Jacqueline Kennedy's Letters to Priest Reveal Her Private Life

A newly discovered collection of 33 letters former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy wrote to an Irish priest a half-century ago are giving new insight into the deepest thoughts of one of the most private people in American public life.

The letters cover the years from 1950 to 1964, a period that includes her marriage to John F. Kennedy, then a rising politician, his 1960 election as president, his 1963 assassination and the aftermath.

The letters, first reported in The Irish Times, were written to the Rev. Joseph Leonard, a family friend, and discovered hidden at All Hallows College in Dublin this year.

They were sold to an expert in rare books, Owen Felix O'Neill, and are scheduled to be sold at auction in Ireland next month where they could fetch up to $1.6 million.

Jacqueline Bouvier shown with then-Senator John F. Kennedy in Hyannisport, Mass., on June 27, 1953. They would marry on Sept. 12, 1953 (file photo). /Reuters Jacqueline Bouvier shown with then-Senator John F. Kennedy in Hyannisport, Mass., on June 27, 1953. They would marry on Sept. 12, 1953 (file photo). /Reuters

In 1950, then Jacqueline Bouvier first met Leonard on a trip to Ireland. She met him in person just one more time, in 1955, after she had married the then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. She described it as a "fairytale visit."

They corresponded regularly until Leonard's death in 1964. She sometimes disclosed her innermost thoughts, but on other occasions, especially early on, was more lighthearted, discussing arts and literature and her personal life.

In one early letter, she said that Leonard, who was so different from the priests she had met in the U.S., helped renew her commitment to her Catholic faith.

"I terribly want to be a good Catholic now and I know it's all because of you," she wrote.

In the letters, Jacqueline Kennedy compares her husband to Shakespeare's Macbeth because of his all-consuming ambition and worries about his womanizing. A few months after the assassination, she confided, "I am so bitter against God."

VOA News / May 15, 2014 07:56 KST