Jackie Kennedy's letters to Catholic priest reveal feelings, doubts

(REUTERS / Abbie Rowe / The White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)Former United States President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy sit in a car in front of Blair House during the arrival ceremonies for Habib Bourguiba, president of Tunisia, in Washington, in this handout image taken on May 3, 1961. November 22, 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.

In 1950, an exchange student named Jacqueline Bouvier first met the Catholic priest Father Joseph Leonard at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland. She was 21 and he was 73.

The meeting, albeit brief, left a lasting impression on the young Bouvier. From 1950 to 1964, she wrote 30 letters to Fr. Leonard, a man she would meet only once more before the priest's death in 1964, The Irish Times reported.

Who owns the letters is now the subject of a legal dispute in Ireland.

In the years in between, Bouvier married a charismatic American politician named John F. Kennedy to become the iconic Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy the world has come to know.

The letters ended when Fr. Leonard died in 1964, scarcely a year after JFK was assassinated in November 1963.

The newly discovered correspondence of 33 letters (130 pages in total) and a telegram between Jackie Kennedy and Leonard were to be sold at an auction in Dublin on June 10, The Irish Times reported.

The newspaper said the tone of their correspondence was not pastoral but "more of a friendship." The letters seemed to be what one would expect from two people belonging to the same age group, and not from two people separated by a 53-year age gap.

A reading of some of the letters reproduced in the media give new insights into the mind and private life of one of the 20th century's most admired women.

One admission by Mrs. Kennedy was how her lofty social status had kept her from revealing her tumultuous inner feelings to anyone, not even her husband or family.


"It's so good in a way to write all this down and get it off your chest - because I never do really talk about it with anyone," she said.

In her letters, Mrs. Kennedy talked candidly of her husband's infamous womanizing and her early fears her husband might turn out to be like her father, who "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."

But her love for the future president apparently overcame those fears. After a year of marriage, she wrote, "I love being married much more than I did even in the beginning."

She also wrote of how she was both dazzled and left in despair by the pomp and majesty of the world of politics and wealth surrounding her.

"Maybe I'm just dazzled and picture myself in a glittering world of crowned heads and Men of Destiny - and not just a sad little housewife. … That can be very glamorous from the outside - but if you're in it - and you're lonely - it could be a hell."

Many of the letters read like a personal diary. She ended many of her letters to Fr. Leonard with "Xs" and "Os" meaning "hugs & kisses."

Kennedy met Fr. Leonard a second time with JFK, then a U.S. senator, when they were in Dublin in 1955.

In her last letter to  Leonard after her husband's assassination, Mrs Kennedy said "I feel more cruelly every day what I have lost - I always would have rather lost my life than lost Jack."

She wrote the assassination made her "bitter against God" but did not keep her from believing in God in the hope of reuniting with her husband in the afterlife.

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