College that tried to auction Kennedy letters closes down

Jackie Kennedy with husband JFK
Jackie Kennedy with husband JFK

By David Hennessy

Sales of the Jackie Kennedy letter would not have saved All Hallows College, a college of DCU,which is to close.

The correspondence between Father Joseph Leonard, a priest at All Hallows College, and Mrs Kennedy was due to be auctioned next month but was recently withdrawn from auction following contact from the Kennedy dynasty.

Announcing they were winding down their operations after 172 years, the college revealed that they needed “at least €2 million to get into next year” and so selling the private letters would not alleviate their financial concerns. The letters were valued at over €1 million although it is thought they could have sold for much more.

Discussions are now taking place with the Kennedy family on how best to preserve them.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy wrote to Father Joseph Leonard from 1950 until his death in 1964. Over 14 years Mrs Kennedy opened up about all aspects of her life including her courtship and marriage to JFK, writing to Father Leonard in 1952: “I think I’m in love with — and I think it would interest you — John Kennedy — he’s the son of the ambassador to England — the second son — the oldest was killed. He’s 35 and a congressman.”

However, before their 1953 wedding, the young woman reveals Kennedy’s reasons for courting her might have been political:  “He hurt me terribly when he was campaigning and never called up for weeks. I think he was as much in love with me as he could be with anyone and now maybe he will want to get married because a senator needs a wife. But if he ever does ask me to marry him it will be for rather practical reasons — because his career is this driving thing with him.”

Jackie Kennedy with Father Leonard
Jackie Kennedy with Father Leonard

The letters also detail her grief and anger following her husband’s assassination: “I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him — but that is a strange way of thinking to me. God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him.”

The 130 handwritten pages are the closest thing to a Jackie Kennedy autobiography.

For years, the letters remained undiscovered, as far as the public was concerned, in All Hallows College.

Fr Patrick McDevitt, the president of All Hallows College, said the withdrawal of the letters had had a very significant bearing on the decision to close.

The college will now begin a month-long consultation with staff and will endeavour as far as possible to enable existing students to complete their degrees.


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