Long-lost letters discovered last month from Jackie O to friend and paramour David Ormsby Gore (later Lord Harlech) hint at “the depth of feeling behind the public mask of one of the most celebrated women of her time” (according to The New York Times).
A little back story: In 1967, Ormsby Gore traveled to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia on a much-publicized trip with the widowed Jackie Kennedy (pic below). At the time, there was much speculation of a romantic attachment. A few months later, he indeed proposed marriage. She turned him down.
In a handwritten letter, “filled with anguish and a touch of cruelty,” she explained her decision to marry Aristotle 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,” she wrote. “I can find that now — if the world will let us.”
Another letter to Ormsby Gore is dated Nov. 13, 1968, a month after her marriage to Mr. Onassis and five months after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
In it, Mrs. Kennedy spoke of the love and bond she felt for Mr. Ormsby Gore, whose wife had died in a car crash in May 1967. “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.”
Here’s where that touch of cruelty comes in:
Writing from Mr. Onassis’ yacht in Greece, on stationery with the ship’s crest, a clear if cold message, Mrs. Kennedy told Mr. Ormsby Gore: “You are like my beloved beloved brother — and mentor — and the only original spirit I know — as you were to Jack.”
Ouch. The old “love you like a brother” line.
Mr. Ormsby Gore had expressed incredulity at her choice of Mr. Onassis, and she tried to respond.
“Please know — you of all people must know it — that we can never really see into the heart of another,” she wrote. “You know me. And you must know that the man you write of in your letter is not a man that I could marry.”
Mr. 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.”
Mr. Ormsby Gore’s grandson Jasset, who inherited the Lord Harlech title a year ago, is selling the letters, along with other possessions, at Bonhams, London, in an auction scheduled for March 29.
Some of the letters will be on view on March 2 in New York at the Bonhams showroom, at 580 Madison Avenue.