Margarita Schuyler was born on September 24, 1758, to General Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer, and was referred to as Meggy or Peggy. The third of eleven children, Peggy and her two older sisters Angelica and Eliza were in close age and constant companions to each other, being referred to as the Schuyler Sisters. She was known to be smart, beautiful, have a wicked wit, a feisty gregarious favorite at dinner tables and balls, and delighted all the visitors to the Schuyler Mansion in Albany. Being a Schuyler and Van Rennselaer meant that she was well regarded as Dutch-American notability.
A common legend about Peggy is that during the Revolution, the home was threatened by a group of Tories and Native American looking to kidnap her father. On August 7, 1781, they sieged upon the house while Peggy came out of hiding to collect her youngest sibling Catherine, who was mistakenly left downstairs. She made contact with the intruders and informed them that her father went into town to alert the burghers. As she ran upstairs with clutching baby Catherine, a tomahawk was flung toward her, slicing her gown and embedded itself into the staircase. Though this incident did not occur, the story may have been started by Catherine Schuyler and used as fuel in the U.S. distrust of the Native Americas during the nineteenth century.
In 1783 Peggy married Stephen Van Rensselaer III, a distant cousin. She was 25, and he was 19 which initially caused controversy for which the Schuylers did not approve. This resulted in them eloping at her parent’s country home in Saratoga. Stephen was the eldest son of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, Lor of the Van Rensselaer Manor, and Catherine Livingston, daughter of Philip Livingston. Due to the death of his father at a young age, Abraham Ten Broeck served as a de facto until he was 21 years of age and assumed responsibility. Peggy and Stephen had three children together, but only one survived, Stephen Van Rennselaer IV.
Peggy became ill in 1799 and continued to get worse over the next two years. She died on March 14, 1801, at the age of 42. Initially buried in the Van Rensselaer estate, she reinterred to Albany Rural Cemetery at the Van Rensselaer lot. Her brother-in-law, Alexander Hamilton, who had married her older sister Eliza was in Albany visiting family. Hamilton’s letter to Eliza documents her passing: “On Saturday, my dear Eliza, your sister took leave of her sufferings and friends, I trust to find repose and happiness in a better country.”
Peggy Schuyler has become one of the most recognizable names at Albany Rural Cemetery thanks in part to Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2015 Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton. The musical talks about the life of Alexander Hamilton and showcases her as a supporting character in Act One. The role was originated by Jasmine Cephas Jones who won a Grammy in 2016 for her work as one of the principal soloists on the original cast album. Peggy is featured in the song “The Schuyler Sisters.”