Rose Elizabeth Kennedy (Fitzgerald) (1890 - 1995) MP

‹ Back to Kennedy surname

Is your surname Kennedy?

Research the Kennedy family

Rose Elizabeth Kennedy's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Share

Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Death: Died in Hyannis Port, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation: Philantropist
Managed by: Nancy Sawalich
Last Updated:

About Rose Elizabeth Kennedy (Fitzgerald)

Rose Elizabeth Kennedy is Dorothy Willard's 10th Cousin twice Removed.

Rose Elizabeth Kennedy is Dorothy Willard's 11th great grandfather's wife's 9th great granddaughter. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (July 22, 1890–January 22, 1995) was the wife of Joseph Kennedy and the mother of President John F. Kennedy.

Born Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child of John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and his wife, Mary Josephine Hannon. "Honey Fitz" was a prominent figure in Boston politics and served one term as a member of United States Congress and two terms as the Mayor of Boston.

As a young child, Rose lived in an Italianate/Mansard-style home in the Ashmont Hill section of Dorchester, Massachusetts and attended the local Girl's Latin School. The home later burned down, but a plaque at Welles Avenue and Harley Street proclaims "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Square". The plaque was dedicated by her son, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, on Rose's 102nd birthday in 1992.

Rose studied at the convent school Kasteel Bloemendal in Vaals, Holland, and graduated from Dorchester High School in 1906. She also attended the New England Conservatory in Boston where she studied piano[1]. After being refused permission by her father to attend Wellesley College, Rose enrolled at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (as it was known at that time). In 1908, Rose and her father embarked on a tour of Europe.

On October 7, 1914 Rose married Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. after a courtship of more than seven years. They first lived in a home in Brookline that is now the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site. Rose and Joseph had the following nine children:

--------------------

Helped form the "Ace of Clubs", the top Catholic social Club in Boston.

While attending the Convent of the Sacred Heart, shee received her m edal as a Child of Mary, highest honor bestowed on the laity by the Sacred heart order.

Rose was named a papal countess by Pope Pius XII.

--------------------

Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald: born Boston 22 July 1890; married 1914 Joseph Kennedy (died 1969; one son, four daughters, and three sons and one daughter deceased); died Hyannis Port, Massachusetts 22 January 1995. Rose Kennedy was the matriarch of America. She lived well past her hundredth year, and in that century she experienced everything American life had to offer of triumph, trial and tragedy.

She chose to live her life in her husband's shadow. Joseph P. Kennedy Snr accumulated a great fortune on Wall Street and in Hollywood. He was not faithful to her, but he retained an intense, patriarchal sense of family. After a meteoric career in the NewDeal he served as United States ambassador to London, where he infuriated his hosts and appalled his President, Franklin Roosevelt, by his pessimism about Britain's chances and his sympathy with Hitler's Germany. He returned to the United States an embittered man, to make even more money in business and to work to achieve for one of his sons the presidential ambitions he had cherished for himself. In December 1961, aged 73, he was cruelly incapacitated by a stroke, but he lived on, unable to move or speak, but fully conscious, until he died in 1969. She survived him by a quarter of a century.

Through all these changing fortunes, Mrs Kennedy was the loyal and, in public, the self- effacing wife. She bore her husband nine children. Her eldest son, of whom great things were expected, died flying a dangerous mission from England in the Second World War. Each of her other sons was in turn a United States senator and a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination as President of the United States. Her second son, John, was elected and served with great distinction as President. He and her son Robert were both assassinated. Her youngest son, Edward, has lived a switchback life of political successes alternating with scandals.

Of her five daughters, the oldest, Rosemary, was born with mental disabilities which were made worse by an unsuccessful lobotomy operation, and now lives in a nursing home in Wisconsin. Her next daughter, Kathleen, married the Marquess of Hartington and would have been Duchess of Devonshire if he had not been killed in the war in 1944; she died in an air crash in 1948. Of the other three daughters, Eunice married Sargent Shriver, US senator and ambassador to Paris; Pat married the film star Peter Lawford and went to live mainly in Hollywood; and the youngest, Jean, married Stephen Smith, who took over the running of the family businesses after Joseph P. Kennedy's stroke.

Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald was born in 1890, the daughter of John F. Fitzgerald. Although he became known as a classic Boston Irish politician, with the nickname of Honey Fitz, he rose to political eminence in Boston politics not by the traditional ethnic route through the saloons and ward organising, but through Boston Latin School, the best school in the city, and the Harvard Medical School. He duly became the boss of Boston North End, then still an Irish neighbourhood, and in due course mayor of Boston.

When Rose, the eldest daughter, was born, her family was still living modestly in a three-storey house in the North End. But she graduated near the top of her class in high school, as well as being voted the most beautiful girl in her class, and was thensent to finishing schools in Holland and Germany. When she returned, speaking French as well as German, she founded an Irish women's club called the Ace of Clubs. This was an act of conscious retaliation against the Protestant Brahmins of the Back Bay, who never asked her to their houses even though she was beautiful, educated and the daughter of the mayor of Boston, perhaps because the mayor never ceased to campaign against them.

Rose had known Joe Kennedy, the son of one of her father's colleagues in Boston Democratic politics, since she was five and he was seven. In 1914, after Joe had graduated from Harvard and become the president of a small bank in which his father owned an interest, he slipped a two-carat diamond engagement ring, sign of his growing prosperity and of his determination to make it even bigger, on to Rose's finger. The couple were married, by the Cardinal of course.

After a honeymoon in White Sulphur Springs, they settled down in a seven-roomed white-frame house in Brookline, a prosperous and not specifically Irish suburb of Boston, from which they moved seven years later to a 12-room house in a more fashionable part of the same suburb. By the 1920s, she was bringing up nine children, while her husband was beginning to accumulate, first in shipbuilding, then on Wall Street, and later in Hollywood and in the liquor trade, one of the great American fortunes.

Mrs Kennedy was not only a devoted, strict and loving mother. She felt completely fulfilled by the her role as a mother, and wrote in her autobiography, Times to Remember (1974), I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and a duty, but as aprofession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best I could bring to it. She said that she would rather be the mother of a great son or daughter than be the author of a great book or the painter of a great painting. What greater aspiration and challenge are there for a mother than the hope of raising a great son or daughter?

Mrs Kennedy was all her life a devout and strict Catholic. Even when more than 100 years old, she rarely missed Mass on a Sunday. As a young mother, she brought her children up in her own faith, and wrote later that she wanted God and religion to be part of their daily lives. Like many strict Catholic women of her generation, she was extremely prudish, a trait she by no means communicated to her husband or passed on to her children.

The Kennedys were clannish, with an exceptionally strong sense of family. They were also intensely proud of being Irish, and in their pride there was more than a hint of compensatory aggression. They were highly sensitive to real and imagined snubs from Boston's Protestant elite. Joseph P. Kennedy, however, was even more ambitious than he was loyal to his Irish origins, and Mrs Kennedy's children went to a Protestant school in Boston. Indeed their life in Boston came to an end because of Joe Kennedy's social ambitions. In 1926 he applied for membership of the Cohasset country club, but was promptly blackballed. Boston is no place to bring up Catholic children, Kennedy said, and promptly moved them and their mother to Riverdale, in the suburbs of New York.

In 1928, as Joe's winnings on the stock market dwarfed his two substantial salaries from the two movie-production companies he controlled, the family bought an imposing Georgian mansion on five acres in Bronxville, and what was to be the family's lastingbase, a 15-room holiday house at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod.

As her husband threw himself furiously into making money in New York and Hollywood, Rose was left in charge of bringing up the family. As the children, especially the boys, grew older, Joe took over, instilling into them his fierce competitiveness in sport, business and politics. But, when the children were little, they were in their mother's sphere. Friends detected her influence in the inflection of her children's voices. Although she had a nurse and a governess to help her, she rose early to attend Mass, then ate breakfast with the younger boys and saw them off to school. She spent the rest of the day with the younger children. She read to them, took them out on educative expeditions, heard their prayers and taught them their catechism. She also spanked them if they disobeyed any of her many and strict rules. A family friend concluded that she's the one that put the family spirit in them.

This golden evening of the 1920s was not without sorrows for Rose. It was then that it became plain that Rosemary was retarded. Rose did everything for her that love and determination could do, but nothing made any difference to her affliction. What was even more painful was the fact that Joe, away in Hollywood for much of the time, was deeply involved in a love affair with the most extravagantly glamorous of all the queens of Hollywood: Gloria Swanson. Kennedy was her business partner as well as her lover, and in the end they fell out over business. Rose pretended not to notice. Even when Joe brought Miss Swanson to Hyannis, she took her at face value as a business associate with such poker-faced politeness that the actress did not know whether her hostess was a fool or a saint.

Rose Kennedy's decision to pretend ignorance paid off. The Swanson affair ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. Now she had to play a new role: that of the wife of a politician with national ambitions. In 1934, when Joe, his fortune now swollen by his bear operations in 1929 and his swift move into the liquor business after the end of Prohibition, became chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rose became the chatelaine of Marwood, a 25-acre estate in Washington. That was only the preparation for what was perhaps the happiest time of her life, the years as wife of the United States ambassador to the Court of St James in London. Late in March she arrived to join her husband in the residence at 9 Prince's Gate, which J.P. Morgan had donated to the American people, bringing with her just five of the children: Joe Junior and Jack were still at Harvard, Rosemary was in a special school in New York, and Eunice was to bring her over when term ended.

Rose Kennedy enjoyed the embassy and in her quiet way enjoyed making her Boston Irish point to London society, whose members she considered at the time to be little better than super-Brahmins. It was a good time for the Kennedys. There is a picture extant of all 11 of them on holiday at Cap d'Antibes in 1930 which shows them at what must have been, for their mother, the zenith of their happiness as a family. Joe sits in the middle, bespectacled and open-necked, surrounded by happy, confident children; Rose sits in the back row, a happy Rosemary on one side and the youngest, Teddy, smiling shyly on her knee.

Things began to go wrong. The ambassador made a disastrous miscalculation. He decided that Hitler was going to win. What is more, when the war started, he allowed it to be too plainly seen that he did not like being bombed. Not to put too fine a point onit, he picked the wrong side, and he showed an undignified haste to get out of the firing line. He went back to the United States, with his ambition set on the presidency for himself. Roosevelt was not going to quarrel openly with so powerful a supporter, but he also had no intention whatever of promoting a man who had shown such disastrous judgement. Rose had to live with her husband's anger and disappointment. And she had to live with the first of a long series of tragedies which would have broken a woman of more brittle character and less robust faith.

In the 1950s, as her three younger sons were making their way from Harvard into politics in their different ways, Rose Kennedy kept her eye on their progress. Her son Robert, then senate counsel in an investigation of organised crime, was mortified to receive a note, just as he was about to interrogate the union gangster Jimmy Hoffa. I suddenly thought of your slippers, it read. Would you please ask your secretary . . . to have them resoled . . . They are very expensive. She organised her several homes and large staff with the help of notes pinned to her dress. Although much of her life was spent at home and with the family, she was not without her own special brand of vanity. She went to Paris each year for the spring collections. She would visit monasteries and sign herself Countess Rose Kennedy, as Pope Pius XII had made her a papal countess.

She was naturally exhilarated when her son Jack became President in 1961, the same year as her husband's stroke. She became a sort of quiet celebrity, appearing on the Best Dressed list. Once, when she sent a photograph of her son and Nikita Khrushchev to the Soviet leader, he warned her not to deal with foreign heads of state. Dear Jack, she wrote drily, I'm so glad you warned me. I was just about to write Castro. Love, Mother.

Grievous trials were to come: the assassinations of her sons, Jack, in 1963, and Bob, in 1968, and the Chappaquiddick scandal in 1969, which in all probability deprived Ted of the Democratic nomination in his turn. And there were other unhappinesses, too, including the death from a drug overdose of Robert Kennedy's son, David, when Rose Kennedy was already 93. Mrs Kennedy bore them all with iron fortitude. In her later years she devoted herself to the family, as always, and to the Kennedy Foundation, which helps the mentally handicapped. She suffered five strokes, and required continuous nursing. But her spirit remained indomitable, and her faith unshaken. In July 1990 more than 370 family and friends gathered at Hyannis to celebrate her centenary. They included her sole surviving son, Edward; three of her daughters; 28 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. They sang Irish songs and watched an 18-minute video of her life specially made for the occasion.

One of her grandsons asked whether she was excited at being 100. No, she said, with a flash of the old fire, I wish I was 16.

  1. #############################################

By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff | May 13, 2007

"Well, I am just an old-fashioned girl," Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy would say when someone offered a cigarette or a drink. "I don't drink and I don't smoke and I have a lot of children."

In 1972, as she huddled with the author who helped write her autobiography, the theme grew on her, and she said, "We should put in that I am an old-fashioned girl."

And she was, in many ways. A daily communicant and conservative Roman Catholic, she lived for 104 years by a code that could have been written in the Vatican, in a family whose triumphs and tribulations could have been scripted in Hollywood. To Americans, she was the matriarch of the nation's most prominent political family. She was admired for her deep faith, her stoicism, and her resilience in the face of serial tragedy.

It is an image that, while rich and inspiring in its own way, can seem oddly two-dimensional in a family of famously out-sized figures. Rose Kennedy has been the victim of a kind of affectionate type-casting -- the self-effacing spouse, the proud and grieving mother at the center of, but not quite central to, the iconic family scenes. A face in the frame more than a character in her own right.

The old-fashioned girl was probably just fine with that.

But, 12 years after her death, Rose Kennedy's recently released diaries, letters, and personal papers reveal a more complex figure than she sometimes styled herself. An educated, ambitious woman, she struggled to maintain a sense of individuality in a culture that frowned upon independent women, in a family that considered everything a team sport, in which the women were expected to suppress their ambitions for the team.

It is a massive collection -- 185,000 items stored in 253 boxes, including 15,000 photographs and 67 taped interviews she and family members made for her memoir -- some of which were available to Doris Kearns Goodwin and other historians, including Amanda Smith, Rose's granddaughter. But the full collection, which Rose Kennedy donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, was not made available to the public until last September.

A close review of the files by the Globe finds a more nuanced and compelling profile of Rose Kennedy, a woman who changed with the times more than was acknowledged publicly, evolving in her views and shedding some prejudices; a woman who fought with and -- less well known -- came to terms with the daughter who was the rebel she never dared to be; a woman who came to admire her daughter-in-law Jackie, even as the widow of the president sought to escape the confining Kennedy mystique.

And, despite her image as a perpetually optimistic person, Rose Kennedy's private writings reveal her as unswervingly fatalistic, believing that tragedy had to follow triumph, as surely as night follows day -- that Providence allows no perfect, happy families.

She would find ample proof of that.

From convent to Continent

Born in the North End, brought up in Concord and Dorchester, Rose was a highly intelligent girl who wanted to go to Wellesley College and dreamed of being a pianist or music teacher. Her father, congressman and Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, insisted she attend a convent school instead.

"My father was a great innovator in public life, but when it came to raising his daughters, no one could have been more conservative," Rose wrote.

Rather than resent her father, Rose said Honey Fitz favored her over her brothers, taking her to Europe and South America, introducing her to the rich and renowned. She gained a kind of worldly self-confidence not taught in the convent.

"I don't think he gave them as much encouragement as he did me," she said in a recorded interview she gave her ghostwriter, Robert Coughlan, in 1972. (The full set of interviews, including material never publicly available, is part of the archive.)

She also defended her father from accusations that he disapproved of Joseph P. Kennedy as a son-in-law. She wrote that her father simply didn't want her to marry the first guy she fell in love with, but she did so anyway.

She was 6 and Joe was 8 when they met at Old Orchard Beach in Maine, where their families vacationed. Ten years later, Joe asked her to a Boston Latin School dance, but Honey Fitz forbade it, citing Rose's age. Over the next few years, the couple saw each other, as Rose put it, "more often than my father was aware of."

After Joe and Rose were married in 1914, Rose entered a period that was personally frenetic, but, by the measure of her personal papers, strangely silent. As her husband hustled his first fortune on Wall Street and then his second in Hollywood, Rose was almost continuously pregnant, bearing seven children in 10 years. Yet this inveterate diarist left behind almost no reflections on this time. She wasn't spurred back into writing until her first conspicuous act of independence as a married woman -- a six-week road-trip to the West Coast with her younger sister Agnes.

Rose said she felt guilty, leaving the children behind. She noted that Jack, not yet 6, rubbed it in, saying "Gee, you're a great mother to go away and leave your children all alone." Her guilt was assuaged when she had to go back to the house for something and found the children "laughing and playing on the porch, apparently not missing me much at all. I resumed my journey with an easy conscience."

So intent was Rose to reclaim a little of her own life she missed an event she would never otherwise have passed up -- the inaugural performance of her first-born, Joe Jr., as an altar boy.

And she entrusted some other fleeting unorthodoxies to the privacy of her diary. She confessed to eating beef on a Friday -- with the King and Queen of England. She regularly deferred to clergy on matters of propriety -- always signing letters to priests "your respectful child" -- and yet a 1947 calendar shows she took elaborate notes while reading James Joyce's "Ulysses," a book Catholic bishops had ordered the faithful to avoid.

"One-half time revolting," she wrote. "One-half time delightful."

Even though she had a nurse do the daily diaper washings and prepare the formula, Rose was frustrated as a young mother. At times, she tiptoed close to something like feminist sentiment -- and then just as lightly tiptoed back.

"I used to say, 'Why did I spend time learning to read Goethe or Voltaire if I have to spend my life telling children why they should drink their milk or why they should only eat one piece of candy each day and then after meals.' But then I thought raising a family is a new challenge and I am going to meet it."

Rose wrote most about motherhood, and eventually knew it would be her legacy, frequently returning to update or annotate something she had written decades before.

"I looked upon child rearing as a profession" she scrawled on a 1936 calendar, "and decided it was just as interesting and just as challenging as anything else and that it did not have to keep a woman tied down and make her dull or out of touch. She did not have to become an emaciated, worn-out old hag . . ."

Emaciated, no; thin, absolutely. Rose was proud that her dress size was the same throughout her adult life. She obsessed over the family image, had all the children's teeth straightened, and complained that news photographers would not let her choose which photos to publish.

She offered maternal advice long after her children had grown to adulthood. She told Jack to speak more slowly during his presidential campaign, as his Boston accent was hard for others to decipher. She told Bobby to get his hair cut during his 1968 campaign. In 1969, she sent her senator son Ted a letter that Barbara Bush apparently never sent her son.

"Dear Ted," Rose wrote, "I wish you would check the pronunciation of the word 'nuclear.' You pronounce it as though it were spelled 'nucular,' but I believe it should be pronounced 'nu-cle-ar.' "

But, when they were young, Rose would sometimes go beyond gentle encouragement.

"When the children needed to be spanked, I often used a ruler, and sometimes a coat hanger, which was often more convenient because in any room there would be a closet and the hangers in them would be right at hand," a 1972 diary entry noted.

Once while minding her grandson Joe, she scolded him for making noise while she was on the phone. But she didn't know where the closets in Bobby's and Ethel's new home were, and when the young Joe led her to the closet so she could get a coat hanger, she took pity on the earnest little boy and spared him the rod. Two other grandchildren, Bobby and Maria Shriver, were more proactive after she warned them about the price of misbehaving.

"They threw all the coat hangers down the laundry chute so that there would not be any of them around for me to use," she wrote.

When Joe became the US ambassador to Britain in 1938, Rose the diarist was at her most prolific. With the children at various schools, she could do more things for, and by, herself. She seized the chance, describing their two years in London as "the most thrilling, exciting and interesting years of my life." She wrote in great detail of sumptuous state dinners with royalty and diplomats. She golfed almost every day, went to museums and lectures on her own. Rose was embarrassed when she and Queen Elizabeth went to powder their noses together during a dinner in the royal couple's honor in 1939.

"She asked me if I got up in the morning to see the children off," Rose wrote, "and I said I used to in what I called the good old days, but that now I was usually up late at nights and rested in the morning. To my astonishment and humiliation, she said she usually got up, half dressed, to see her children, and then went back to bed again."

If London gave Rose her best years, it also presented her with her biggest dilemma as a mother when her daughter Kathleen fell for a Protestant aristocrat. Kathleen would defy her mother not once, but twice, over love.

A rebel, a rift

Kathleen Kennedy's siblings called her Kick when they were young, Rose noted, because they could not pronounce Kathleen. The nickname stuck.

In notes for her autobiography, Rose said Kick took after her most among her children. They had an uncanny resemblance, and Kathleen loved foreign travel and studied abroad in France, as Rose did.

Once, when the family was living in London, someone approached the then 18-year-old Kick at the embassy and mistook her for Rose. Kick thought it funny; Rose thought it flattering.

But Kick's sense of adventure went beyond her mother's love of travel. Mother and daughter clashed at times, as when the Duke of Kent casually mentioned seeing Kick at a London nightclub, for behavior deemed inappropriate, sometimes over Kick's idealistic streak.

"When I told her about the high standard we had in the United States she immediately rejoined with the sentence 'but that in having this high standard of living for a few people, we have trodden a lot of others under foot in this country and in other countries,' " Rose wrote.

Rose frequently, and unconvincingly, described her family as "ordinary," particularly when compared to the Vanderbilts and other rich people she met on trans-Atlantic cruises. Her epiphany on race during a 1941 visit to a school in Barbados suggested Rose's social conscience was still a work in progress.

"Happened to stop and interrupt a class of the smaller ones just as they were saying their prayers," she wrote in her diary, "and I have seldom been so moved; to see that group of dark skinned, little faced, with those immense, trustful, gentle brown eyes raised in prayer, convinced me for all time that there must be angels with dark faces as well as light ones, although I had never thought of them before."

Rose tried to clip Kick's wings early. Worried that Kick's popularity with both boys and girls was getting in the way of studies, Rose shipped her off to a convent school in Greenwich, Conn., when she was just 13.

"She was happy there, I know," Rose wrote in some notes she made in 1962 after a visit to the school, Noroton. "But life presented so many problems for her later -- Falling in love with Billy."

Billy was William Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, whom Kick met in England in 1938. Three years after her family moved back to the States in 1940, Kick moved back to England to work for the Red Cross, and to resume her romance. When Kick told her parents she wanted to marry Billy in 1944, Rose was vehemently opposed, citing the irreconcilability of Kick's Catholic upbringing with Cavendish's Protestant faith. But Rose's 1962 reflections suggest she also had doubts about a marriage between a "strictly Irish American" clan and a British "aristocrat-reactionary."

As Billy's unit prepared to ship out for D-Day in 1944, Kick was willing to incur her mother's disapproval and marry. Rose went to great lengths, enlisting Archbishop Francis Spellman and other Catholic prelates to try to talk her out of it. On notepaper from a Virginia resort, Rose detailed how she was "disturbed, horrified -- heartbroken" at the prospect of Kick's impending wedding. Rose saw it as a referendum on the Kennedys as role models.

"Everyone pointed to our family with pride as well behaved -- level headed & deeply religious. What a blow to the family prestige -- no one seemed to be as excited about that as I," she wrote.

Rose's notes, however, suggest she believed her husband was just as determined to nix the wedding. In fact, father and daughter were exchanging confidential letters. In one, Joe gave Kick his blessing, writing, "You are still and always will be tops with me."

Rose stayed away from the civil ceremony, and wrote little about it. Within four months, both Joe Jr. and Billy Cavendish would die in action.

Three days after the wedding, Kick sent Rose a letter, saying the theological objections to her marriage would pass with time, and absolving her mother.

"Please don't take any responsibility for an action, which you think bad (and I do not). You did everything in your power to stop it. You did your duty as a Roman Catholic mother," Kick wrote.

Rose's diary indicates she remained in bed, heartsick over Kick's marriage, until weeks later, when Spellman told Joe to tell her she was being too hard on herself. Spellman's absolution roused her. Nearly two months after the wedding, Rose finally wrote Kick to say, "as long as you love Billy so dearly, you may be sure that we will all receive him with open arms."

Four years later, Kick pushed her mother's tolerance even further, falling in love with Peter Fitzwilliam, an Anglo-Irish member of the House of Lords, who was not only Protestant but married and separated. Rose opposed the relationship, and Kick, as she had before, turned to her father, seeking his blessing. She and Fitzwilliam were preparing to meet Joe in Paris when their plane went down in bad weather in France, killing them and two crew members.

If the estrangement between her and Kick bothered Rose greatly, she did not mention that in her private writings. Her description in her autobiography of her daughter dying while "flying in a plane with a few friends to Paris" was beyond discreet.

But, over the years, Kick's memory seemed to soften Rose's views. She wrote often about Kick's magnetic personality and re-read her letters.

"Her early letters seemed so warm and affectionate, perhaps more so than those of the other children," Rose wrote in 1972.

Asked by her ghostwriter in 1972 about her current attitudes about mixed marriage or marrying after a divorce, she replied: "I wouldn't make a judgment."

In Jackie, a biblical kinship

When she read the first handwritten note she received from Jacqueline Bouvier, Rose was impressed. She assumed it was from a boy, one of Jack's pals who spent a night in one of the guest rooms at the family's winter home in Palm Beach.

It was a thank you note, signed "Jackie," the sort of polite gesture that Rose had encouraged her children to make to hosts, and it made a lasting impression.

Theirs was to be a complicated relationship often described in biographies and family histories as distant, and sometimes difficult. An immersion in the Rose Kennedy archive amends that picture, in ways both subtle and strong. Their bond would strengthen in time, and particularly in sadness.

In correspondence, and in conversation, Jackie referred to Rose as "Belle Mere," the French term for mother-in-law, using a language that she and Rose spoke fluently. Jackie's fluency in several languages was just one of the attributes that endeared her to Rose. In Jackie, Rose saw something of herself: an educated, sophisticated woman who was as interested in high art as she was in high fashion, a woman who willingly subordinated herself to an ambitious, powerful man, a woman who could shelve worries about whether that ambitious, powerful man was entirely true to her.

(Rose did write of warning all her daughters-in-law that rumors of infidelity are the price of admission to a celebrity clan, but offered not a hint of suspicion about her husband's rumored affairs. Scandal-hunters will find her archive a very dry well.)

For her part, Jackie told Rose's ghostwriter that Rose defied the hovering, hectoring mother-in-law stereotype, always willing to help out, but leaving her to run her household as she saw fit -- without judgmental "in my day" remarks. But Rose did occasionally offer an opinion on decorum.

"When Jackie arrived in Paris," she wrote in 1975, recalling the presidential visit in May 1961. "I said quietly, 'Your skirt is too short.' She said, 'Yes, I know it, but I cannot pull it down.' "

Early in Jack's presidency, Jackie was recovering from a difficult pregnancy that ended with a Caesarean birth of John Jr. She found it hard to stay up late to entertain. Her mother-in-law sometimes stood in for her. After Pablo Casals gave a cello concert at the White House, Jackie sent Rose a short note.

"Dearest Belle Mere," it read, "You were so sweet to stay up with the Casals so late last night. It made such a difference to have you stay. You added immeasurable luster to our gayest weekend of the year. So many thanks. Love XO J."

But it was Jackie's assigning Rose to the Lincoln bedroom that showed how much she understood her mother-in-law. Rose frequently compared Jack to Lincoln, from their rail-thin builds to their oratorical gifts. In a 1959 diary entry, Rose wrote that Jack had filled out and lamented that "he has lost that lean Lincolnesque look which I secretly liked better."

Jackie, meanwhile, regularly surprised Rose by being on top of fads and fashion. Rose's diary entry recalling a 1961 Thanksgiving at Hyannis Port noted with admiration that while everyone in attendance had an opinion about the new dance craze the Twist, only Jackie could perform it, "in a Schiaparelli pink slack suit."

Later, after Jack's assassination, and Joe's stroke, Jackie took to comparing herself and Rose to the Bible characters, Ruth and Naomi, a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law tandem who stuck together after their husbands died.

"Whither thou goest I will go," Jackie would sign letters to Rose, quoting Ruth's devotion to her mother-in-law.

If some mothers think there's no woman good enough for their sons, Rose's diaries and private musings suggest she viewed Jackie as someone who, as Rose put it, "rounded out" Jack's character. Rose credited Jackie with getting Jack more interested in the arts, especially poetry.

In notes she made in 1972, Rose recalled how she stuck up for her when Jack complained that his wife was dawdling at public events.

"The girl can't just rush away from people," she scolded. "You ought to have a Secret Service man there or someone like that who would say, 'Your husband is waiting,' or 'You have this other engagement, Mrs. Kennedy,' otherwise she can make a bad impression."

After Jack's assassination, Rose might have expected or even hoped that Jackie would resign herself to being a widow for the rest of her life. And Rose admitted to being "completely surprised" when her daughter Jean called her one morning in October 1968 to tell her that Jackie was going to marry Aristotle Onassis.

In her diary, Rose recalled meeting Onassis at a restaurant in Monte Carlo, just before Jack's election in 1960. She declined having a photo taken with him "as I didn't think it would be good publicity." If Onassis was insulted, he didn't show it. The next day, he sent Rose two dozen roses.

Onassis visited Hyannis Port in the summer of 1968, a month after Bobby's assassination. "I found Onassis easy to talk to," Rose wrote. "Much easier than I had thought." Onassis was also thoughtful, presenting Rose a bracelet and Joe a goblet.

"I accepted mine gratefully but rather casually because I had seen copies of these bracelets before," Rose wrote. Jackie told Rose they were not cheap imitations.

Unpersuaded, Rose had them appraised. "To my astonishment," she admitted, "it was worth about $1,500."

Onassis's generosity was not boundless. The same appraiser put Joe's goblet at about $15.

Still, for all of Onassis's good manners, Rose had not thought of him as being romantically interested in Jackie, or vice versa.

"I was really rather stunned," she wrote. "I knew he had been here but she has had different guests since Jack passed away and so I didn't take him too seriously.

"If Jackie had asked me I probably would have frowned on the idea due to the fact that he is quite a good deal older than she and I think it is difficult for a young woman to marry a man as old as he."

But Rose put herself in Jackie's shoes. "I can understand how she probably wanted companionship and a certain security which a husband gives a woman."

Whatever her personal feelings about Jackie marrying Onassis, Rose took great consolation from one of her idols, Cardinal Richard Cushing, who had officiated at both Jack and Jackie's wedding and Jack's funeral. The cardinal issued a statement, defending Jackie's right to remarry, even if it was to a divorced Greek Orthodox.

"My advice to people is to stop criticizing this poor woman," Cushing wrote. "She has had an enormous amount of sadness in her life and she deserves whatever happiness she can find."

That was good enough for Rose. She was easy-going when Jackie called about her engagement.

"She, I think, was quite relieved in my debonair attitude," Rose wrote, "because afterward she saw Ted and told him she was very cheered by my congratulations."

But for all her public blessings, in the privacy of her diary, Rose said she wished Jackie had married David Ormsby-Gore, also known as Lord Harlech, an English aristocrat who had served as Britain's ambassador to the United States during Jack's presidency. Ormsby-Gore's first wife had been killed in a car accident in 1967. He had also been part of the Kennedy kids' circle of London friends when Joe was ambassador, and his cousin was Billy Cavendish, Kick's doomed husband. It was this connection to Kick that convinced Rose that Lord Harlech would have been a better match.

"David Harlech seemed to be an almost ideal choice due to the fact that he was very close to the family and very compatible intellectually and we all knew him as a man of integrity and charm," Rose wrote, expressing in private an opinion she never shared publicly.

In those 20 years, Rose had gone from actively trying to sabotage Kick's marriage to a Protestant to wishing her son's widow had married one.

In a February 1970 diary entry, Rose noted that Jackie had sent her an album of photographs of Rose in Greece. "Along with the album she sent a letter which quite overwhelmed me, with her really heartwarming expressions of the pleasure all of them shared in my last visit at New Year's, and how utterly unexpected was life's chain of events -- that she and I, after all our other experiences together, should now start to share new experiences in an extremely different environment and atmosphere."

Rose accepted that Jackie could have frozen her out, had she wanted, especially after marrying Onassis. Instead, Jackie made it clear that Rose was welcome, and wanted, in the new family unit.

"I am thrilled," Rose wrote, "because in this way I shall always be able to contact the children, and to know they all enjoy having me with them."

But, being a Kennedy, Rose measured her and Jackie's relationship in competitive terms.

"I am certain that very few, if any, mothers-in-law have ever received such a letter as Jackie wrote to me, and in any poll I am sure we would top any daughter-mother-in-law team," Rose wrote. "Even Ruth and Naomi."

In notes she made in 1972, Rose wrote about Jackie calling her and them "discussing some of the ridiculous stories printed about her in the fan magazines."

Rose said she told her: "I know you and your children are quite happy with Ari. . . . So why let a few annoying reporters infringe on that happiness? . . . And, as I have said before, try to turn your sorrows to constructive efforts to lighten the burden of others. God intends us to be happy."

Rose's public writings often repeated that optimistic theme. "It is selfish to concern oneself with tragedies," she once told her ghostwriter. But in 1968, after Bobby was murdered, Jackie remarried, and with her invalid husband a year from his death, a more reflective Rose traveled to Chicago to speak about mental retardation, a vocation she took seriously because of her daughter Rosemary, who suffered from mental infirmity and was hospitalized for life after a disastrous brain surgery. (In one unpublished interview, Rose suggested that Rosemary's condition was a no-go area, "an accident which I don't really discuss.")

But a diary entry during that Chicago visit offers an extraordinary window into her worldview. It reads like a harsh Shakespearean soliloquy, capturing a life informed by many-layered pain.

It is, in the end, the world according to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

"God has sent these children for a special reason," she wrote of the mentally retarded. "To do work he cannot do through any other child. Example in my own life -- He has taken three stalwart sons equipped and eager to do his work here on earth, and left me a retarded child who can contribute nothing but must receive benefits rather than bestow. And Joe, who is so helpless . . . He has done his work nobly and now can contribute nothing -- still God leaves him here suffering minor annoyances of ill health daily and occasional relapses. . .

"In my life, I am often reminded that there is a destiny that rules over us, because no one whom I know about or whom I read about seems to be completely happy during a long time. Our family was the perfect family -- boys brilliant, girls attractive and intelligent, money, prestige, a young father and mother of intelligence, devoted, exemplary habits and successful in the education of the children. Joe Jr. handsome, brilliant, example to all, killed in plane as was Kathleen, who had she lived, would have been the top social leader in the younger set in England, but neither she nor her husband lived. Jack with an ideal life, compatible, intellectually as well as socially, was unexpectedly assassinated. Bob and Ethel, ideally matched socially and temperamentally . . . talented, happy, young, assassinated.

"But God or 'destiny' just does not allow a family to exist which has all these star-studded adornments. Ted, too, has everything and may even be President, at least he should be successful and happy.

"I myself am quite reconciled to the fact that I could not anticipate an ideal successful life. I cannot find in literature or in life many people whose lives we envy. Most of course proceed on a middling course, not many great thrills -- the normal number of deaths and disappointments. Often read Hecuba's 'Lament on the Death of her Grandson,' written by Euripides when she spoke of Fortune -- 'Here now, there now, she springs back again, an idiot's dance,' and what was true in 550 B.C. is so true now."

Globe correspondent Holly Fletcher provided research help. Kevin Cullen can be reached at cullen@globe.com

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

--------------------

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (July 22, 1890–January 22, 1995) was the wife of Joseph Kennedy and the mother of President John F. Kennedy.

Born Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child of John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and his wife, Mary Josephine Hannon. "Honey Fitz" was a prominent figure in Boston politics and served one term as a member of United States Congress and two terms as the Mayor of Boston.

As a young child, Rose lived in an Italianate/Mansard-style home in the Ashmont Hill section of Dorchester, Massachusetts and attended the local Girl's Latin School. The home later burned down, but a plaque at Welles Avenue and Harley Street proclaims "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Square". The plaque was dedicated by her son, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, on Rose's 102nd birthday in 1992.

Rose studied at the convent school Kasteel Bloemendal in Vaals, Holland, and graduated from Dorchester High School in 1906. She also attended the New England Conservatory in Boston where she studied piano[1]. After being refused permission by her father to attend Wellesley College, Rose enrolled at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (as it was known at that time). In 1908, Rose and her father embarked on a tour of Europe.

On October 7, 1914 Rose married Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. after a courtship of more than seven years. They first lived in a home in Brookline that is now the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site. -------------------- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (July 22, 1890–January 22, 1995) was the wife of Joseph Kennedy and the mother of President John F. Kennedy.

Born Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child of John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and his wife, Mary Josephine Hannon. "Honey Fitz" was a prominent figure in Boston politics and served one term as a member of United States Congress and two terms as the Mayor of Boston.

As a young child, Rose lived in an Italianate/Mansard-style home in the Ashmont Hill section of Dorchester, Massachusetts and attended the local Girl's Latin School. The home later burned down, but a plaque at Welles Avenue and Harley Street proclaims "Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Square". The plaque was dedicated by her son, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, on Rose's 102nd birthday in 1992.

Rose studied at the convent school Kasteel Bloemendal in Vaals, Holland, and graduated from Dorchester High School in 1906. She also attended the New England Conservatory in Boston where she studied piano[1]. After being refused permission by her father to attend Wellesley College, Rose enrolled at the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart (as it was known at that time). In 1908, Rose and her father embarked on a tour of Europe.

On October 7, 1914 Rose married Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. after a courtship of more than seven years. They first lived in a home in Brookline that is now the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site.

view all 30

Rose Elizabeth Kennedy's Timeline

1890
July 22, 1890
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
1900
1900
Age 9
Boston Ward 6, Suffolk, Massachusetts
1900
Age 9
Boston City, Suffolk, Massachusetts
1910
1910
Age 19
Lawrence Ward 4, Essex, Massachusetts
1910
Age 19
Boston Ward 24, Suffolk, Massachusetts
1914
October 7, 1914
Age 24
Boston, MA, USA
1915
July 25, 1915
Age 25
July 25, 1915
Age 25
Hull, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
1917
May 29, 1917
Age 26
Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States
1918
September 13, 1918
Age 28
Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States