The World Reacts
In the autumn of 1968 the world reacted to the stunning surprise wedding of Jacqueline Kennedy, the Queen of Camelot and Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis with shock, amazement, and even condemnation, but definitely without apathy.
Jackie Kennedy had been elevated to a national treasure after the tragedy in Dallas and had remained there ever since. That is, until one weekend in October 1968 when the world learned about her impending nuptials on a chilly Friday afternoon and the reaction was as frosty as the unseasonably cool temperature.
From Acapulco to Moscow, London to Zanzibar, Jackie was the talk of the town.
“Jackie! How Could you?” asked the headline in the Stockholm newspaper Expressen, pretty much summing up the world’s disbelief.
“Lamentable, lamentable,” headlined the Madrid newspaper, Informaciones.
“In Spain millions of women wept for Mrs Kennedy when her husband was slain in Dallas 5 years ago,” The NY Daily News reported on Saturday October 19. “The reaction yesterday in that conservatively Catholic country was bewilderment and condemnation.”
In Paris a news vendor hawked: “The Latest Kennedy Tragedy, “while the Paris newspaper Le Monde said“The Americans just cannot believe it!”
In Moscow a blonde girl exclaimed, “Oh, but he’s too old!”
“I wouldn’t do it if I were Jackie,” sighed a Frankfurt clerk.”He has no likeness to John Kennedy.”
Wedding Bell Blues
Closer to home, the shock waves continued.
Like millions of Americans, suburban housewife Patty Doyle was flabbergasted, with a good case of the wedding bell blues. “The jet set may be ga-ga, but the average Joe was ready to… well… gag.. ,” she bemoaned.
To the shock and dismay of most of Jackie’s admirers, Patty included, the Queen of Camelot had abandoned her reign and, many felt, her reputation, by choosing as her consort Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis, a short (an inch shorter than Jackie, gasp! at 5 feet 5 inches! )swarthy man of 62 who wears dark glasses night and day smokes cigars and has a boatload of money.
“It’s simply unbelievable” gasped one former friend of Jackie’s. “For Gods sake he’s a peasant-he’s so bloody unattractive and obvious. I mean at least she could have picked a gentleman”
A Work of Art Has Fallen From its Pedestal
A day after the stunning announcement, Patty clipped an article that appeared in the NY Daily News . It said what she could not put into words. It went right to the heart of the matter and echoed the sentiments of millions.
“It is very different now. Somehow, very different.”
“She has the same extraordinary smile and the same matchless grace the indefinable quality called class. But something is gone now- for all of us. A fragment of a fragile image has broken away and is gone.”
“No one can forget Jacqueline Kennedy’s days in Camelot, the perfect grace note for a young new president a personification of beauty and taste and yet somehow impersonal, like a work of art to be admired.”
“Nor can anyone forget the lonely figure of tragedy and dignity kissing a coffin in the capital great rotunda.”
“And when Jacqueline Kennedy finally walked away into a new private world, the image lingered on. She was the widow of a slain president, a picture of the race and beauty we all so briefly knew.Even as she moved back into the society of new friends and new interests her magic continued to cast its spell.”
“When the rumors began about a possible romance with Britain’s Lord Harlech they had only a passing effects on Jackie’s place on the pedestal. Harlech was a blue blood and one of the courtiers in Camelot. He seemed to fit so well. But the rumors died away and Jackie remained single.”
“Many American women have beauty and style and good taste. But Jackie always had something more. It was as if she were not really one of us but someone in a play or movie.”
“Women have not envied her. You admire a painting or a statue but you do not envy it. Jackie has always been something you couldn’t be in a million years even if you had her looks and clothes.”
No longer a symbol
“But now she is suddenly flesh and blood. She is no longer the almost mystical symbol of a nations tragedy and guilt. She is no longer the partner of a handsome young president.”
“She is simply a woman, a woman marrying a man old enough to be her father, rich and colorful but hardly handsome, a foreigner known mainly in the jet set and then primarily for his yachts and parties and celebrated friends.”
“He must have something besides carloads of money. But he isn’t Jack Kennedy. Everyone wanted Jackie to find her way out of tragedy to make a new life, surely to get married again. But now it is happening and her husband is going to be someone called Aristotle Onassis and somehow everything is different.”
On Sunday morning, Patty hurriedly finished packing up the brats, beer and baked beans for the tailgate party later that afternoon. She was running late and wanted to get to church on time. As a good Catholic, Patty Doyle was devastated.
“I cannot believe a good Catholic like Mrs Kennedy would marry a divorced man,” Patty said in disbelief. By doing so she knew it meant Jackie could not hope for the church’s blessing.
Patty took her cue from her priest who took his straight from the Vatican who gave the opinion that Mrs Kennedy would automatically excommunicate herself if she married Onassis. “Marriage is a sacrament that cannot be dissolved by divorce,” her priest Father O’ Hare spoke from the pulpit that morning.”In sharing a bed with Onassis she was profane in the eyes of God.”
The Roman Catholic Church indeed was upset “We regret she chose to marry such a notorious figure married and divorced and living openly with Maria Callas”
In fact the greatest blow came not from the secular press but from the Vatican’s L’Osservatore della Domenica. Branding her “a public sinner” it reported that she would be denied church rites.
While the wrath of God seem to came tumbling down in churches across the globe that Sunday morning , a simple wedding was taking place far away in Greece. The marriage was celebrated on Oct 20 in a tiny chapel on Skorpios Onassis’s private island
Mrs Aristotle Onassis would always be Jackie Kennedy to Patty and a whole lot of other Americans.
The Queen of Camelot was soon rechristened Jackie O and the press didn’t skip a beat as Jackie O and Ari became fodder for the gossip mills.
Copyright (©) 2013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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