A new documentary “Coming Home with the Kennedys” about the Kennedys' trip to Ireland shows private moments of the family who have lived in the limelight. The documentary follows the Kennedys' return to New Ross, Co Wexford during the Gathering, 50 years after John F. Kennedy made his famous trip to his ancestral home in 1963.
During the seven day trip, executive producer Daphne Barak had unprecedented access to the family’s private lives. The family recreated JFK’s itinerary. He visited the riverside town from where his ancestors Patrick and Mary left Ireland in 1849. President Kennedy traveled with his sisters Eunice and Jean. He said the trip had “only taken 115 years and 6000 miles to make” and he promised to return.
JFK was assassinated four months after his trip to Ireland so it was his daughter Caroline Kennedy who fulfilled his promise this year. She traveled with Jean Kennedy-Smith, who was the only surviving family member to have traveled with JFK.
During the trip, the family rededicated the Kennedy family homestead, opened a new visitor center and museum, and lit a torch called the Emigrant Flame with a light taken from the Eternal Flame at JFK’s grave. On Thursday, June 20, 2013 a state dinner was held for the Kennedys and the menu and table settings were a replica of the dinner held for JFK’s visit. The Kennedys joked that only the 2007 vintage wine was new.
Caroline brought her husband Edwin Schlossberg and their three children. Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen traveled with her husband David Townsend and her two nephews. Younger sister Kerry also came. According to the Daily Mail Barak said, “The three generations that made this journey have joined in such a rare reunion. This was the first time they had come together in a long time and I don’t think any of them realized just the range of emotions that would bring out.”
Insight into their private lives shed light on some of the family dynamics. Barak said, “You cannot miss that there are two princesses there: one is Kathleen who is the eldest of the second generation of this dynasty (Robert Kennedy’s daughter) and the other one is Caroline, the only surviving child of President Kennedy. The camera doesn’t lie.”
Although they are both leading ladies, the two have very different personalities. She said about the former, “Caroline is on guard all the time. She knows how to make an entrance. And then she relies on the script, even when she is with her own family.” Conversely, Barak said about the latter, “In many ways Kathleen had been the promising one [politically] of the family. She was Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and she got everything through hard work. It wasn’t handed to her.”
Caroline was scheduled to make the final speech of the trip before the lighting of the Emigrant Flame, but gave the opportunity to her 20 year old son Jack and Barak remarked “the girls went crazy.”
The lighting of the Emigrant Flame was an emotional moment for the family. Barak said, “When the Emigrant Flame was lit there were tears and Caroline and Kathleen just hugged each other, and hugged Jack and it was really a very emotional moment for them all.”
Barak wrote a book titled “Coming Home with the Kennedys” to accompany the documentary and half of the proceeds will benefit the JFK Foundation in Ireland.
Watch a video about Kennedy’s visit to Ireland here:
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?