America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

by Sarah Bradford


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America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford

Now the subject of a new film directed by Pablo Larrain, "Jackie", starring Natalie Portman

Acclaimed biographer Sarah Bradford explores the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the woman who has captivated the public for more than five decades, in a definitive portrait that is both sympathetic and frank. With an extraordinary range of candid interviews—many with people who have never spoken in such depth on record before—Bradford offers new insights into the woman behind the public persona. She creates a coherent picture out of Jackie’s tumultuous and cosmopolitan life—from the aristocratic milieu of Newport and East Hampton to the Greek isles, from political Washington to New York’s publishing community. She probes Jackie’s privileged upbringing, her highly public marriages, and her roles as mother and respected editor, and includes rare photos from private collections to create the most complete account yet written of this legendary life.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's life is once again the center of interest with the 2016 release of the Pablo Larrain movie "Jackie", starring Natalie Portman.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141002200
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/2001
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 657,776
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sarah Bradford is a historian and biographer. Her previous books include Cesare Borgia, Disraeli, Princess Grace, George VI, Splendours and Miseries: A Life of Sacheverell Sitwell, Elizabeth:: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen, America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Lucrezia Borgia.

Read an Excerpt

She said to me once that a few of us should be forgiven for some of the things we did in the years immediately following the President's death. I think she was not only excusing me but also excusing herself. --Theodore C. Sorensen

Of all the knights of Camelot gathered around the widowed queen, Bobby was by far the closest. In a distortion of the myth, he increasingly played Lancelot to Jackie's Guinevere. In their grief they clung together, Bobby acting as a husband substitute for Jackie, a father substitute for her children. He had always been the one member of the Kennedy family who was always there for her -- at her bedside after the stillbirth of her daughter in 1956, when Jack was vacationing in Europe, with Jack after the death of Patrick, and, finally, first to the plane when she brought Jack's body back from Dallas. Bobby was with her constantly on N Street, coming around immediately if she called him, stopping by in the evening. In order to avoid attention, he parked his car some distance away from the house on another street....

Jackie's return to life began early in the summer of 1965. "I don't know if she was ever really happy that much," said a Kennedy aide and personal friend of Bobby's, who had been in love with Jackie. "But I think a few years after he (Jack) died, sort of 'sixty-five to 'sixty-eight, it was much better for her, emotionally better. Her life had settled in, and Bobby was around, I think that was a pretty good period." Chuck Spalding, who remained close to the family, told Kennedy biographer Nigel Hamilton that Jackie and Bobby were lovers, and that he was good for her.

"She had a real depression after Jack Kennedy died," Richard Goodwin (Kennedy aide) said. "It took her quite a while to get out of it. She really got out of it by getting out and seeing people, doing some work, and doing things like that." Some people have conjectured that Bobby and Jackie's love for each other was morbid, as if being together was somehow sharing a piece of Jack. "On Jackie's side it was genuine, real passion," another friend confided. "For him it was more complicated. It might have been -- I don't know. He would have said no, obviously, he would have said it was an insane thought. This doesn't mean it's not true, just because he wasn't aware of it." Asked how long the relationship had gone on, he said, "Close to when he died."

Bobby was Jackie's great love; a secret rock at the center of her life. Their romance was all the stronger because it was an impossible one. Bobby would never have divorced Ethel, intensely loyal as she was to him and the mother of their nine children. (The tenth, Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, was born on January 11, 1965.) Even if he had wanted to, both his religion and his political career presented insurmountable obstacles. Nor would Jackie have wanted to go over all the old territory again, the politics, the infidelities. She was under no illusion that Bobby was capable of physical fidelity. When she told Joan Kennedy at the time of one of Teddy's most public affairs, "All Kennedy men are like that," she meant it. Bobby was less chauvinist in his attitude to women than the other Kennedy men; he liked talking to them and in that sense he was not a user to the extent that his brothers (and father) were. He had a long relationship with a Boston-born woman in New York, but he had shared some of Jack's women and had many relationships out on the campaign trail.

Jackie and Bobby were not discreet, meeting frequently alone in public places, as if the unbelievability of their relationship was a shield against the reality.

There was a string of escorts, public cover for more private relationships. Her first sexual affair lasted for eighteen months and was over before it was even hinted at in the press. Jackie had met Jack Wryneck over his plans for Lafayette Square; in the year after Jack's death, she had worked closely with him on the design for Jack's grave. At forty-seven Jack Wryneck was a very attractive man -- six foot three with the athletic physique of the ex-football star -- a brilliant and successful architect and, since his divorce in 1961, the lover of a succession of beautiful women. That autumn Janet Auchincloss had invited him up to Hammersmith to see the work of a famous local stonecarver, who was to execute the inscriptions for Jack's grave. Jackie was there. "I can recall at that time, after this full year of me working with Jackie, me looking at Jackie, Jackie looking at me...all the things we were struggling through. And I remember saying, 'Why don't you let me drive back to Hyannis Port, let me take over from the Secret Service?' And she said she'd be delighted. So we got rid of the Secret Service. It was a beautiful open-top car she was in, so we had a very nice drive back to Hyannis Port, and all started, right then and there, after all the looking at each other, listening to each other, going through all the grieving and the tension and the time.... That's where it started. I spent the weekend with her. I can't for the life of me remember where the children were, I just remember us. So that's how it all started, and then I began seeing her all the time, every weekend....

"Bunny Mellon had a little surprise thing for us, a little cottage all dolled up for Halloween, and by Thanksgiving I was there at Hammersmith, with my children, her children.... We spent the whole weekend with the family."

Wryneck reminisced, "She was witty, she was charming, she was fun, she was beautiful, she was passionate, she was all the things we dream about. We talked about intimate things, about how she almost lost her virginity to John Marquand." Jackie also talked tenderly about Bobby, but when she telephoned him to tell him about her new love, Bobby, a political Kennedy to the fingertips, warned her that it was "too soon" after Jack's death. With his political career in New York to consider, and beyond that the inevitable bid for the Presidency, his public interest decreed that Jackie remain the priceless Kennedy asset. Just as Jack had, Jackie compartmentalized her life and her loves. Wryneck could not believe that she and Bobby were closely involved in the autumn of 1964 when they first became lovers. Yet she certainly saw a great deal of Bobby while maintaining her relationship with Wryneck and other men. She spent Christmas 1964 in Aspen with Bobby, Pat, Jean and the children, but no Ethel, who was expecting their tenth child in January. In the first week of February 1965 she was at Puerto Marques, near Acapulco, with the Radziwills as guests of their old friend the architect Fernando Parra Hernandez, but on February 13 she and Bobby took the children skiing again to Lake Placid, and again in Vermont on April 20.

In June she set off for a carefully planned seven-week sojourn in Hawaii, the culmination of her romance with Jack Wryneck. The couple had contemplated marriage, and when Wryneck confessed to Jackie that he had never been baptized, she was delighted: "'Maybe I can make you a Catholic,' and I said, 'I don't mind, it doesn't mean anything to me!' So I said I would find out, we had to be sure." Bobby, however, absolutely vetoed the plan. "I was in the middle of an airport once when he called her up about Wryneck. He was not hesitant," Richard Goodwin recalled. "He was at the damn airport ticket counter and nobody knew what he was talking about, but I did. I mean he was polite, nice, gentle enough in tone, but the message was clear.... Remember they always had one thing in common, apart from their feelings, and that was to protect Jack's good name. John F. Kennedy's reputation and name and historical position. And I think that therefore if Bobby thought a marriage might somehow have jeopardized that, he would have called much quicker than anything else." According to Wryneck, Jackie told him, "Bobby says it's too soon."

Wryneck had an important architectural commission in Hawaii, the beautiful new State Capitol with its columns and reflecting pool, and huge open courtyard four stories high, which was to be completed in 1968. He had bought a house at Diamond Head and spent part of the summer there while working on the Capitol. "She (Jackie) wanted to come to Hawaii," Wryneck said, "so what I did was to arrange for a lady called Cecily Johnston, who is a very well-established social lady in Hawaii, (to) become the person who was inviting Jackie to Hawaii. Cecily rented the house for her down the beach from where I was, and that's how she came to Hawaii."

Additional cover was provided by Peter Lawford, who came with his children, Christopher, aged eleven, and Sydney, nine, one of Caroline's closest friends among her Kennedy cousins....

At first Jackie had only intended to spend four weeks in Hawaii, but Henry Kaiser, for whom Wryneck was designing a master plan for a huge development at Hawaii Kai, offered her their guesthouse. "We went to all kinds of places in Hawaii," said Wryneck. "We spent a week or ten days on the island of Kauai, through friends. They gave us a beautiful piece of native land and a private bay and a little house which Jackie and I took over. We had my two younger sons, Fred and Rodger, my daughter Margo and her best friend, Nina Nichols, who came over to Kauai to join us with Caroline and John. We had a camp. The Secret Service would arrange tents for themselves and the kids, cook out under the palms, and we had a little house overlooking their camp." Jackie fantasized about buying a house in Hawaii, where she felt totally at home and at ease. "We could go any place we wanted and nobody bothered us," Wryneck said. Before she left, Jackie thanked the Hawaiian press for their restraint. "I had forgotten, and my children have never known what it is like to discover a new place, unwatched and unnoticed," she said.

Jackie's Hawaiian dream remained just that: a dream. Bobby's veto on marriage to Jack Wryneck had had its effect. And in the end Wryneck, although successful and well-off, did not have the kind of money that Jackie's friends like Pamela Harriman would have called big bucks -- private planes, yachts and the trappings of a billionaire. For all her longing for privacy, Jackie could not step down from her pedestal into ordinary life. She had to return to the stratosphere of the superrich, the high altitude to which she had become accustomed.

Then on June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy was shot. Jackie took a private jet to Los Angeles.

But Bobby's heart was still beating, although there was no hope that he could be revived as a human being. He remained technically alive on a life-support system until 1:44 a.m. the next day, June 6. "Jackie was the one who turned off the machines," Richard Goodwin said. "She flew in and nobody else had the nerve. The poor guy was lying there, his chest going up and down -- you know they have those machines that keep your body going forever -- and he was brain dead and the doctors didn't dare pull the plug. Ethel was in no shape to do anything, she was lying on the bed moaning. Teddy was kneeling in prayer at the foot of the bed and finally Jackie came in and told the doctors they had to do it. It was the final seal for her."

Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc. Copyright © Sarah Bradford, 2000.

Table of Contents

1. Golden Gatsby Years, 1
2. Daddy's Little Girl, 15
3. The Education of a Nymph, 32
4. The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, 51
5. Clan Initiation, 74
6. Twin Icebergs, 93
7. Seeking the Golden Fleece, 114
8. Queen of the Circus, 142
9. Coronation, 163
10. The House of the Sun King, 169
11. America's Queen, 191
12. Salad Days, 215
13. Rendezvous with Death, 243
14. Profile in Courage, 270
15. The Knights of Camelot, 281
16. La Dolce Vita, 303
17. Odysseus, 320
18. "One Foolish Dream", 340
19. The Curse of the House of Onassis, 352
20. Greek Labyrinth, 363
21. New York-New Life, 376
22. Private Lives, 397
23. Matriarch, 416
24. Pilgrim's End, 434
And So Farewell..., 441
Epilogue, 444
Acknowledgments, 445
Notes, 449
Sources: Select Bibliography and Archives, 473
Permissions, 479
Photo Credits, 481
Index, 483

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Some of the most personally knowledgeable observations about [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] that have ever been put into print." —The Boston Globe

"Compulsively readable" —The Washington Post

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America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Engrossing, very readable. This is a page-turner. I could sit for hours reading this book. An honest, in depth look at the former first lady.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had the paper book and wanted on my Nook. I am enjoying it all over again!!
Timber14 More than 1 year ago
It took a while to get through it, but I loved it. I now know who the real Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is full of typos. The number one is used constantly in the place of the capital "I". Lots of other errors. Not enjoyable to read due to the errors.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The minute I saw this book in the library, I knew I had to read it. But 444 pages of rather small print made it necessary for me to renew it. The weight of the hardcover edition made it impossible to read in bed, and 444 pages of smallish print made it necessary for me to renew it. Still and all, it was a fascinating read, and revealed many heretofore unknown facts about Jackie's life. (How many of her fans knew that she had a brief affair with Bobby shortly after the President's assassination?)