With pencil sketches and watercolor washes, Dan Brown does an excellent job of capturing the life and times of Dolley Madison – beginning when her husband was Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson and continuing through his own Presidency.
The particular incident related here is historically accurate and significant. When the British marched on Washington DC in 1814, Dolley had to flee and the British burned both the capitol and the President’s residence. The charred sandstone walls of the house survived, and when the interior was rebuilt, Dolley had the exterior white-washed to cover up the smoke and soot stains on the stones. Hence, the “White” house.
We should all be grateful to Dolley as well for saving George Washington. In the President’s residence (remember, it wasn’t the White House yet), was a life-size portrait of George Washington which had been painted by Gilbert Stuart (see picture at left). Although the soldiers guarding the President’s residence had fled, Dolley refused to leave until the portrait was taken down and removed from the residence to a place of safety. Thanks to Dolley, the painting survived.