For this two-part series, I thought it would be fun to look at Jackie Kennedy’s relationships with both Grace Kelly and the Queen. I’ve unearthed a few interesting tidbits that you may not have heard before, and I’d love to hear any others you may have up your sleeves! We’ll start with Jackie and Queen Elizabeth, and the next post will be all about Grace.
Back in 1951, Jackie Bouvier was hired by the Washington Times-Herald as the “Inquiring Camera Girl” for $42.50 per week. Amongst her many assignments was to cover Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration and to travel to London to cover the Queen’s Coronation, which was held on June 2 of 1953. Jackie’s articles covered her voyage to London, what the mood was like in the city, and of course the big event itself. If I’m able to unearth any of those actual articles, I’ll be sure to post them!
We know that Jack Kennedy proposed right when Jackie got back to the States, and she resigned from her newspaper job the next day. The Washington Times Herald announced the engagement on June 24, 1953 and the wedding was held on September 12. Very speedy!
So now let’s skip ahead to June 4, 1961 – exactly eight years and two days after the Queen’s coronation. That evening, Jackie and Jack dined with The Queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham palace and as far as I can tell in this picture, both ladies seemed pretty delighted and like they were having a wonderful time.
(Side Note: The blue shantung dress Jackie wore is now held at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum and can be viewed here.)
However, apparently there was quite a bit of haggling that went into the guest list and consequently the evening was pretty frosty. The story goes that Queen was reticent to invite Jackie’s sister Princess Lee Radziwill since she was a divorcee (shocking, I know) but eventually relented. However, the Queen then vetoed Princess Margaret and Princess Marina from the guest list since they had both been requested by Jackie.
An article in Reader’s Digest gives some more insight into Jackie’s memories of the evening.
The queen had her revenge,” she confides to Gore Vidal. “No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find.” Jackie also tells Vidal that she found the queen “pretty heavy going.” (When Vidal repeats this to Princess Margaret some years later, the princess loyally explains, “But that’s what she’s there for.”)
Over dinner, Jackie continues to feel awkward, even persecuted. “I think the queen resented me. Philip was nice, but nervous. One felt absolutely no relationship between them.”
The queen asks Jackie about her visit to Canada. Jackie tells her how exhausting she found being on public view for hours on end. “The queen looked rather conspiratorial and said, ‘One gets crafty after a while and learns how to save oneself.’ ” According to Vidal (who is prone to impose his own thoughts on others), Jackie considers this the only time the queen seems remotely human.
After dinner, the queen asks Jackie if she’d like to see “some pictures.” Yes, says Jackie, she certainly would. The queen takes her for a stroll down a long gallery in the palace. They stop in front of a Van Dyck. The queen says, “That’s a good horse.” Yes, agrees Jackie, that is a good horse. From Jackie’s account, this is the extent of their contact with one another, but others differ. Dinner at Buckingham Palace, writes Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in his diary that night, is “very pleasant.”
That’s a good horse??!! Too funny. The visit was just four months after JFK’s inauguration, so Jackie was still getting into the swing of things.
Nine months later, she returned to London and stayed with her sister Lee, who lived just four blocks south of Buckingham Palace. The Queen asked both Jackie and Lee to lunch which seems to me like a very nice thing to do, and they accepted. Here they are heading out the door on March 28, 1962:
When they returned, reporters asked Jackie about the visit and we have video of it here:
Jackie was very diplomatic and tells reporters, “I don’t feel I should say anything about it except how thankful I am and how charming she was.”
If only we could hear what Jackie and Lee’s conversation was once they were inside! I love how Jackie went from reporting the coronation to being a guest at the palace as First Lady, and it does seem like in the end all was well.
What do you think – was there no love lost?