KENNEDY, JACQUELINE

A Unique Letter Penned Just One Month after her “beloved and tragic brother-in-law” Robert Kennedy’s Death Detailing Jackie’s Heart-Wrenching Account of the Public Outpouring of Sympathy Following her Husband’s Assassination

SOLD — please inquire about other Kennedy autographs

Item #20514


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KENNEDY, JACQUELINE - A Unique Letter Penned Just One Month after her “beloved and tragic brother-in-law” Robert Kennedy’s Death Detailing Jackie’s Heart-Wrenching Account of the Public Outpouring of Sympathy Following her Husband’s Assassination
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KENNEDY, JACQUELINE - A Unique Letter Penned Just One Month after her “beloved and tragic brother-in-law” Robert Kennedy’s Death Detailing Jackie’s Heart-Wrenching Account of the Public Outpouring of Sympathy Following her Husband’s Assassination

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KENNEDY, JACQUELINE. (1929-1994). First Lady; wife of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), thirty-fifth president of the United States. ALS. (“Jacqueline Kennedy”). 3pp. 8vo. N.p., July 16, (1968). Written To Vicomtesse JEANNE-MARIE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD (1921-2004) on three sheets of paper headed by President Kennedy’s coat of arms, about the murders of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968).

 

“I was so touched by your letter – you feel so strongly all the unutterable things – I suppose the world does – but it affects me very much coming from you – Our lives have not crossed for many years – How insouciant were the days at Newport when I first knew René and Jeane-Marie [sic] – Nous n’irons plus aux bois. [Literally, “We’ll to the woods no more,” i.e. those times are gone] Please do not feel offended that your letters to me at the time of President Kennedy’s death were not answered – I received more than one million letters – Battalions of secretaries and volunteers went through them – After months they were arranged in some sort of categories – but it was impossible to answer them all – I went on television to thank people I could never thank – I read 8 letters – in the first days afterwards – then I never read any more nor do I ever wish to – I could not survive it – Every single letter has been saved – and will be forever kept in his library – as will the letters for Robert Kennedy – But I am so very glad that your letter for Robert Kennedy – my beloved and tragic brother-in-law reached me – I thank you with all my heart…”

 

Jackie first met Washington’s most eligible bachelor, Senator John F. Kennedy, while employed as the Washington Times-Herald’s “Inquiring Camera Girl.” Their engagement in June 1953 and wedding three months later marked the beginning of “Camelot” and the public’s fascination with the couple. Jackie is remembered equally for her style and grace both as first lady and as a widow after her husband’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, onNovember 22, 1963. The president was shot while riding in a convertible seated next to his wife whose horror was witnessed by millions on live television. “The assassination and its aftermath was the first national tragedy to play out during the era of modern mass communication,” (Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963, Mulvaney and De Angelis). Condolences flooded into the White House “at a rate of thirty or forty thousand letters a day,” (ibid.). Friends and volunteers were recruited to help open the mail which soon filled entire rooms of the White House and Executive Office Building and which continued to arrive for more than a year after Kennedy’s death.

 

“The week after the assassination, [Jackie] told journalist Theodore White, ‘Most people think having the world share in your grief lessens your burden. It magnifies it’ …Nevertheless, her innate sense of history, inherent courtesy, and a profound sense of gratitude to the hundreds of thousands who wrote to her impelled her to overcome her own reluctance to make a public acknowledgement,” with a television appearance on January 14, 1964, (ibid.). “From Robert F. Kennedy’s office at the Justice Department, seated with her two Kennedy brothers-in-law, she wore the same black suit she’d worn at the President’s funeral seven weeks earlier,” (ibid.). In her address she stated “The knowledge of the affection in which my husband was held by all of you has sustained me, and the warmth of these tributes is something I shall never forget. Whenever I can bear to, I read them. All his bright light gone from the world. All of you who have written to me know how much we all loved him and that he returned that love in full measure. It is my greatest wish that all of these letters be acknowledged. They will be, but it will take a long time to do so. But I know you will understand. Each and every message is to be treasured, not only for my children but so that future generations will know how much our country and people in other nations thought of him,” (ibid.).

 

Jackie’s acknowledgement did nothing to stop the continuous outpouring of letters and packages sent from around the world. “By the time the official collection of condolence correspondence ended in early 1965, it totaled some 1.250.000 pieces. Many letters would find their place in the JFK Library – but they have never been put on display to the general public. Most of the items are still categorized according to the systems used by the volunteer staff who originally sorted through the torrent of incoming mail,” (ibid.).

 

Following JFK’s death, Jackie devotedly worked to preserve his legacy and, with her brother-in-law Robert,with whom she engaged in a 4-year love affair, famously sued to block publication of The Death of a President, William Manchester’s authorized account of the assassination. Kennedy, who had served as his brother’s attorney general, was easily elected U.S. Senator from New York in 1964 and announced his candidacy for president on March 16, 1968. But just three months into the race, he was fatally shot in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, by Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Robert’s death deeply affected Jackie, as evidenced by our tragically-worded letter.

 

After Robert’s death Jackiewas consoled by wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who had long been infatuated with the former first lady, and whose sister had once been his lover. The two married on Onassis’s private island Skorpios on October 20, 1968, much to the dismay of Jackie’s friends, family and the public. Jackie defended her actions, stating “If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets. I want to get out of this country,” (After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family, 1968 to the Present, Taraborrelli).

 

Our letter was written to a member of the French aristocracy that Jackie knew from her youth in Newport. The recipient’s brother was Jean-Marie de la Rochefoucauld (1923-2012) a hero of the French Resistance during World War II who destroyed a munitions factory and carried out numerous daring acts and sabotage.

 

The French quotation used by Jackie, “Nous n’irons plus aux bois,” is the title of an 1887 book by Edouard Dujardin, first translated into English in 1938. The English edition was dedicated to James Joyce who credited the author with influencing his “interior monologue” technique. Interestingly, Dujardin probably took the title from a line in Theodore de Banville’s 1846 poem, “Les Lauriers sont coupes.” The line’s popular English translation seems to have first been used by A.E. Housman in his Last Poems, 1922. 

 

The stationery’s coat of arms combined elements from the arms of O’Kennedy (Ó Cinnéide) of Ormonde and the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond. The arms were granted JFK on St. Patrick’s Day in 1961. In mid-1965, Bobby carried a banner bearing these arms to the top of the newly named Mount Kennedy, the highest peak in North America that had not yet been scaled, situated near the border of the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska.

 

Folded with scattered toning and wear. In fine condition. A unique and profoundly sad letter by the former First Lady about the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy.

 

 

Item #20514

SOLD — please inquire about other Kennedy autographs



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