Heritage

What Really Happened When Jackie Kennedy Met Queen Elizabeth?

Did the Queen resent the U.S. First Lady?
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Almost six months into the role as first lady, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy slowly planted her feet into political soil. It was then that she and President John F. Kennedy embarked on a working tour around Europe, where Jackie charmed the French people.

As a Bouvier, the French believed her to be one of them. (Her father, John Bouvier, came from a French family who migrated to the U.S. in the 1800s and her mother, Janet, was of Irish and British descent).

The public clamor that followed her visit to France caught not only the attention of the international press but also of her husband. The U.S. president said at a press conference, “I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself… I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris and I have enjoyed it.”

The couple then went off to Vienna, and afterward, Buckingham Palace. Before dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, there was a minor debate as to whether Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill and brother-in-law Prince Stanislas Radziwill of Poland, should be invited. At the time, protocol dictated that divorcees should not be invited to state dinners. With some reluctance, the Queen ruled in favor of inviting the Radziwills—who had previously been married to other people—given that it wasn’t technically a formal state visit.

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But when Jackie took a look at the guest list, she felt disappointed to see that Princess Margaret and the Queen’s aunt Princess Marina were not on the list. These were the ladies Jackie had wanted to meet the most. In the biography America’s Queen by Sarah Bradford, Jackie told confidante Gore Vidal, “No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find.”

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When Jackie finally met the monarch, there seemed to be unspoken tension between the two women, at least according to Vidal’s correspondence with Kennedy. She reportedly told him, “I think the queen resented me. Philip was nice but nervous. One felt absolutely no relationship between them.”

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People also reports that society photographer Cecil Beaton wrote in his journal that the U.S. First Lady had been unimpressed by the Queen’s gown and by Buckingham Palace.

That night, the U.S. President offered the Queen a portrait of himself encased in a silver frame from Tiffany & Co. The photo was signed, “To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with appreciation and highest esteem, John. F. Kennedy.” The photo is now on display at Buckingham Palace, reports People.

During the dinner, the Queen made small talk with Jackie by inquiring about her trip to Canada. Later, the Queen invited Jackie for a walk after dinner. They admired the paintings at the palace’s art gallery.

Various rumors have since circulated about Jackie's relationship with the Queen and the monarch’s possible jealousy. Their stroll around the palace after dinner and their exchanging comments on a Van Dyke painting were all that Jackie herself revealed about that night, writes Craig Brown.  

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Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill in London on March 28, 1962

The next time the women saw each other was nine months after the dinner—which Prime Minister Harold MacMillan called “very pleasant.” Jackie was in town, staying at her sister’s place, just a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace.The Queen invited her for lunch on March 28, 1962, and not much is known about this exchange expect Kennedy telling the press, “I don’t think I should say anything about it except how grateful I am and how charming she was.”

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The Queen and Jackie Kennedy at the inauguration of the Kennedy Memorial in Surrey.

The Queen never met with the U.S. President after that. He was assassinated in Texas on November 22, 1963. After his death, the Queen donated land at Runnymede, Surrey in England in his honor. The memorial stone contained words from his inaugural speech. Both Jackie and the Queen unveiled the memorial on May 14, 1965.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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