First Lady Jackie Kennedy may have known more of her husband's extramarital affairs than had been previously assumed.
Throughout their ten-year marriage, and even now decades after his death, rumor is rife regarding Kennedy's mistresses. Fascination with one of America’s most high-profile first couples refuses to abate.
With the release of “Jackie” in 2016, Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in the weeks immediately after her husband’s assassination, interest around the First Lady, and her relationship with her husband has surged as more information is revealed about Kennedy’s complicated marriage.
In a feature in People Magazine, friends of the Kennedys and those who have written in-depth about their lives reveal that Jackie Kennedy may have had an understanding with her husband regarding his affairs and knew of several of the women with whom he had relationships.
“It was a marriage of its time,” a friend told People Magazine.
“At the end of the day, Jack came back to Jackie – and that was it. They loved each other.”
“It was kinetic between them. She wasn’t trying to change him.”
“Jackie Style” author Pamela Keogh claims the example set by Jackie’s father, Wall Street stockbroker John Bouvier, set the tone for what the young woman would expect from her own marriage as a result of his affairs during his marriage to her mother.
“She came from a world where that is what men did, and it was accepted,” Keogh said.
“For these women, if they ever did discuss [their husbands’ infidelities], it was more like, ‘This is what’s going on; let’s go out and get the kids and get on a horse,’” agrees Cornelia Guest, a daughter of one of the First Lady’s close friends.
“They were much more pragmatic about the whole thing.”
“It was all just, you turn the other cheek.”
Jackie Kennedy had, in fact, even spoken to other people about several of her husband’s affairs, claims New York City gossip columnist Liz Smith.
“[Her friends] Truman Capote and Gore Vidal told me she knew all about Judith Exner [an alleged mistress] and everybody else, and that she read [my stories] on Judith with high interest,” Smith said.
Exner, who served as a conduit between JFK and mobster Sam Giancana, claimed she had an abortion after becoming pregnant with the President’s child, revealing details about their alleged affair in her 1977 memoir “My Story.” Kennedy is said to have been unsurprised by what the book revealed.
Jackie Kennedy was also seemingly aware of her husband's alleged affair with White House Staff member Priscilla Wear. According to Kennedy press aide Barbara Gamarekian, Jackie stated, “This is the girl that’s sleeping with my husband” while speaking in French to a Paris-Match reporter.
In keeping with the idea that Jack would always return to Jackie in the end, despite the fact that he is accused of using his special assistant Dave Powers to line up willing women, White House intern Mimi Alford claims he was never “looking for a relationship to replace his marriage.” Alford revealed her 18-month relationship with JFK in her 2012 memoir “Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath.”
Jill Cowan, a secretary in the White House Press Office, who has also been rumored to have had an affair with JFK, has never commented on her own relationship with him but has spoken of the admiration he held for his wife.
She claimed he was “very proud of the fact Mrs. Kennedy had kept a book of all the place settings and pictures of the flowers, the whole sort of personal touches in the White House.”
Both of the two other high-profile women JFK is alleged to have had affairs with, actress Marilyn Monroe and Mary Pinchot Meyer, the sister-in-law of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, died in tragic and unexplained circumstances.
The mental health of Monroe had long been a cause of concern for the President until she mysteriously took an overdose in 1962, aged 36.
Meyer was murdered in Georgetown two years later in a shooting that has not yet been resolved but has fanned the flames of plenty of conspiracy theories.
In 2016 a handwritten love letter from JFK to Meyer was sold at auction.
“Why don’t you leave suburbia for once – come and see me – either here – or at the Cape next week or in Boston the 19th,” Kennedy wrote in the four-page letter. “I know it is unwise, irrational, and that you may hate it – on the other hand, you may not – and I will love it,” the letter read.
“You say that it is good for me not to get what I want. After all of these years – you should give me a more loving answer than that. Why don’t you just say yes.”
*Originally published in December 2016. Updated November 2023.
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