Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
November 6th 2007 01:14
When I go down by the sandy shore
I can think of nothing I want more
Than to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter round about me
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish.
Oh – to live by the sea is my only wish.
Jacqueline Bouvier, age ten
When Jacqueline Bouvier attended Miss Chapin's School in New York. Miss Platt, one of her teachers, said:
”a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil.”
Miss Ethel Stringfellow, headmistress of the school, wrote on one report card:
“Jacqueline was given a D in Form because of her disturbing conduct in her geography class made it necessary to exclude her from the room.”
Jacqueline was first put on a horse by her mother when she was only a year old. She never stopped loving horses. She won national championships by the age of eleven and in 1940 the New York Times wrote:
“Jacqueline Bouvier, an eleven year old equestrienne from East Hampton, Long Island, scored a double victory in the horsemanship competition. Miss Bouvier achieved a rare distinction. The occasions are few when a young rider wins both contests in the same show.”
She loved reading, painting, writing, and a variety of animals, including a dog named Hoochie.
Jacqueline Bouvier was born July 28, 1929 in Southampton, New York. She was the eldest of two daughters. Her parents, Janet Lee and John Bouvier III divorced in 1942, and her mother married Hugh Auchincloss, Jr.
She was 15 when she left for boarding school. In 1947 she enrolled in Vassar College. According to the New York Times she applied to a program at Smith College and spent her junior year in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. After returning to the States, she transferred to George Washington University and graduated in 1951. That same year she met John Kennedy. They married in 1953. She was twenty-three.
Jackie, as most everyone affectionately thought of her, came to public attention as the wife of a Senator who was running for President. She was lovely, soft spoken and poised. Worries that she was too aristocratic for the average American fell by the wayside as the public embraced her. He was thrirty-six years old, and she was thirty-one when he ran for President.
In 1960 people worried about having a Catholic President. There was also quite a bit of gossip about John Kennedy's father, Joe. Joseph Kennedy had been an Ambassador to England, but with the possibility of his son becoming President, Joe's ambition and bootlegging past re-entered the public discussion.
Jackie gracefully managed the discussion of the Catholic religion to which she had converted (and was sincerely devout) as well as handling the forcefulness of her mother and father-in-laws personalities.
Her public glamor at this time could be contrasted with enormous personal sorrow. She gave birth in 1957 to Caroline, and John in 1960. But, before that, she suffered a miscarriage in 1955. Then a still born baby in 1956. In 1963, four months before her husband's death, she gave birth to a boy who lived only 39 hours. His name was Patrick.
When John and Jackie moved into the White House it was the first time in sixty years there were young children living on the premises. Jackie reportedly wanted as much restraint as possible on public pictures of the children. So, every time she was out, it was the President who called photographers into the Oval Office for pictures of the children under his desk.
Ben Bradlee was the Editor of the Washington Post newspaper, and a friend of the Kennedy's. He has said,
“I think she cast a particular spell over the White House that has not been equaled. She was young. My God, she was young.
Jackie was also a linguist and famously conquered the affections of France, when traveling there with the President. President Kennedy said, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris – and I have enjoyed it.”
The Kennedy years in the White House involved a particularly tense time one October. It involved Cuba, missiles, and the Soviet Union. There was also the founding of the Peace Corps in 1961. There were also speeches and legislation meant to promote Civil Rights for all Americans.
The civil rights legislation and governement programs were completed after the President's death by Lyndon Johnson. Less than three years in office limited John Kennedy's legacy.
The President was assassinated in November, 1963. Jackie Kennedy was there when he was shot. In her blood spattered suit, she stood up, beside Lyndon Johnson, on the plane as Mr. Johnson was sworn in as the next President.
According to some, Jackie chose not to take sleeping pills after losing her husband, so that she could handles the arrangments for the funeral. She was just thirty-four years old.
Later she told historian Theodore H. White,
“And the song he loved most came at the very end of this record, the last side of Camelot, sad Camelot...
'Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”
There'll never be another Camelot again.”
Mr. White said, “So the epitaph on the Kennedy Administration became Camelot-- a magic moment in American History, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers and poets met at the White House and barbarians beyond the wall were held back.”
Before Jackie left the White House she placed a plaque in the Lincoln bedroom.
“In this room lived John Fitzgerald Kennedy with his wife, Jacqueline, during the 2 years, 10 months, and 2 days he was President of the United States – Jan. 10, 1961 – Nov. 22, 1963.”
[Washington, D.C. rumor/history has it that Patricia Nixon, wife of the man John F. Kennedy defeated in 1960, removed the plaque, after Mr. Nixon became President. ]
Leaving the White House did not bring Jackie the privacy that other first families had received. She was followed by paparazzi, who photographed her for a public which could not get enough of the brave young widow.
Despite this unwanted attention, she was haunted.
“I'm so lonely”, she told a friend, who was a priest. [His personal papers were only discovered after the priest passed away]
Years passed, she raised the children, and the world saw the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jacqueline Kennedy's brother-in-law, Rober F. Kennedy.
Eventually, she began a relationship with a flamboyant millionaire. Possibly the richest man in the world, at that time. And the United States, and the rest of the world, was scandalized.
Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis courted her, and they married, as headlines screamed “Jackie, OH!”
There were rumors of an imminent divorce when Aristotle Onassis passed away, leaving her a widow again. Jacqueline moved to New York and took a job as an editor at a publishing house. Numerous authors have spoken warmly of her assistance, and encouragement, in the publication of their work.
In 1994 she announced that she had cancer, and passed away, at home surrounded by family, that year.
“...during those four endless days in 1963, she held us together as a family and a country. In large part because of her, we could grieve and then go on. She lifted us up, and in the doubt and darkness, she gave her fellow citizens back their pride as Americans. She was then 34 years old.
“Afterward, as the eternal flame she lit flickered in the autumn of Arlington Cemetary Jackie went on to do what she most wanted – to raise Caroline and John, and warm her family's life and that of all the Kennedys.
“Robert Kennedy sustained her, and she helped make it possible for Bobby to continue. She kept Jack's memory alive and he carried Jack's mission on.
“Her two children turned out to be extraordianry: honest, unspoiled, and with a character equal to hers. And she did it in the most trying circumstances. They are her two miracles.
“Her love for Caroline and John was deep and unqualified. She reveled in their accomplisments; she hurt with their sorrows; she felt sheer joy and delight in speding time with them. At the mere mention of one of their names, Jackie's eyes would shine brighter and her smile would grow bigger. She once siad that if you 'bungle raising your children nothing else much matters in life.' She didn't bungle. Once again, she showed how to do the most important thing of all, and do it right.
“When she went to work, Jackie became a respected professional in the world of publishing. And because of her, remarkable books came to life. And she searched out new authors and ideas. She was interested in everything. Her love of history became a devotion to historic preservation. You knew, when Jackie joined the cause to save a building in Manhattan, the bulldozers might as well turn around and go home.
“She had a wonderful sense of humor – a way of focusing on someone with total attention – and a little girl delight in who they were and what they were saying. It was a gift of herself that she gave to others. And in spite of all of her heartache and loss, she never faltered.
“I often think of what she said about Jack in December after he died:
'They made him a legend, when he would have preferred to be a man.'
Jackie would have preferred to be just herself, but the world insisted that she be a legend too. She never wanted public notice – in part, I think, because it brought back painful memories of unbearable sorrow endured in the glare of a million lights.
In all the years since then, her genuineness and depth of characteer continued to shine through the privacy, and reach people everywhere.
“Jackie was too young to be a widow in 1963, and too young to die now. Her grandchildren were bringing new joy to her life, a joy that illuminated her face whenever you saw them together. Wherher it was taking Rose and Tatiana for an icce cream cone, or taking a walk in Central Park weith little Jack as she did last Sunday, she relished being 'Grandjackie' and showering her grandchildren with love.
“At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.
“In truth, she did everything she could – and more- for each of us. She made a rare and noble contribution ot the American spirit. Buit for us, most of all she was a magnificent wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, aunt, and friend.
She graced our history. And for those of us who knew and loved her – she graced our lives.”
Mrs. Kennedy's body lies beside her husband's, in Arlington Cemetery.
The November, 2007 issue of Vanity Fair features Jacqueline and John Kennedy on the cover. Even now, never before seen photographs, taken by Richard Avedon, earn the cover.
subscribe to this blog