Americas’ Queen – Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Jackie Kennedy” by emaspounder is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Jackie has been called America’s Queen, not least by Frank Sinatra, who – on her death – sent two dozen red roses, with the message “You are America’s Queen”. In fact, she practically said it herself, if not in so many words. It was she, who, shortly after the assassination of her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, first compared his two years in the White House to King Arthur’s reign at Camelot. But Guinevere didn’t sleep with Arthur’s brother, as Jackie did with Robert Francis Kennedy, & Arthur didn’t shag half the Royal Court, as did JFK.

HyPeskin_KennedyCollection-046” by urcameras is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

Still, to be fair to Jackie, she only really ran around with men after her husband’s death. She was something of a saint during their marriage. She never complained of the gonorrhoea she picked up from JFK which meant she had a terrible time first conceiving & then miscarrying – one daughter was stillborn, & a son lived for two days. All the while, her smug Kennedy in-laws were producing great broods of children, at the same time mocking her elegant manners & soft speech, calling her “the deb”. She was the one who carefully dressed JFKs war wounds & designed his dressing room so he wouldn’t have to bend over to pick up his shoes & set off the crippling back pain he’d suffered since WW2….…. back pain that could not have been helped by having sex in the bath with La Monroe, whilst brother in law Peter Lawford took photographs of their antics.

After all, JFK had never really wanted to get married in the first place. He would have much preferred to have gone on – in his own words – “pooning” with every available girl he came across. He stunned Harold Macmillan by dropping into conversation that if he didn’t have sex at least once a day, he had a headache, which along with the gonorrhoea & back pains would have been really unbearable. But as he hit his mid 30s with a Senate career taking off, he knew he needed a wife, & a smart, French, Italian & Spanish speaking one at that, to counter both the disapproval of his peasant Irish roots, & avoid nuanced accusations of homosexuality. He did however do little to hide his lack of enthusiasm for his blushing bride : whilst watching TV coverage of the wedding of Prince Rainier & Grace Kelly, in front of Jackie said, completely seriously, ‘I could have married her’. Norman Mailer, who knew Jackie before her marriage ,perhaps said it best : In 1960 at a low point in the Kennedy marriage he wrote movingly of a “hint of gone laughter” in Jackie. But after a difficult patch in their marriage when they could well have divorced, they came to an understanding about their future just before embarking on the fateful flight into Love Field in November 1963.

During her time as the wife of a Presidential candidate, the First Lady and beyond, Jackie had become known for her chic, distinctive style, popularising pillbox hats, oversized sunglasses, elbow length gloves, strapless gowns, and tailored coats, to name a few. She profoundly influenced an entire generation in wanting to look, dress, and behave like her, and, on the world stage, provided a visual metaphor for the youth and promise of the Kennedy administration.  One of Jackie Kennedy’s most famous outfits was her pink suit and pillbox hat number, the ones she wore the day her husband was assassinated in Dallas. And while most people believe that this get-up was the work of French designer Chanel, it was actually a “line-by-line copy.” Evidently, after she (& by inference JFK)  was pilloried in the press for splashing out on international designer clothing she instead had similar garments made in the U.S.

Jackie Kennedy had a signature style” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

There’s no doubt the assassination flattened Jackie. She had what amounted to a year long nervous breakdown & for several years after that, when under stress, would drag her hand through the air to describe the arc followed by the fragments of JFKs skull she tried desperately to stuff back into his head during the car ride to the hospital in Dallas. She thought her life was over & that she was destined to live out her days as a Washington widow. With her beauty and desirability – and need to be desired – this was unlikely. And, for all her independence, devotion to her children & her later publishing career, she always needed a man around. When she left school, under “Ambition” in her graduation year-book, she wrote “Never to be a housewife” : in fact her most dazzling moments were as the greatest housewife in the world. Jackie Kennedy, however, still had a life to live. She was only 34 and had two young children. Between JFK and her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, she apparently took another lover:  David Ormsby-Gore, the fifth Lord of Harlech and the British ambassador to the United States under JFK. Around the time that she lost JFK, Ormsby-Gore also lost his wife in a car accident, and it was this mutual sense of loss and loneliness that helped bring the pair closer together. However Jackie ultimately felt it inappropriate to wed someone who was so close to her late husband, and so she turned down Ormsby-Gore’s proposal. In a 1968 letter explaining her decision, she wrote to Ormsby-Gore, “If ever I can find some healing and some  comfort—it has to be with somebody who is not part of all my world of past and pain.”

Sir David Ormsby-Gore, former British Ambassador to the US” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It shouldn’t have come as a shock that she would eventually marry again, which she did on October 20, 1968, just 4 months after RFK had himself been assassinated. The world wasn’t sure how it felt about the former First Lady moving on from martyrdom. They might have been uncomfortable with her remarrying under any circumstances, but her spousal selection ensured maximum trauma. Aristotle Onassis was not the love of Jackie Kennedy’s life, nor was she the great love of his. (Indeed, many would argue that neither particularly loved the other at any point.) Yet somehow their union lasted until his death in 1975. Quite simply, Aristotle and Jackie didn’t seem like two people who would mix socially, much less wed. He was after all, the archetypal Greek peasant made good who upholstered his bar stools in whales scrotum, so he could ask women if they enjoyed sitting on the largest balls in the world – He’d also had a tempestuous relationship with Jackie’s sister years earlier. It was easy to believe that she married him because his wealth could provide her the security (in all forms) she desperately desired. And he married her because the widow of JFK was the ultimate trophy wife.

File:Aristotle Onassis 1967.jpg” by Pieter Jongerhuis is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

We’ll never know exactly how this marriage operated—the only two people who can definitively answer are long departed. However, it can be said that this union was ultimately a blip in both of their lives. The vast majority of the Onassis fortune went to his daughter from his first marriage.  When they reported the March 15, 1975 death of Aristotle Onassis in a French hospital, the New York Times noted his daughter Christina was by his side but his wife had “taken to commuting between Paris and New York.” Jackie had already outlived the son of Onassis, as Alexander died in a plane crash in 1973. (The same fate that would befall John Jr. 26 years later.) She outlived Maria Callas (the real love of Onassis’s life) – too, who died in 1977.  Jackie even outlived the daughter who was so attentively at her father Aristotle’s side, as Christina Onassis died of a heart attack in the bath of her Buenos Aires mansion in 1988 at just 37.

And so in this chapter of her life, Jacqueline Kennedy Bouvier Onassis found a measure of peace. She worked as a book editor, with authors including the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz. She also found a lasting relationship with the Belgian-born businessman Maurice Tempelsman, a man with even less interest in the limelight than she had. Jackie observed, “The first time you marry for love, the second for money and the third for companionship.” This time she didn’t even bother with marriage—the two simply were devoted to each other until her death in 1994 at the age of 64.

She’d keep the Onassis name for the rest of her life, but no one was surprised that Jackie was buried next to JFK at Arlington National Cemetery, not by Aristotle on Skorpios.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy’s Gravesite” by isuperwang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


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