Secret letters from Jacqueline Kennedy to an Irish priest have been pulled from a controversial auction sale, it was revealed today.
Correspondence from the wife of US President JF Kennedy revealing the widow’s private and innermost thoughts had been expected to sell next month for around £2.4m.
The letters, which strike a remarkable confessional tone, began in 1950 and continued until the death in 1964 of Fr Joseph Leonard, a Vincentian cleric based at All Hallows College in Dublin.
The 130 hand-written pages, hidden in a safe for the last 50 years, carry a unique insight into Mrs Kennedy’s private and personal thoughts, and document the battles she had with her faith following her husband’s assassination.
The collection is the closest thing to an autobiography.
No formal reason has been given for the sale being cancelled but it follows an ownership dispute and questions in some circles over whether it is morally right to sell the deepest musings of a woman who lived her life in public but put an enormous value on privacy.
All Hallows are in discussions with the Kennedys over how and where the letters should be held.
A spokeswoman for the college said the auction was cancelled at the behest of its directors and the Vincentian Fathers.
“Representatives of All Hallows College and the Vincentian Fathers are now exploring with members of Mrs Kennedy’s family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future,” the college said.
Over 14 years Mrs Kennedy opened up about all aspects of her life - her hastily cancelled engagement to a New York stockbroker, her courtship and marriage to JFK as well as the grief and anger she felt after his death.
Some of the insights were startling, not least her thoughts on her husband, and the reputation that was to later emerge.
“He’s like my father in a way - loves the chase and is bored with the conquest - and once married needs proof he’s still attractive, so flirts with other women and resents you. I saw how that nearly killed Mummy,” she wrote.
The letters were due to be sold by Sheppard’s Irish Auction House, of Durrow, Co Laois after being discovered when rare books were being valued for sale.
The collection sparked international interest and excited Kennedy experts who have long wished for glimpses into the life and mind of Mrs Kennedy.
The president’s widow did not do a single interview for 30 years and excommunicated friends from her circle if they ever spoke about her publicly.
The auction threatened to be disrupted following a row between Owen Felix O’Neill, a valuer and expert in rare books from Cahir, Co Tipperary, who inspected the letters over several days at All Hallows, and the auction house.