An Irish religious order has returned private letters to Jackie Kennedy’s family – after turning down bids of more than $5 million from two American parties.

The letters were penned by the former First Lady to Dublin priest Fr Joe Leonard.

The 15 years' worth of correspondence was kept by the Vincentian Order in Dublin after the death of Fr Leonard.

The Order had hoped to sell the letters to finance a seminary which has since closed due to a lack of funds.

But the Sunday Independent reports that the letters were returned to Jackie O’s family in the US last week despite offers for more than $5 million from an agent acting on behalf of two wealthy American clients.

Rare books dealer Owen Felix O’Neill told the Sunday Independent that he had been approached by two American clients.

He said one was a New York-based publisher and the other a Los Angeles production company.

They told him to make offers ‘in excess of $5m’ for Jackie Kennedy’s 15-year correspondence with Fr Joe Leonard, according to the Sunday Independent.

He added: “I can confirm there were two firm offers in excess of $5m on the table.”

The report adds that the Vincentian order confirmed on Friday that the letters had been ‘transferred’ to the Kennedy family because of the ‘respect due to correspondence of a private nature.’

The Order has refused to reveal if the Kennedy family offered any financial support after the return of the letters.

The collection of 33 letters was discovered in May by the cash-strapped All Hallows College where Fr Leonard lived until his death.

They went missing but were recovered after a police investigation. A man has been questioned in relation to the incident and remains under investigation.

The college had hoped to sell them to aid its perilous financial plight, but a will found in a dusty attic at the 11th hour confirmed they belonged to the Vincentians and not the college. The letters were then withdrawn from auction after the Kennedy family had objected to their sale.