The Queen & Jackie Kennedy

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!

Her stance says "Let's do this!" (via carlaanthonyonline.com
Her stance says “Let’s do this!” (via carlaanthonyonline.com)

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.

So happy! (via Tumbler)
So happy! (via Pinterest)

(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.

Smile for the cameras! Via Pinterest
Smile for the cameras! Via Pinterest

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:

Jackie & Lee Head to the Palace (via )
Jackie & Lee Head to the Palace (via Architectural Digest)

When they returned, reporters asked Jackie about the visit and we have video of it here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6W3oeIc6i4]

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?

22 Replies to “The Queen & Jackie Kennedy”

    1. The Queen would have been almost 6 months pregnant with Prince Edward at the time of JFK’s funeral. Probably the reason why she didn’t attend.

    2. So glad you like it – thank you!! Interesting- I had forgotten that she didn’t attend the funeral and that Phillip was there solo. Love putting all these little tidbits together…

  1. This is the first time I have ever seen the Queen looking like she is really having fun! Lovely to see their rapport. Great tidbits Royal Poster! Thanks for adding to my Sunday afternoon reading! Also fun to have the countdown to Sandringham Christmas!

  2. I love Princess Margaret’s comment “But that is what she is there for.” Speaks volumes about Margaret and about the Queen !

  3. I read in a book on Elizabeth (it may not be completely reliable, but there it is) that as the Queen, she was used to being at the center of everything (understandably) and that the media attention and style that Jackie Kennedy had made her jealous.

  4. This was very interesting! I’ve followed the lives of both women for a long time and I am somewhat suspect of Jackie’s recollections as they don’t seem to fit with those of anyone else who’s been in a similar position with the Queen. I doubt that HM would have resented Jackie or would have been jealous of her in any way. The Queen is, well, the Queen! She always was and always will be while Jackie was the very popular wife of the American president, but also only temporarily in the position. To believe this one would have to accept that the Queen was jealous of every attractive and popular presidential spouse to come down the pike. I expect that, with their shared love of horses, the two had more to talk about than Mrs. Kennedy lets on. But, it doesn’t make for such a good story! The fact that there was a private lunch later speaks volumes. Jackie’s comment about The Queen’s relationship with Prince Philip is unfortunate and a little catty. Especially in retrospect when we see that their very happy marriage has lasted for nearly 70 years.

    Also, regarding Lee Radziwill being a divorcee… it seems shocking now. But, at the time, divorcees were considered to be somewhat off limits throughout society. They were still not allowed in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot or at BP garden parties. The Queen, as Head of the Church, was mindful of this. However, you shouldn’t confuse the Queen’s official position – largely articulated both officials around her – with her private feelings. Many royal friends were divorced, as we politicians in government. Peter Townsend, aside from his relationship with Princess Margaret, was exceptionally popular with the Queen and the Queen Mother after his divorce.

    Sorry to be so long-winded! I’ve always been a little perplexed by the need to portray these two fascinating women as somehow in competition. Both occupied their own very secure positions quite apart from one another and, I suspect, would have admired the other for their ability to maintain a private and public persona. On the flip side, they occupied such different positions that it’s unlikely that they gave each other much thought at all.

    1. On the one hand true. On the other though, the Queen in the 50s was considered glamorous, stylish and leading a new Elizabethan age. She was–and is–the Queen. She received enormous press attention. When Jackie Kennedy burst on the scene in 1960, she became the focus of attention for the world’s press; like a certain duchess today. As for divorce, I’m not so sure. H.M. is a conservative in morals and traditions. The memory of twice-divorced Mrs. Simpson marrying David was still fresh. In this country, divorce was almost unheard of. According to research from the Journal of Family Medicine, only 1 marriage in 21 ended in divorce in 1960–a rate of 5%. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents didn’t know any divorced people until their children in the late-1970s. I use my family as an example not for anecdotal purposes, but b/c they were utterly typical of average people in this country. And while the Queen may have felt sympathy, that doesn’t mean she necessarily approved of it. She made Commander Michael Parker, her husband’s Private Secretary, a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order–an award in the personal gift of the monarch–then promptly threw him out of the Palace b/c he was divorcing, even though HE was the wronged party. She believed divorce was a great sadness, not a hanging offense, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t–and doesn’t–approve of traditional marriage. The Queen believes very strongly that her role is one of a moral example, not merely the head of state. If she didn’t believe divorce was appalling, she wouldn’t have taken the actions she did. Her cousin George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, divorced his first wife in 1967. The Queen was dismayed but he was still banned from the Presence and the Palace. The only reason that rule was quietly ignored in the late-1980s was that she wouldn’t have been able to see her sister and her children otherwise. And the Queen Mother was even more conservative and unyielding than her daughter; who do you think was advising the Queen? Of course her Private Secretary and the divorced Prime Minister Anthony Eden, but if you think she didn’t listen to her Mummy’s advice over the rest of them, get your head examined. The Queen Mother had seen the impact of divorced persons firsthand, when her brother-in-law abdicated the throne to be “the third mate of an American tramp”, as humorists said at the time.

      1. You make some excellent points, Seth, and some I hadn’t considered at all. Especially when you mention the Earl of Harewood, whom I’d completely forgotten. I’d always understood that he was still seen privately but was not included at State occasions until the 1980’s.

        I like your point about the Queen being considered glamourous. I think people often forget about that fact when comparing the two. Even into the 1960’s, photos show a radiant and beautifully dressed monarch. Perhaps not in the Paris/Dior/Jackie vein, but certainly nothing to be dismissed.

        Thanks for furthering my education. It’s always good to be introduced to new information.

  5. I wouldn’t trust Gore Vidal’s recollections. Whenever I see the Queens at these functions, she is very chatty. I doubt things were “frosty” and Jackie understood social rules. I also find it hard to believe Marina and Margaret weren’t invited. It seems like all of her cousins and even the Dowager’s (like Princess Alice before her death) are invited to the state dinners. No?

    Also remember if Margaret married Townsend, she would have had to give up everything due to Townsend’s status as a Divorcée. Different times.

  6. You missed a key component of their interactions: the memorial ceremony for President Kennedy, held at Runnymede in May 1965. I think it’s clear from photos and speeches of the event that there was mutual respect and that Her Majesty held sincerely-felt sadness and concern for Mrs. Kennedy and her children.

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