Today would be Jackie Kennedy’s 89th birthday. She’s been gone twenty-four years, and yet she remains an icon of fashion, elegance, and timeless beauty.
I didn’t know her, but through my books with Secret Service agent Clint Hill, I’ve had the great privilege to get a rare glimpse into who she really was—the woman inside that public persona. Jackie Kennedy was a devoted mother and loving wife. A skilled equestrian, tennis player, and waterskier.
Fluent in French, Spanish, and Italian. She loved history, art, and photography. She loved animals–dogs, horses, cats, all animals–and she couldn’t stand to see them harmed.
One day, Agent Hill was driving down a country dirt road in Middleburg, Virginia with Mrs. Kennedy in the right front seat. As they came around a corner, a turtle was trodding across the road. The turtle’s brown shell camouflaged into the dirt road and Hill saw it a moment too late. Crack. Crunch.
Mrs. Kennedy was horrified. “Oh, Mr. Hill! What have you done?” She was truly upset by the turtle’s sudden tragic demise and from then on, Hill watched out much more vigilantly for living creatures that might cross their path.
As first lady, Jackie Kennedy was America’s best ambassador. She was beloved by people around the world, and effortlessly charmed foreign leaders.
During a 1961 visit to Paris, Jackie Kennedy did something that to this day is almost unfathomable: she convinced the French government to remove the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and send it to the United States to hang in the National Gallery for a temporary exhibit.
One thing about the former first lady that might surprise many was that she had a bawdy sense of humor. Yes, Jackie Kennedy was a bit naughty.
As we wrote in Mrs. Kennedy and Me, during her 1962 trip to India, she bought some art prints of Kama Sutra poses. She had them framed, and hung them prominently—not in the bedroom—but the dining room. Talk about a conversation starter!
Clint once told me she would have liked me. I know I would have liked her.
Happy Birthday, Jackie.