Jackie Kennedy's 'bitterness against God' revealed in letters to Irish priest

Previously unpublished letters reveal First Lady's despair after assassination of John F Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy’s despair and struggle with her faith after her husband’s assassination has been revealed in an archive of previously unseen letters to an Irish priest.

Jackie Kennedy’s despair and struggle with her faith after her husband’s assassination has been revealed in an archive of previously unseen letters to an Irish priest.

Her 14-year correspondence with Fr Joseph Leonard stretched over her time as the US’s First Lady and through the aftermath of President John F Kennedy’s death in 1963.

Months after the shooting, she wrote that she had become “bitter against God” and struggled to find comfort in her strong Catholic faith.

“I have to think there is a God – or I have no hope of finding Jack again,” she wrote. “God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see Him.”

The previously unpublished letters were handed to the Irish Times before they go on sale in June at auction.

Mrs Kennedy, who later remarried and became known as Jackie O, met Fr Leonard during a visit to Ireland with her stepbrother in 1950, when she was 21 and he was 73.

Although they only met on one other occasion, in Dublin when she was travelling with her husband, they kept up their correspondence until Fr Leonard’s death in 1964.

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John F Kennedy with his wife, Jackie

At the beginning of her marriage to President Kennedy, she told of worries that he might be unfaithful like her father, John Vernou Bouvier.

She wrote: “He’s like my father in a way – loves the chase and is bored with the conquest – and once married needs proof he’s still attractive, so flirts with other women and resents you. I saw how that nearly killed Mummy.”

Her premonition proved right and the President gained infamy for a string of alleged affairs with interns, secretaries and reportedly even Marilyn Monroe.

But the troubles did not dull her grief after his brutal assassination in Dallas, where she cradled his body in her arms on the way to hospital.

She wrote to Fr Leonard: “I feel more cruelly every day what I have lost – I always would have rather lost my life than lost Jack.”

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Jacqueline Kennedy holds the US flag that covered the coffin of her husband at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, after he was buried

Mrs Kennedy went on to marry Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate, and died in 1994 aged 64 in New York.

Obituaries noticed the quietness of her later life and her near silence on her time as First Lady.

The New York Times wrote: “For decades she had not spoken publicly about Mr. Kennedy, his Presidency or their marriage.”

Her privacy is likely to produce even more interest in the intimate correspondence with Fr Leonard.

Philip Sheppard, from Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, expected the 33 letters to reach bids of up to €1 million.

“We are thrilled at Sheppard’s to offer what is in effect the unpublished autobiography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy,” he said.

Read more:
10 unanswered questions about JFK's assassination
'Imagine if John F Kennedy had lived'

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