Not many of Stalin’s letters survive, but, according to Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar author Simon Sebag Montefiore, we do know that the notes were trafficked by Soviet secret police and that the two were rarely out of touch for long. In the letters, he would call her by her pet name, Tatochka, but unlike Napoleon’s attempts to contact a seemingly indifferent Josephine, Nadya’s responses were far more loving: "I am kissing you passionately just as you kissed me when we were saying goodbye!"

But the relationship was also fiery, with the couple arguing often and Nadya threatening to leave Stalin and take their children with her. In November 1932, the morning after the couple had a blow-up at a party, Nadya was found dead of a gunshot wound that was allegedly self-inflicted.

5. King Henry VIII’s Extramarital Love Letters to Anne Boleyn.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A line fit for a king: "And to cause you yet oftener to remember me, I send you, by the bearer of this [letter], a buck killed late last night by my own hand, hoping that when you eat of it you may think of the hunter."

Sending a freshly killed buck unannounced to your mistress may result in a restraining order in modern times, but when King Henry VIII sent one to Anne Boleyn via messenger circa 1527, she knew she was officially being courted by the most powerful man in the land. At the time the letter (and venison) arrived, Henry was still technically married to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife—but since she couldn’t produce a male heir for the king, his eye started to wander to Anne. The two exchanged letters for years as they waited for the marriage to be dissolved. (It took the establishment of the Church of England to make that happen.)

When Henry's letters weren’t humble bragging about his latest kill, they were surprisingly poignant and vulnerable for a man notorious for settling his disputes in the Tower of London. Often, Henry would anxiously profess his love while fretting that Anne wasn't reciprocating his feelings.

"It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection."

After all that wooing, Henry and Anne’s marriage would go on to last just three years. Unable to bear him a male heir—just like Catherine—Henry’s eyes wandered yet again. To annul the marriage he once sought so desperately, Henry had charges of alleged adultery and conspiracy levied against Anne, who was executed in May 1536.

6. George H.W. Bush’s Verbose Letters to Barbara.

Dirck Halstead/Liaison/Getty Images

Most touching lines: "I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you."

All the love letters George H.W. Bush wrote to his future wife, Barbara, during his time serving in World War II are lost, except for this one from December 1943, just months after becoming engaged. The letter paints a picture of a 19-year-old desperate to return home to his new fiancée but still duty-bound to the war. And coming in at over 500 words, it’s clear the young Bush had a lot to say.

“As the days go by the time of our departure draws nearer. For a long time I had anxiously looked forward to the day when we would go aboard and set to sea. It seemed that obtaining that goal would be all I could desire for some time, but, Bar, you have changed all that. I cannot say that I do not want to go — for that would be a lie. We have been working for a long time with a single purpose in mind, to be so equipped that we could meet and defeat our enemy. I do want to go because it is my part, but now leaving presents itself not as an adventure but as a job which I hope will be over before long. Even now, with a good while between us and the sea, I am thinking of getting back. This may sound melodramatic, but if it does it is only my inadequacy to say what I mean. Bar, you have made my life full of everything I could ever dream of — my complete happiness should be a token of my love for you.”

And when he wasn’t writing to Barbara, he was writing about Barbara. Existing letters H.W. wrote to his mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, are littered with effusive declarations of love for his young beau. "[I] miss Bar something terrific but I suppose it's only natural," he wrote. "It's really agony—so close and yet so far away."

7. Winston Churchill’s Timeless Letters to His Wife, Clementine.

Lee/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most romantic lines: "Time passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together, amid the storms and stresses of so many eventful and, to millions, tragic and terrible years?"

The British Bulldog’s gruff exterior may have played great on the world stage, but in the privacy of pen and paper, Winston Churchill proved himself a loving, sentimental husband to wife Clementine. The two were engaged in 1908, after just four months of courtship, and a handful of their letters to each other survive to this day.

In an early note from September 1909, Winston wrote, "Sweet cat—I kiss your vision as it rises before my mind. Your dear heart throbs often in my own. God bless you darling keep you safe & sound." The letter is accompanied by a drawing of a galloping pug—"pug" being the nickname Clementine had for Winston. For Winston, Clementine was his "cat."

The couple’s 56-year marriage remained loving as the decades moved along, through World Wars and through peace. In a 1935 letter, Churchill summed it up simply: "What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey."

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's Home

Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home has 23 rooms and more books than you can count.
J. Stephen Conn, Flickr // CC by NC 2.0

Fleeing Manhattan for the country is a tradition that wealthy New Yorkers have partaken in for centuries—and our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was no exception. Starting when he was a teen, TR and his family would retreat to Long Island for the summer, and as an adult, he built his own home there: Sagamore Hill, which became his permanent home after his presidency. In honor of what would be TR’s 162nd birthday, here are 10 facts about Sagamore Hill, of which Roosevelt once wrote, “there isn't any place in the world like home—like Sagamore Hill.”

1. Sagamore Hill was built near where Theodore Roosevelt spent his childhood summers.

Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, first served as a refuge for a sickly TR in his youth. He’d hike, ride horses, row, and swim—generally engaging in the “strenuous life” and beginning his lifelong love affair with nature. The family home was known as Tranquility, and was situated two miles southwest from the future Sagamore Hill mansion.

2. Theodore Roosevelt bought the land for Sagamore Hill in 1880.

The same year he married his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, Roosevelt purchased 155 acres on the north shore of Long Island for $30,000 to build a home. Situated on Long Island Sound, the site is home to a wide variety of habitats, from woodlands to salt marshes, as well as plenty of ecological diversity, thus giving Roosevelt much to observe and document.

3. Sagamore Hill wasn't supposed to go by that name.

The home that would become Sagamore Hill was originally going to be named Leeholm, after Roosevelt's wife Alice. However, following her tragic death shortly after giving birth to their daughter, the property was renamed Sagamore—according to Roosevelt, after Sagamore Mohannis (today more commonly known as Sachem Mohannes), who was chief of a tribe in the area over 200 years earlier. Sagamore is an Algonquian word for "chieftain."

4. Theodore Roosevelt had very specific ideas for the layout of Sagamore Hill.

Among his "perfectly definite views" for the home, he would later recall, were "a library with a shallow bay window opening south, the parlor or drawing-room occupying all the western end of the lower floor; as broad a hall as our space would permit; big fireplaces for logs; on the top floor a gun room occupying the western end so that north and west it [looks] over the Sound and Bay." Long Island builder John A. Wood began work on the Queen Anne-style mansion (designed by New York architecture firm Lamb and Rich), on March 1, 1884. It was completed in 1885, with Roosevelt's sister, Anna, taking care of the house (and new baby Alice) while Roosevelt was out west in the Dakota Badlands, nursing his grieving heart.

5. Theodore Roosevelt delivered campaign speeches from the porches of Sagamore Hill.

Theodore Roosevelt addresses a crowd of 500 suffragettes from the porch of his Sagamore Hill home around 1905. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was one of Roosevelt’s greatest wishes for the Sagamore Hill home to possess "a very big piazza ... where we could sit in rocking chairs and look at the sunset," and so wide porches were built on the south and west sides of the house. Roosevelt would use the piazza to deliver speeches to the public, and it was here that he was notified of his nominations as governor of New York (1898), vice president (1900) and president (1904).

6. Sagamore Hill was Theodore Roosevelt's "Summer White House."

Roosevelt became the first president to bring his work home with him, spending each of his summers as president at Sagamore Hill. He even had a phone installed so he could conduct business from the house. But by 1905, Edith had had enough of TR usurping the drawing room—which was supposed to be her office—to hold his visitors [PDF], and of his gaming trophies and other treasures taking up space. So the Roosevelts constructed what would become the North Room. "The North Room cost as much as the entire house had," Susan Sarna, curator at Sagamore Hill, told Cowboys & Indians magazine in 2016. "It is grandiose." Measuring 40 feet by 20 feet, with ceilings 20 feet high, it was constructed of mahogany brought in from the Philippines. The addition brought the total number of rooms at Sagamore Hill from 22 to 23.

7. Theodore Roosevelt met with foreign leaders at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt stands between Russian and Japanese dignitaries in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1905. On September 5, they signed the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War and earning Roosevelt the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize; he was the first American to win a Nobel Prize of any kind.Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

In September 1905, Roosevelt brokered peace talks between Russian and Japanese dignitaries, which led to end of the Russo-Japanese War. But before the peace talks (which took place on a yacht in the Navy yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire), Roosevelt met the negotiators—from Japan, Takahira Kogorō, ambassador to the U.S., and diplomat Jutaro Komura; and from Russia, diplomat Baron Roman Romanovich von Rosen and Sergei Iluievich Witte—at Sagamore Hill. TR earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

8. Sagamore Hill has a pet cemetery.

Roosevelt’s love of animals was passed down to his six children, who adopted a veritable menagerie, including cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, a bear, and a badger. A number of those beloved companions ended up in Sagamore Hill's pet cemetery; among them is Little Texas, the horse TR rode on his charge up Kettle Hill during the Spanish-American War.

9. Life at Sagamore Hill was lively.

The atmosphere at Sagamore Hill was a boisterous one. According to the National Park Service, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge complained about how late they stayed up, how loud they talked, and how early they woke up. Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt’s favorite niece, too, recalled a constant barrage of activity during her visits. The children partook in all manner of outdoor activities, and Roosevelt was known for abruptly ending his appointments in order to join them.

10. Theodore Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill.

Roosevelt passed away on January 6, 1919 at Sagamore Hill. Edith died there on September 30, 1948, and five years later, Sagamore Hill was opened to the public. In 2015, a $10 million renovation of the house was completed; 99 percent of what can be seen at the home today is original—including thousands of books, extensive artwork, and yes, 36 pieces of taxidermy.

Shortly before Roosevelt died, he asked Edith, “I wonder if you will ever know how I love Sagamore Hill?” and thanks to the extensive work done to restore his home, we all can.