Several years after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy had an important decision to make. Two men were vying for her affections, and she had to chose between them. And now the world is getting a glimpse of the path not taken.
The New York Times reports that letters she wrote to the man she turned down are now going up for auction. In the letters, written in 1968, she rejects a marriage proposal from David Ormsby Gore, a friend and confidant of President Kennedy's who had lost his wife in a car accident five months after the assassination.
Ormsby Gore had accompanied Jacqueline on a trip to Cambodia in 1967. JFK and Ormsby Gore had grown close when the president's younger sister, Kick, married Ormsby Gore's cousin. Mr. Ormsby Gore went on to serve in Washington as Britain's ambassador during the Kennedy administration.
But Jacqueline had already decided to marry Aristotle Onassis, and didn't seem to see Ormsby Gore, also known as Lord Harlech, as a romantic prospect. "You are like my beloved beloved brother—and mentor—and the only original spirit I know—as you were to Jack," she wrote in a letter explaining her rejection.
Her letter hints at the controversial nature of her relationship with Onassis, whom many saw as an inappropriate choice for the former first lady. She wrote to Ormsby Gore on stationery from Onassis's yacht, and took time to deflect her old friend's critiques of her chosen partner. "You know me. And you must know that the man you write of in your letter is not a man that I could marry," she wrote. "[Onassis 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."
Ultimately, though, she turned Ormsby Gore down because he had too much of a connection to her traumatic past. "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."
The letter is part of a larger auction at Bonhams in London in March, and has been put on sale by Ormsby Gore's grandson, Jasset. The collection includes 18 handwritten letters and one typewritten letter from Jacqueline Kennedy. "The correspondence has been sitting in two official red Government despatch boxes for more than 40 years. The keys were nowhere to be found and in the end we had to call a locksmith to slice through the locks," Matthew Haley, Bonhams' head of fine books and manuscripts, said in a statement. "It was one of those astonishing moments when you can't quite believe what you're seeing."
One other letter from the future Mrs. Onassis was especially moving, written after the death of Ormsby Gore's wife. It seems to anticipate that he wanted to marry her in their shared grief. "Your last letter was such a cri de coeur of loneliness–I would do anything to take that anguish from you," she wrote. "You want to patch the wounds & match the loose pairs–but you can't because your life won't turn out that way."
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