Newly released letters from Jackie Kennedy to a British diplomat and potential lover reveal why she decided to marry Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, much to the surprise of her friends at the time.
David Ormsby Gore, better known by his title of Lord Harlech, was the British ambassador to Washington during President Kennedy’s administration. He became a personal friend of the young president, who constantly consulted him on important foreign affairs.
Lord Harlech was invited into the Kennedy family home and also became close to Jackie. After the president’s death, and following the death his wife in a car crash in 1967, Harlech and Jackie became very close and took a holiday together at Cyrenaica. Afterwards, they exchanged intimate letters.
In one letter, she spoke of the love and bond she felt for Harlech. “You are like my beloved beloved brother — and mentor — and the only original spirit I know — as you were to Jack.”
It becomes clear, however, that she saw him as a friend rather than as a suitor, and she turned down his proposal of marriage, a rejection that broke his heart. He wrote to her afterwards:
“All the pathetic plans I had brought with me for visits to Cyrenaica, holidays near one another and a whole variety of solutions to our marriage problem, including one for a secret marriage this summer — plans which I saw us eagerly discussing, calmly and with complete frankness as we did at the Cape and in Cambodia for the next wonderful ten days — all had become irrelevant trash to be thrown away within a few hours of my landing in New York.
“As for your photograph I weep when I look at it. Why do such agonizing things have to happen? Where was the need for it?”
Harlech later wrote to her expressing his surprise and his disappointment that she had chosen to marry a man like Onassis instead.
She replied, with what the New York Times describes as a touch of cruelty: “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. I can find that now — if the world will let us.
“Please know — you of all people must know it — that we can never really see into the heart of another. You know me. And you must know that the man you write of in your letter is not a man that I could marry.”
She added that Mr Onassis is “lonely and wants to protect me from being lonely. And he is wise and kind. Only I can decide if he can, and I decided.
“I know it comes as a surprise to so many people. But they see things for me that I never wanted for myself.”
Lord Harlech died following a car crash in 1985. Jackie attended his funeral.
The letters were discovered last month by Lord Harlech’s grandson among a set of papers at the family home in Wales. They are to be auctioned in March to raise money to restore the house.