Jackie Kennedy’s letters will be aired, no matter who buys them

May 13, 2014
In a September 2013 interview, Anita McBride, former chief of staff to Laura Bush, explains how Jacqueline Kennedy created a home for herself at the country's most famous address. (JulieAnn McKellogg/The Washington Post)

Are there any secrets of Jackie Kennedy’s left to spill?

Hard to believe that there isn’t a private moment of the iconic — and much-chronicled — former first lady’s life that hasn’t been pawed over, but a newly surfaced raft of letters she wrote to a priest in Dublin is set for auction in Ireland on June 10.

Sheppard’s auction house, which is selling the unpublished letters, says they amount to an autobiography of Kennedy, covering the time between when she first met her future husband through the year after the president’s assassination.

The Irish Times got a preview of the correspondence, which it says reveals Jackie Kennedy’s fears about her marriage and her husband’s fierce ambition. In one missive, Jackie worried that her husband might 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.”In one missive, Jackie worried that her husband might 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.” 

No matter who winds up buying the letters, which are expected to fetch as much as $1.6 million, their contents will be aired. Washington-based author Kitty Kelley, whose splashy 1978 biography “Jackie Oh!” detailed President John Kennedy’s womanizing and claimed that his wife suffered from depression and received shock-therapy treatments, tells the Reliable Source that she already has copies of the letters. Kelley says she plans to use them in her forthcoming book about Georgetown, the neighborhood where the newly married Kennedys first settled.

Sheppard’s auctioneer Philip Sheppard says he thinks the letters will wind up with an American buyer, suggesting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston as an ideal destination for the papers. A spokeswoman for that institution noted that the library itself does not make purchases and that its contents are all donated. “If someone were to express an interest in making that kind of a donation, we would take a look,” she said.  (Was that a hint?)

The letters to the priest are just a part of the richer picture of  Jackie Kennedy’s life that has emerged of late. Her daughter, Caroline Kennedy, donated many of her mother’s papers to the JFK library, which is making them public in batches. Earlier this year, it released the private mail written to the first lady after her husband’s death. The spokeswoman says about half of the papers have been disclosed so far.

Though Jackie Kennedy’s story has been well documented, some mysteries remain. One thing that isn’t known? The source of the soon-to-be-auctioned letters, which the auction house is keeping private.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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