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Kennedy Sister lived in a world of rebellion according to her family

Ian Harvey
 The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port, 1931. Source
The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port, 1931. Source

Many remember John F. Kennedy to be one of the best United States presidents we have ever had. He and his family were photogenic and family-oriented people. However, nobody seems to talk about his sister, Kick.

Kick, was known as a free spirit who had a streak of rebellion. Her story is now told in an unpublicized story of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy. Her life is filled with love and a tragic death; sadly, the only Kennedy to attend her funeral was her father. Kathleen lived a tough life, having lost her brother and husband to war. At the young age of 28, she died in a terrible plane accident alongside the lover she married.

Lady Hartington (formerly Kathleen Kennedy) in London, wearing an American Red Cross uniform
Lady Hartington (formerly Kathleen Kennedy) in London, wearing an American Red Cross uniform.Source

The author of Kathleen’s autobiography, Lynne McTaggart, said that she was the only rebel in the family. She was the only one who did not follow in the footsteps of the rest of the nine Kennedys. Kathleen’s story will be featured in a documentary, it is narrated by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s 27-year-old daughter.

Kathleen had said that she got her nickname from her great-aunt. They called her Kick because she was a kick. She was born in Brookline, Massachusetts to Rose and Joseph, the future ambassador to the U.K. She had attended the Riverdale Country School when her family moved to Bronxville, New York. That is when her mother decided that she should attend an all-girls school.

When she was 13, she went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, she was still known as a charmer and never failed to catch the boys’ attention. She dated friends of her brothers’.

When Joe Kennedy was appointed US ambassador to the UK, he and his family left for London. In London, the 18-year-old Kick was named debutante of the year and turned heads as she walked by. Kick had such a charm that she knew several higher-up men. However, she was so friendly that she got away with calling dukes by their nicknames.

 The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port, 1931. Source
The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port, 1931. Source

At one particular party, she met William Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington. Kick called him Billy, and soon they fell in love. However, there was an issue – Billy was a Protestant and Kick was a Catholic.

As Britain began bracing for air raids after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Joe Kennedy sent his family back to the US. Kick begged her father to let her stay with Billy, fighting for two weeks straight. However, she was forced to move back to America. For the next four years, she stayed in the U.S., traveling between Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

Billy had been in the British Army and was briefly engaged to another woman. Kick was determined to make it back to Billy so she joined the Red Cross, which was seeking volunteers to go to London. She and Billy ended up picking up right where they left off, but Kick’s mother was not pleased that she had chosen a Protestant. She and Billy ended up being married outside of the church.   At the time it was considered one of the worst sins to commit. They were married in a ceremony in May 1944. Kick’s older brother Joe Jr. was the only Kennedy to attend.

Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States.
Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States.Source

Four weeks later, Billy was sent to the Belgian front. During the same year, Joe Jr. was killed when his plane exploded over France while on a secret bombing mission. Less than a month later, Billy was shot through the heart by a German sniper.

After attending her brother’s funeral in the U.S., she returned to England as Lady Hartington. Not long after Billy’s death, she found love again. Her new love was Peter Fitzwilliam. Again, he was a Protestant and wealthy. However, he was a gambler and a married man. He was in the process of divorcing his wife when he met Kick. Her parents were horrified after finding that out and threatened to disown her.

Love soon ended in tragedy. While traveling to France to meet Kick’s father, the plane the couple boarded crashed in the mountains in a storm, killing all passengers and crew. Since Joe was already in Europe at the time, he was the only one to attend the funeral.

Because JFK’s political career was beginning, the family kept the scandal and death quiet. Kick was buried in a small churchyard in Edenser, England. The gravestone says her name is Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington. Billy was buried in Belgium where he was killed, upon his family’s request.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News