Letters reveal ‘down to earth, honest’ Jackie Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy’s letters to an elderly priest reveal a delightful person, according to Philip Sheppard, the auctioneer charged with selling them.

Letters reveal ‘down to earth, honest’ Jackie Kennedy

Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois, will next month auction 33 letters written by Jacqueline Kennedy to the Irish Vincentian priest, Fr Joseph Leonard.

Written between 1950 and 1964, the letters include details of her engagement to John F Kennedy and his assassination.

“What struck me after seeing the 33 letters was what a lovely woman she was, given that she came from a very privileged background,” said Mr Sheppard. “She was so down to earth, so honest, and so open — just the kind of person I would have liked to have known — a delightful person.”

Mr Sheppard said: “These letters are in effect the unpublished autobiography of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and that is why they are hugely important and generating so much interest.”

Jackie Kennedy was 21 when she met Fr Leonard, then 73, in 1950 when she was visiting Ireland. She saw Fr Leonard a second time with JFK — then a senator — when they visited Ireland five years later.

In one letter, she wrote about a stockbroker she nearly married: “The next time will be all right and have a happy ending.”

The priest’s health declined rapidly in the 1960s and he had to get permission from the Vatican to say Mass sitting down in memory of JFK after his assassination in November 1963.

Fr Leonard died in 1964, aged 87, and on the day of his funeral in Dublin, a bouquet of red roses arrived from New York and were placed on the altar.

The letters are expected to fetch more than €1m and will be sold as one lot because of their historical importance. There are an additional 21 items including cards, photographs, and correspondence which will be offered separately.

Mr Sheppard said the items were consigned to the auction house by a “private source”.

The Vincentian Fathers in Raheny, Dublin, redirected a query about the letters to All Hallows College in Drumcondra, where Fr Leonard served for many years, but a spokesperson there said the college would not be making any public statement about them.

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