Life

By Alex Matthews

Secret love letters from Jackie Kennedy to a British aristocrat who wanted to marry her have been revealed for the first time.

The personal correspondence between the former First Lady and David Ormsby Gore, the 5th Lord Harlech and Britain’s ambassador to the US during the JFK presidency have been hidden for more than 40 years.

They sensationally reveal that Ormsby Gore proposed marriage to Jackie Kennedy after her husband’s assassination, only to be turned down as he was like a “beloved, beloved brother”.

The correspondence also lifts the lid on Jackie’s deep pain after President Kennedy’s death, and why she went in to marry Aristotle Onassis to try and escape the pain of her past.

The letters were locked away unseen in despatch boxes since Lord Harlech’s death in 1985 at the family’s Glyn Cywarch residence.

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There are 18 handwritten and one typed letters from Jackie to Ormsby Gore, which show their close relationship deepening after his wife Sissy died in a tragic car accident in 1967.

At the time Jackie wrote: “Your last letter was a cri de Coeur of loneliness – I would do anything to take that anguish from you – you want to patch the wounds and match the loose pairs – but you can’t because your life won’t turn out that way.”

Before the crash the two were already close, as Ormsby Gore was a childhood friend of US President John F Kennedy before his death in 1963.

He had also served as the British Ambassador to the US at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and once obtained Cuban cigars for the president through his diplomatic bag, thus avoiding the US embargo.

In the months following the accident the two spent more and more time together, often on private holidays, and in February 1968 Ormsby Gore sensationally proposed to her.

One of the documents found is an early attempt to write down a wounded response to her rejection.

He said: “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 ad become irrelevant trash to be thrown away within a few hours of my landing in New York.

“I have tried to hours and hours to understand your explanation and I suppose I do in a way, without agreeing with it; but what I find unbearable and in a way, dearest Jackie, untrue is that you could come to such a categorical conclusion.”

In her reply, Jackie tried to soothe him, writing: “We have known so much and shared and 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…

“You are like my beloved beloved brother – and mentor – and the only original spirit I know – as you were to Jack.”

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In June 1968 Robert Kennedy was assassinated while seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidency, and Ormsby Gore was one of the pallbearers at the funeral.

He and Jackie kept in touch, writing about world events, such as the suppression of the Prague Spring in then Czechoslovakia.

In her final letter, written aboard Aristotle Onassis’s yacht, Jackie explains why she married the billionaire Greek shipping magnate: “You and I have shared so many lives and deaths and hopes and pains – we will share them forever and be forever bound together by them…

“If ever I can find some healing and some comfort – it has to be with someone who is not a part of all my world of past and pain – I can find that now – if the world will let us.”

Ormsby Gore died of his injuries in a car accident in 1985. Several members of the Kennedy family, as well as Jackie, attended his funeral.

Jasset, Lord Harlech, the grandson of David Ormsby Gore, said “Though he sadly passed away before I was born, I knew even from an early age that my grandfather had been British Ambassador to the United States.

“There is much history that binds the Kennedys and the Ormsby Gores together. The more I read or was told about David by other relatives, the more I wanted to know. He seems to have been a most insightful and intelligent man.

“He had a career spanning military service, politics and diplomacy; he set up his own television station and was chairman of the British Board of Film Classification; all impressive in their own right, but I am told his greatest attributes were his thoughtfulness, charm, and sense of morality.”