Former First Lady and family matriarch Barbara Bush was once described as 'a silver-haired pearl draped howitzer'. But a combination of blows in her life in the mid-seventies sent her spiraling into a depression that almost led to her taking her own life. Among the causes of her despair was a woman who would stay by her husband George's side for more than 12 years. Her name was Jennifer Fitzgerald (circled in main, sitting beside George and in front of Barbara in 1975) and she was his aide – and according to some, his mistress, reveals Susan Page, author of The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty out next Tuesday. When George was assigned to head the embattled CIA in 1975, Barbara 'fell into darkness'. 'Barbara Bush found herself falling into the worst personal crisis she had faced since daughter Robin had died more than two decades earlier,' writes Page. 'Overwhelmed by pain and loneliness, she contemplated suicide. She would pull over to the side of the road until the impulse to plow into a tree or drive into the path of an oncoming car had passed'. Barbara is pictured with George in 1987, bottom left, and in 1978, top right.