In Depth

Jackie Kennedy: The real life of the glamourous first lady

As Natalie Portman wins praise for her portrayal of the widow, what do we really know about JFK's wife?

Critics are already acclaiming a film about former first lady Jackie Kennedy, which is due out later this year.

Jackie, starring Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman, depicts the days after the assassination of Kennedy's husband, President John F Kennedy, in November 1963.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"101632","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

A harrowing trailer released this week shows the newly widowed Jackie washing her husband's blood out of her hair, kissing his flag-draped coffin and fighting with her brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy.

Jackie eschews the standard biopic form throughout, says Variety film critic Guy Lodge.

"It observes the exhausted, conflicted Jackie as she attempts to disentangle her own perspective, her own legacy, and, perhaps hardest of all, her own grief from a tragedy shared by millions," he adds.

JFK's death largely defined Jackie's life, but there was much more to the first lady than her roles as a grieving widow, a devoted mother and an enduring fashion icon.

Jackie Kennedy's background

Born to a wealthy stockbroker father and a socialite mother in 1929, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier had a privileged early life growing up in the heart of New York. It is alleged that she was a mischievous child, with one of her junior school teachers describing her as "a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic and full of the devil", although she became withdrawn at the age of ten, when her parents divorced, a rarity in those days, particularly among Catholic families.

Jackie went on to attend the prestigious Miss Porter's finishing school, Vassar College and George Washington University, where she studied history, literature, art and French.

Her marriage to JFK

It was during her first job, as a photojournalist for the Washington Times Herald, that she met her future husband, congressman JFK. Aged just 23, Jackie said "I do" to the handsome politician in 1953, in a high-profile wedding in Rhode Island. The couple went on to have two children together, Caroline and John Jr.

The newspapers were filled with the glitz and glamour of their romance, but things were different behind closed doors. Jackie suffered the restrictions on most women of that age, says the Daily Telegraph. "Intelligence with scant outlet; ambition projected through husband and family only; being expected to put everything into a relationship, while one's partner fulfilled himself elsewhere, intellectually as well as sexually."

In a private letter to her priest, Jackie wrote that her world could be very glamorous from the outside, "but if you're in it - and you're lonely - it could be a hell". Despite this, the love and devotion between America's favourite couple was undeniable.

Jackie Kennedy's later life

After JFK's death, Jackie devoted her life to her children – but also to her love of art and literature, establishing the JFK Presidential Library and Museum as a tribute to her late husband.

The following years saw Jackie lead a largely private life until she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, earning the nickname "Jackie O" from the paparazzi who followed the couple's luxurious trips on his yachts. But less than a decade later, she was widowed for a second time.

Jackie then turned to a lengthy career in publishing, until she was diagnosed with cancer in 1993. She died in her sleep one year later, aged 64.

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