In the early years after her husband’s assassination, a heartbroken Jackie Kennedy turned to one of the late president John F Kennedy’s closest friends for comfort.
She and David Ormsby-Gore, who had just ended his term as Britain’s ambassador to the US, even travelled to Cambodia together in November 1967 in a highly publicised trip. There was much speculation they were romantically involved.
Less than a year later, the former first lady married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate 23 years older than her, in a decision that surprised many.
Now, a heart-wrenching, never-before-seen letter Jackie wrote to Ormsby-Gore reveals why she turned down his proposal — and decided to start over with Onassis instead.
“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,” Jackie wrote to Ormsby-Gore, who had recently been widowed. “I can find that now — if the world will let us.”
The letter was among documents discovered last month at Ormsby-Gore’s family home in Wales, the New York Times reports. The 18 handwritten letters and one typed letter will be auctioned in London next month.
Jackie wrote to Ormsby-Gore from Onassis’ yacht in Greece on November 13, 1968, a month after her wedding and five months after the assassination of Kennedy’s brother, Robert F Kennedy.
“We have known so much & shared & lost so much together — Even if it isn’t the way you wish now — I hope that bond of love and pain will never be cut,” Jackie told Ormsby-Gore, whose wife Sylvia (“Sissie”) died in a car crash in May 1967.
“You are like my beloved beloved brother — and mentor — and the only original spirit I know — as you were to Jack.”
Responding to his amazement at her choice of Onassis, Jackie continued: “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.”
Onassis, she wrote, 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,” she continued. “But they see things for me that I never wanted for myself.”
In another letter, a draft Ormsby-Gore wrote to Jackie after she turned down his proposal, he expressed his anguish over what could have been.
“All the pathetic plans I had brought with me for visits to Cyrenaica [Libya], 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,” he wrote.
“As for your photograph I weep when I look at it. Why do such agonising things have to happen? Where was the need for it?”
Ormsby-Gore did marry again, in December 1969, to Pamela Colin, an American who, as The New York Times noted, bore more than a passing resemblance to Jackie. When he died at 66 in 1985 after a car crash, Jackie attended his funeral.
All of this occurred during a dark period for Jackie. Her biographer Barbara Leaming wrote in 2014 that she was suffering what would now be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing her husband’s assassination.
Ormsby-Gore, who inherited the title Lord Harlech upon his father’s death in 1964, advised Kennedy on such delicate issues as the Cuban missile crisis.
His grandson Jasset Ormsby-Gore, who inherited the title of Lord Harlech last year, will be selling the letters and more of his grandfather’s possessions at a March 29 auction at Bonhams in London.
He hopes the proceeds will pay for the restoration of the family home in Wales.