One of the enduring mysteries about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is why she would have chosen to marry politician and presidential hopeful, John F. “Jack” Kennedy, despite that she had already accepted a marriage proposal from another eligible bachelor, despite her discomfort being under public scrutiny, and despite that Jack already had a reputation as a womanizer. A new book by Randy Taraborelli, Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters reveals a compelling theory involving Jackie’s mother, Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss.
Janet Norton Lee was only 21 when she married Jackie’s father, John Vernou “Black Jack” Bouvier III, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and only 33 when she divorced him over his philandering. The divorce left the Bouvier girls to struggle financially before Janet remarried two years later, this time to the wealthy investment banker, Hugh Auchincloss. The entire experience made Janet certain that she didn’t want her daughters to ever struggle financially.
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“Money and power,” is what Janet told Jackie and her sister, Lee, holds the secret to happiness, according to Taraborrelli, who maintains that if it were not for Jack’s money and power, Jackie would not have been with him. As Taraborrelli recounts it, Jackie had gotten engaged to John Husted Jr., a stockbroker, in January of 1952.
In a letter from Jackie to a confidante soon after, she wrote of how she knew Husted was “the right one” and it’s “the deepest happiest feeling in the world.” The marriage was set for June, but in March, Jackie returned the ring to Husted, reportedly at their engagement party. According to Taraborreli, this was at her mother’s behest, after Janet found out that Husted was making $17,000 a year (approximately $159,000 in today’s money).
According to the JFK Library and Museum, Jackie met Jack, a favorite son of a wealthy New England political family, while she was working as the “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the Washington Times-Herald newspaper. She had started the job in the fall of 1951. In June of 1953, Jack Kennedy proposed while Jackie was in London covering Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation (here’s what happened when Jackie finally got to meet the Queen in 1962), and the two married in September of that year. Exactly when, why, and how the courtship began between the future president and his future wife is not public knowledge, but the timeline suggests that Taraborrelli isn’t far from the truth in suggesting the real reason Jackie left Husted was that John F. Kennedy would be more acceptable in her mother’s eyes.
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