North West Wales

Jackie Kennedy love letters to Welsh peer sell for £100k

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJFK private letters in Welsh auction lot

A handwritten rejection of marriage from US president John F Kennedy's widow to a Welsh peer is among a lot which sold at auction for £100,000.

Private letters from the UK's former US ambassador David Ormsby-Gore, Lord Harlech, proposed "a secret marriage" between him and Jackie Kennedy.

Lord Harlech's wife Sylvia died in a car crash four years after the death of his close friend JFK in 1963.

It was sold at an auction at Bonhams in London on Wednesday.

The "Kennedy Harlech Papers" - which had a guide price of £100,000 to £150,000 - also say how much JFK "appreciated" his advice.

Lord Harlech, a close advisor of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, travelled to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia on a much-publicised trip with Mrs Kennedy just after the death of his wife in 1967.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLove letters from Jackie Kennedy

At the time, there was huge speculation about their romantic connection.

And letters uncovered in locked red British Government dispatch boxes at the family home in north Wales have revealed the truth.

"You and I have shared so many lives and deaths and hopes and pain - we will share them forever and be forever bound together by them," Mrs Kennedy wrote on stationery that belonged to Onassis' yacht.

"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. I can find that now - if the world will let us."

She also wrote: "You are like my beloved, beloved brother - and mentor - and the only original spirit I know - as you were to Jack."

President Kennedy is said to have asked the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan that his old friend from his London School of Economics days became Britain's US ambassador in 1961 after Lord Harlech stood down as MP for Oswestry.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Both John F Kennedy and David Ormsby-Gore studied at the London School of Economics

He was Britain's top diplomat in Washington between 1961 and 1965 and played a key role in the Kennedy administration as foreign policy adviser and helped in discussions of Vietnam and nuclear disarmament.

"Kennedy said he admired his wisdom and abilities," said auctioneer Antony Bennett. "He said he was an immensely intelligent man."

Years after both he and Mrs Kennedy suffered tragedy, Lord Harlech proposed to her.

But she married Aristotle Onassis in 1968 and wrote that Onassis was "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. I know it comes as a surprise to so many people. But they see things for me that I never wanted for myself."

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption Jackie Kennedy and David Ormsby Gore remained friends until his death in 1985

The 18 letters were sold as part of a collection by the current Lord Harlech Jasset Ormsby-Gore, the grandson of David Ormsby-Gore, and the entire 531-item lot sold for a total of £2.6m in a 10-hour auction in London

It also includes a draft Lord Harlech wrote in response to Mrs Kennedy's rejection.

"All the pathetic plans I had brought with me for visits to Cyrenaica, holidays near one another and a whole variety of solutions to our marriage problem, including one for a secret marriage this summer," he wrote.

"Plans which I saw us eagerly discussing, calmly and with complete frankness as we did at the Cape and in Cambodia for the next wonderful ten days - all had become irrelevant trash to be thrown away within a few hours of my landing in New York.

"As for your photograph I weep when I look at it. Why do such agonizing things have to happen? Where was the need for it?"

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption The current Lord Harlech wants to restore the 15th Century Grade II-listed family estate

Mrs Kennedy attended Lord Harlech's funeral in Oswestry in 1985 after he died in a car crash aged 66.

The box of letters between Lord Harlech and members of the Kennedy family, including JFK's brothers Robert and Edward, were included in the lot which went under the hammer at Bonhams auction house.

The collection is among a selection of more than 400 "treasures" to be sold including regency furniture, paintings, works of art and old cars.

The current Lord Harlech inherited the possessions from his father Francis Ormsby-Gore following his death aged 61 in February 2016.

Money from the sale will be used to restore Glyn Cywarch, the Grade II-listed family estate of more than 400 years on the outskirts of Harlech in Gwynedd.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption Jasset Ormsby-Gore is the grandson of former British ambassador to the the USA, David Ormsby-Gore

Related Topics

More on this story