The minute the Kennedy family stepped out into the spotlight, they instantly charmed and captivated the world. Everything about them was alluring—their stunning looks, regal lifestyle, and endless political promise. Here, 50 things you never knew about the influential family.
Rose Kennedy had extremely strict rules that she enforced on a daily basis. Her children were not allowed to cry, they were only allowed to eat certain foods (Rose wanted them to stay lean), lateness was not tolerated, and they were tasked with researching assigned topics and presenting reports at dinner.
As a devout Catholic, Rose went to a convent and was honored with the title of Countess to celebrate her extraordinary dedication to the church.
Growing up, Bobby Kennedy preferred to stay home rather than go sailing or dancing with his siblings. His siblings said he was extremely shy, deeply religious, and suffered from social anxiety and academic struggles. As such, Rose had a soft spot for Bobby, and the two shared a very special bond.
When Rose went into labor with her third child, the obstetrician was called, but he was extremely delayed due to a pneumonia epidemic in Boston. To save time, the nurse closed Rose's legs. That was unsuccessful so she held the baby's head for two hours, which has been linked to future brain damage and physical disability.
Rose was extremely afraid of leaving Rosemary alone, so she prohibited Rosemary from leaving the house unaccompanied. As a result, Rosemary often ran away.
Beginning at age eleven, Rosemary was sent to a series of boarding schools. She struggled deeply in school; her letters home revealed severe anxiety and unhappiness. Ultimately, she was sent to a convent in London. She often ran away at night. The nuns at the convent later revealed their suspicions that she was having sex with men she met at bars.
As devout Catholics, the Kennedys believed that mental illness was a sin, and at the time, mental illness was incredibly stigmatized and misunderstood. Her parents—along with many others—believed that a lobotomy would help with her symptoms of mental illness. It completely altered her life.
After the surgery, Joe and Rose sent Rosemary to a residential care facility in Wisconsin where she lived until her death in 2005. However, for the first twenty years, members of her family had no idea where she was.
Pat was an aspiring movie producer rather than an aspiring politician like the rest of her family. However, given the deep-rooted sexism in Hollywood at the time, she faced insurmountable challenges.
Marrying outside of the Catholic Church was considered an enormous sin. As a result, when Kick married a Protestant, her family alienated her. Joseph Jr. was the only one who attended her wedding.
JFK's constant back and intestinal problems inhibited his entry into WWII. However, he strategically took advantage of his father's influence and manipulated the system in his favor. He was admitted to serve in October, 1941, and despite his medical setbacks, he experienced extreme success in the war. He orchestrated and championed the key survival mission in the gunboat's 1943 sinking.
In 1935, John began his undergraduate career at Princeton. Very soon after, he fell ill with a severe gastrointestinal disease which prevented him from continuing his studies. When his illness finally subsided, he continued his undergraduate career at Harvard.
After John received a medal for his performance in the Pacific during World War II, he was reported missing in action. The surviving crew members held a funeral service for him, and the news of his death was sent home to Joe Sr. He did not share this information with his wife or children for a week, after which point they learned of John's survival. Ted Kennedy wrote in his memoir, "True Compass," of John's presumed death and Joe's silence. According to Ted, Joe Sr. allegedly withheld the information as he decided to "remain hopeful" for John's survival.
Before his entry into politics, John was deeply invested in writing and journalism. At age 22, he authored his first book, Why England Slept. In 1945, he spent a few months working for William Randolph Hearst's newspaper company, reporting on the aftermath of the war and the United Nations conference in San Francisco. In 1957, Kennedy received a Pulitzer Prize in biography for his book, Profiles in Courage. However, the award was controversial, as many believed that most of the book was ghostwritten by Theodore Sorensen, and thus, that Sorensen deserved the award.
Joe Kennedy had big plans for his son Joseph Jr., but he died unexpectedly in a plan crash during WWII.
Despite the fact that he had already finished his service, Joe Jr. embarked on another mission. His brother John had just received a medal commemorating his service in the war, which could possibly have influenced Joe to engage in an attempt to gain commemoration of his own. He ultimately died in the mission.
John Renou Bouvier III adored his two daughters, but had many issues including, "relentless womanizing, heavy drinking, and diminishing fortune." At her wedding to JFK, Jackie's stepfather walked her down the aisle instead of her father because he was too drunk.
The society pages of the Washington-Herald Times announced her engagement to John Husted, a Yale Graduate, World War II Veteran, and Wall Street Banker, in January 1952. She developed concerns about the relationship (some speculate she had reservations about becoming a housewife) and ended the engagement in March 1952. She met John at a dinner party only a couple of months later and the couple married in September of 1953.
Instead, Jackie lost her virginity with John P. Marquand in an elevator that was caught between two floors.
Their marriage troubles didn't begin in the White House. Jackie had doubts about their relationship even before he became POTUS.
Joseph intended to keep their marriage alive, fearing that a divorce would negatively impact JFK's political career.
Jackie gave birth to two kids who died very young. "In 1956, Jackie gave birth to a stillborn girl whom the couple intended to name Arabella, and on August 7, 1963, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born five-and-a-half weeks early. The baby weighed under five pounds and died two days later from a pulmonary disease."
JFK suffered from poor health his entire life. As a result, he was extremely susceptible to contracting major illnesses. He was diagnosed with Addison's Disease in 1943 and was issued a prognosis of only one year. He was traveling back from London on the Queen Mary when he became so ill that a priest was called in to deliver last rights. He received the sacrament again in 1951 again after catching a life-threatening fever while traveling in Asia. His health plummeted once again in 1954 when he fell into a coma after receiving surgery to confront his perennial back problems.
Jackie worked for the Washington Times-Herald in 1952 as the paper's "Inquiring Photographer." The job required her to ask people on the streets many questions ranging from personal finances, to politics, to relationships.
Mamie Eisenhower did not want to leave the White House and viewed Jackie Kennedy as a young, and inexperienced, "college girl" who she couldn't envision filling her position of First Lady.
Tradition has it that the incoming president is not allowed to move anything into the White House until he is sworn in. There is also an elaborate system in place that facilitates the move, and as a result, the Kennedys were moved into the White House only two short hours after JFK's inauguration.
JFK, intending to lead guests in the Blue Room, led them into the pantry. He laughed at his mistake, saying, "Oh, this is another room I wanted to show you."
At the end of every year, a butler carted all the broken china to Hains Point and threw it into the Potomac River.
Jackie loved to walk around the White House grounds—sometimes all sixteen miles of them—by herself and on a daily basis.
Sometimes Jackie's outfits were so intricate that she needed assistance getting undressed. It became such a frequency that one of her maids ended up choosing to stay late after all major events.