Nearly 21 years after Carolyn Bessette married John F. Kennedy Jr. in an intimate, secret ceremony on an island just off the coast of Georgia,
"They would love hard, and they would fight hard," Ariel Paredes,
After the couple died in a plane crash in the summer of 1999, rumors swirled that their marriage had been in trouble and that Kennedy had moved out of their shared apartment. Twenty-one years later, friends paint a picture of a couple working through their problems but still deeply committed to one another.
One issue was undoubtedly the media attention that was a constant part of their lives. For her part, Bessette was never comfortable with the scrutiny that accompanied her marriage to President Kennedy's son. "If someone was going to steal our prince, the press and the public wanted her to be some kind of unblemished princess," John Perry Barlow, a friend of Kennedy's, told People. "She was her own self. The woman everyone has read about it not at all as she was in real life."
In her book, Jackie's girl, Jackie Kennedy's personal assistant Kathy McKeon recalled a conversation in which Bessette revealed her fear of the paparazzi. "She couldn’t take it. She wasn’t brought up with it. John was, Carolyn wasn’t," McKeon wrote. "She said, 'I’m terrified of them.'"
But the press wasn't the only stress on their marriage in its final weeks. Right before the tragic plane crash that would claim them both as victims (along with Bessette's sister Lauren), Kennedy was facing financial troubles at his magazine George while coming to grips with the fact that his best friend and cousin Anthony Radziwill was dying from cancer.
"To say their marriage was on the rocks is just inaccurate," says Carole Radziwill, Anthony's
"Anthony’s impending death was a strain on their marriage, no doubt. But it was a difficult time for all of us. If it weren’t, we would be inhuman."
Sadly, we'll never know if that period of marital troubles was merely a blip on their otherwise strong relationship or something more serious, as the couple died tragically on July 16, 1999.
"Had he not crashed the plane, it would have been a meaningless few weeks of tension," a source close to John told People.
"But it took on a life of its own because it was the last chapter of their life. One week they could have been at war, and the next week they could be right back in love—we’ll never know."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.