Considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in the South, Lucy Holcombe was born on June 11, 1832, near La Grange, Fayette County, Tennessee. Between 1848 and 1850, the Holcombes moved to Marshall, Texas.
Lucy became highly acclaimed throughout the South for her "classic features, titian hair, pansy eyes, and graceful figure.” Using the pseudonym H. M. Hardeman, she wrote “The Free Flag of Cuba, or the Martyrdom of Lopez: A Tale of the Liberating Expedition of 1851,” a novelette published in 1855.
In 1858, she married Francis Wilkinson Pickens, twice a widower and twenty-seven years her senior. President James Buchanan appointed him ambassador to Russia. Lucy was a favorite at the Russian court. She gave birth to her only child at the imperial palace on March 14, 1859.
Francis Pickens was elected governor by the South Carolina legislature and was inaugurated on December 17, 1860. As the Governor’s wife, she gained prominence in the South for more than her beauty; she was highly respected for her intelligence and political opinion. Portraits of her were used on Confederate one-dollar notes, $100 notes and $1000 bonds.
She died at her home, Edgewood, on August 8, 1899, of a cerebral embolism, and was buried near her husband and daughter in Edgefield Cemetery.