LONDON -- A treasure trove of history goes up for auction on Wednesday -- newly discovered letters to and from a former first lady.
An old, battered briefcase containing the secrets of two battered lives. A case full of letters between a former British ambassador to Washington and a widowed woman he knew well. A woman named Jackie Kennedy.
“The minute we cracked open the boxes, I saw her loopy handwriting and her loopy Js and I immediately knew it was Jackie Kennedy,” said Matthew Haley, Head of Books and Manuscripts, for Bonhams auction house in the U.K., where the items will hit the block.
Haley found the letters locked away in a British country home when the house contents were put up for sale.
To understand them, you have to roll back the clock to the Camelot years when David Ormsby-Gore, an old friend of JFK’s, was British ambassador to Washington and the Kennedys and the Ormsby-Gores were great friends.
Then fate took over, a few years after JFK was killed, Ormsby-Gore’s wife Sylvia died, too, in a car crash.
Maybe it was their common tragedies -- or their friendship -- or mutual affection, but in the following years Jackie and David became an item -- vacationing together, including in Cambodia.
The salutations on the letters are “Dear David, dear dear David, dearest David” ... were these love letters going back and forth?
“I think they are. She -- particularly the way she signs off you know she says ‘with all my love,’” Haley said. “I think this is a real warmth there.”
The letters contain no marriage proposal, but there’s a clear sign one was made -- and rejected.
When Jackie decided to marry Aristotle Onassis instead, Ormsby-Gore writes as a bitter, heartbroken man.
“As for your photograph, I weep when I look at it,” Ormsby-Gore wrote.
Her last letter to him has a touch of finality and -- it must be said -- cruelty.
“She’s writing from Aristotle Onassis’ yacht,” Haley says. “With a Greek stamp and the stationary of his yacht, the Christina.”
And that was that. Or was it?
When David Ormsby-Gore died 17 years later -- also in a car crash -- Jackie went to his funeral.