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Why Do People Think Audrey Hepburn Had An Affair With JFK?

(Photo Credit: Bachrach / Getty Images and Archive Photos / Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Bachrach / Getty Images and Archive Photos / Getty Images)

It’s no secret that John F. Kennedy got around. His personal history is chock-full of affairs with various women, and while some are better known than others, there is one that even we were surprised to hear about – Audrey Hepburn. Coming off of an engagement with British businessman James Hansen, Hepburn became involved with the future president before getting into another serious relationship with fellow actor Mel Ferrer.

The two were allegedly involved

Headshot of Audrey Hepburn beside a headshot of John F. Kennedy.
(Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images and NY Daily News Archive / Getty Images)

According to biographer Christopher Andersen in “Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage,” Kennedy and Hepburn first began their relationship in the early 1950s, around the same time that Kennedy became involved with Jacqueline Bouvier. At the time, both relationships were meant to be kept secret, and considering that he was someone who wasn’t too fond of public displays of affection, keeping them secret was not too difficult. However, out of the two, he supposedly found Hepburn “simply exquisite.”

The two seemed an unlikely pair, especially because of their professions. Kennedy was rising through the ranks of the political world, and Hepburn was a glamorous actress. Their worlds were so different that even if they were seen together, people didn’t consider that they could have sparked up a romantic relationship. Andersen quoted a Washington journalist who said Hepburn was seen leaving Kennedy’s home, but “it seemed so improbable back in those days for a United States senator and a movie star to be involved — the worlds were just so different back then — that nobody thought much of it.”

Hepburn wooed people everywhere she went

Headshot of Audrey Hepburn resting her head in her hand.
(Photo Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

It is no surprise that Kennedy was interested in Hepburn, as she had a way with people. In fact, Kennedy wasn’t the only person in politics who found Hepburn enchanting. In 1953, White House secretary Mary Gallagher went on record to say that Hepburn once came to visit him and that everyone was impressed with her. “I remember Audrey Hepburn, and I remember how the whole office was impressed when she walked in. She was as graceful as a swan and carried a long, slim red umbrella,” she said. An anonymous account even described Hepburn as having “out-Jackied Jackie” in appearance and charm.

Additionally, Andersen says that Hepburn only revealed a certain side of herself to Kennedy. He explained that while her general personality was similar to her on-screen persona, “she also had this very sexy, very naughty side that the public never saw.” He also says that the secretive nature of their affair kept their romance nice and steamy. However, as history has shown, things were not meant to last between Kennedy and Hepburn.

Kennedy couldn’t keep things going

Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy sitting on a chair together.
(Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

There were multiple reasons why the two couldn’t stay together, though from Andersen’s exposé, they mostly seem to be one-sided. Being such a public figure, Kennedy couldn’t risk his political career by marrying a foreign-born woman, let alone an entertainer (although throughout his life, he seemed to have a preference for actresses). As well, Catholicism was an important pillar in the Kennedy family, and Kennedy saw Hepburn’s lack of assigning herself to any faith as a potential hindrance to his aspirations.

On June 24, 1953, Kennedy proposed to his future wife, Jackie, bringing an end to his affair with Hepburn. The two thus went their separate ways until 10 years later when she wound up singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him at his birthday party in New York City. This came one year after the legendary birthday song that was sung to him by Marilyn Monroe.

Read more from us: The Heartbreaking Way JFK’s Children Learned About Their Father’s Death

While Andersen’s book is full of revelations about Kennedy and Hepburn’s affair, his claims are based on anonymous sources and second-hand accounts and, as such, has not seen much support from other biographers.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!