WESTPORT, Conn. — When author Eric Burns sat down to write a book about Theodore Roosevelt, he was well aware of the copious amount already written about the 26th president of the United States.
“Teddy Roosevelt’s life was a mural. There was so much in it,” the Westport resident told an audience at the Westport Library recently. “But there was a story to be told that hadn’t been told yet.”
That tale became “The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt,” which hit bookstore shelves in February. In his fifth book, Burns, a former correspondent for NBC News and host of “Fox News Watch,” sought to paint Roosevelt as both “the most bellicose man to sit in the White House” and “the best father to sit in the White House.”
Though Roosevelt had six children, Burns said his youngest, Quentin, was clearly his favorite. The impulsive child was allowed to have a relatively normal childhood, famously playing baseball on the lawn and once bringing a piglet home.
He and his siblings enjoyed playing tag with their dad, as well as engaging in nightly pillow fights and rounds of “scary bear,” a game made up by the president.
“It was a lovely and loving relationship,” said Burns.
While their dad could be playful at home, the boys also took to heart the war hero’s deep-seated belief in duty and honor — and war.
“He believed in war,” Burns said. “He believed you could learn a lot about a person by his views on war.”
So when the United States entered World War I, it wasn’t surprising how the four Roosevelt boys reacted. They enlisted.
“Each of Teddy Roosevelt’s sons — golden lads all — went to war,” Burns said.
And Roosevelt never saw one of them again: On Bastille Day, 1918, a German fighter pilot flying over France pulled alongside his beloved Quentin’s plane and shot him twice in the head.
Friends and family said Roosevelt — the strapping, larger-than-life icon depicted in so many biographies — grew sick and frail and died just six months later.
“He had gotten his war… and it had cost him his son,” Burns said. “He died of a broken heart.
“If you read 'The Golden Lad,' you will feel differently about Teddy Roosevelt than you ever have before.”
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