Rumors of an affair between Robert F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy have circulated for decades following the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Bobby and Jackie became quite close after their shared loss, and people were quick to assume something more was going on behind the scenes. In the new book, Jackie: Public, Private, Secret, author J. Randy Taraborrelli is sharing how the rumors affected others in the Kennedy family, namely Bobby’s wife, Ethel.
Jackie and Bobby went on vacation together
After the death of JFK in 1963, Bobby, Jackie, Jackie’s sister Lee, and Lee’s husband Stas Radziwill, all took a vacation together to a friend’s home in Antigua. The vacation may have been meant to help lift their spirits following the death of the president, but it turns out the getaway was far from a happy one.
Also on the vacation was one of JFK’s old college friends, Charles Spaulding, who spoke with Taraborrelli about the events of the trip. He described the general feelings shared by everyone, saying, “We all felt like survivors of a disaster — namely Jack’s murder.”
On the trip, Spaulding noticed that two members became awfully close to one another. “No one was in his right mind. Jackie and Bobby were remarkably close, reading Greek literature and taking long walks, holding hands, on the beach,” he explained. Spaulding wasn’t the only one to notice their closeness, and rumors of an affair swirled. Even the FBI claimed that Jackie and Bobby were participating in a sexual relationship between the years 1964 and 1968.
Bobby and his wife lost their connection
It seems no one grieved quite as much or as long as Bobby did following the death of his brother – not even Jackie. The loss caused him to spiral into a nervous breakdown where he could not eat, could not sleep, and felt utterly haunted by JFK’s death.
Bobby allegedly found no comfort in his wife, Ethel Kennedy, with whom he shared eight children at the time. As Taraborrelli describes in his book, Bobby instead found solice in Jackie, spending most of his time with her as they supported each other in their grief. This is when the rumors of an affair really began to take hold.
Ethel loved her husband “more completely than she dreamed possible,” but she was no fool. She knew what she had signed up for when marrying a Kennedy, as she knew there was “no tradition of monogamy in the Kennedy clan.” Ethel was well-aware of her husband’s infidelity, but chose to look the other way most of the time. However, this rumor struck a different cord with her, and it was one that she had to address.
Ethel confronted Jackie about it
Ethel and Jackie didn’t have the best relationship as sisters-in-law. In fact, Ethel knew that if they hadn’t married brothers, there was a good chance the two ladies would’ve had nothing to do with one another. Taraborrelli outlines a number of times when Ethel and Jackie didn’t get along, and even quoted Ethel as having described her sister-in-law as “the same old selfish Jackie Kennedy.”
That may be why rumors of a potential affair between Bobby and Jackie may have bothered her more than others. Jackie’s half-brother, Jamie Auchincloss, was interviewed by Taraborrelli for the book. He said that Ethel was quite direct with Jackie about the whole ordeal.
“She said, ‘Look people are whispering about you and Bobby,'” he explained. “Jackie was mortified and said she would never do something like that, and that was the end of it. Ethel believed her.” From then on, Ethel knew that an affair between the two was implausible.
Whether that was the truth or not, we may never know.