America’s 15th president may have also been its first gay one. He was the country’s only president never to marry, and for 10 years, from 1834 to 1844, Buchanan lived together in a Washington boardinghouse with a former Congressman from North Carolina, William Rufus King, who later became the country’s vice president under President Franklin Pierce. It’s known that King referred to the men’s relationship as “communion,” and the pair attended many social functions together. Future President Andrew Jackson called Buchanan and King “Aunt Fancy” and “Miss Nancy.” Governor Aaron Brown of Tennessee termed their relationship a “marriage” and called King Buchanan’s “better half.” Gossip of the time records them as being “Siamese twins.”
Buchanan reportedly adopted King’s mannerisms, and in 1844, the pair had planned to run together for president and vice president on the same ticket. Both were described as eccentric, “soft” and effeminate. But as it turned out, in early 1844 King was appointed to be the U.S. Minister to France, and he left for Europe that year.
Buchanan was crushed, and wrote to a female friend, “I am now ‘solitary and alone’, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a-wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”