Every family has its share of pain and triumph. And then there are the Kennedys.
Plane crashes, assassinations, car accidents, drugs overdoses, and suicides — a litany of tragedies has cursed the great American political dynasty for more than 70 years.
The latest installment was this week’s discovery of Robert F Kennedy Jr’s estranged wife’s body in her New York home after she took her own life
Mary Kennedy had endured a well-publicised battle with drug and alcohol addiction — not the first time substance abuse had cropped up in the annals of the Kennedy clan history.
The curse which has afflicted so many generations began with John F Kennedy and his siblings.
His parents, Rose and Joseph, had nine children, of whom one is still alive. Plane crashes accounted for two of them and assassination for two others.
In 1944, the couple’s eldest son Joseph Jr died while piloting a drone bomber which exploded and crashed over Suffolk, England.
Four years later his sister Kathleen, who had already been widowed, died aged 28 when the plane in which she was travelling crashed in France.
In 1963, three months before his assassination on Nov 22 as he and his wife Jackie were being driven in a cavalcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, his son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, was stillborn.
The 46-year-old was just two years into his presidency.
His youthful, vigorous campaign and presidency filled a nation with hope and promise. His assassination sent shockwaves through a country that would take years to heal.
In 1968, Robert Kennedy brought the Kennedy charm, youth, and idealism to a campaign and captured voters’ hearts and minds as he sought the Democratic nomination for president. However, on June 4 he was assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel after a campaign event.
The following year, the family faced tragedy and public humiliation when Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, after a party. His 28-year-old female passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked on Robert’s campaign, drowned. Kennedy didn’t report the accident for almost nine hours and was later charged with a misdemeanour for leaving the scene. He later called his decision “indefensible”.
Edward Kennedy himself died in 2008 after he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.
Of JFK’s remaining siblings, all made it to reasonable age.
However, that is not to say their lives were not afflicted by tragedy.
In 1941 Joseph Kennedy approved a lobotomy to be performed on his daughter, Rosemary. While the surgery was intended to help Rosemary’s violent moods, it did not go to plan and she was left mentally damaged. She died in 2005.
In the case of Edward Kennedy, the curse afflicted not just him but his employees.
In 1964, the then senator was involved in a plane crash in which one of his aides and the pilot were killed. He was pulled from the wreckage and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from a broken back, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
By the time of his death though, many more in subsequent generations had already succumbed to the Kennedy curse.
Drugs was the main cause of the family’s heartbreak in the 1980s.
First, Robert Kennedy’s son David died of an overdose of cocaine, painkillers and anti-psychotic medicine at the age of 28. His death came after he had been thrown out of the family home following an argument.
Two years later Edward’s son Patrick was forced to undergo treatment for cocaine addiction.
In the 1990s, another of Robert’s sons, Michael, died in a skiing accident in 1997 at the age of 39. Witnesses said family members, including Michael, were playing a form of ski football and were not using ski poles. He crashed into a tree and suffered massive head and neck trauma.
There was triple heartache for the Kennedy dynasty two years later when a plane being piloted by JFK’s son, John F Kennedy Jr, crashed into the sea off Martha’s Vineyard. The accident claimed the life of his wife Carolyn and his sister-in-law Lauren. It was later claimed John F Kennedy Jr had become disorientated during the night flight and that caused him to crash into the ocean.
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