Known as the “Queen of the Confederacy,” Lucy Holcombe Pickens was born in LaGrange in Fayette County, the daughter of Beverly Lafayette Holcombe and Eugenia Dorothea Hunt. At some time between 1848 and 1850, the family left their home, “Westover of Woodstock,” and moved to Marshall, Texas.
At age thirteen Lucy and her sister were sent to a Quaker school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She became interested in Cuban affairs and at age seventeen published a book, The Free Flag of Cuba. After her fiancé was killed while fighting for the Cubans, she involved herself in social activities. A charming beauty, she captivated many admirers.
In 1856, while on an annual summer visit to White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, Lucy Holcombe met Colonel Francis Wilkinson Pickens, a lawyer and secessionist, twice widowed and twice her age. She reportedly promised to marry him if he would accept a diplomatic post and take her abroad. In 1858 he accepted an appointment as ambassador to Russia, and they were married at her home, “Wyelucing,” in Texas.
With her knowledge of French and Russian and her elaborate wardrobe, Pickens was soon a court favorite in St. Petersburg. Czar Alexander II and Czarina Maria showered the couple with gifts. The Czarina moved Lucy Pickens into the imperial palace and called in the royal physicians for the birth of her daughter Eugenia Frances Dorothea in 1859. The royal couple became the baby’s godparents, and the Czarina christened her with the additional names of Olga Neva and the term of endearment “Douschka” (Little Darling) by which she was always known.
As the South moved toward secession, Colonel Pickens decided to return home and lend his support to the Southern cause. Shortly after his return, he was elected governor of South Carolina. Lucy Pickens joined the Confederate effort, selling jewels given to her by the Russian royal family in order to outfit the “Lucy Holcombe Legion.” She became known as “Lady Lucy,” and her likeness appeared on three issues of Confederate currency–the one-dollar bills of 1862 and 1863 and the one-hundred-dollar bill of 1864–making her one of the few women whose likeness has appeared on a national currency, a tribute usually reserved for heads of state. That is one of the reasons she has been called the “uncrowned queen of the Confederacy.”
Francis Pickens died in 1869 at his home, “Edgewood” in Edgefield, South Carolina. Lucy Pickens continued to live there, while managing three plantations with the help of her brother John, until her death in 1899.