The Children of Jacqueline Kennedy

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after m moving into the White House with three-year old daughter Caroline and several-mont

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy shortly after m moving into the White House with three-year old daughter Caroline and several-month old son. (Mark Shaw)

This article is adapted from a recent public inquiry pointing out that there is no entry for the first-born of Jacqueline Kennedy under the section marked “children” in her National First Ladies Library online biography.

by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, Historian of the National First Ladies Library

The gravestone of the Kennedy daughter whom Jacqueline Kennedy informally and privately referred to as Arabella.

The gravestone of the Kennedy daughter whom Jacqueline Kennedy informally named “Arabella.) (flickr)

Until research in 1997 discovered the fact, there was no public record of the name of Jacqueline Kennedy’s stillborn child in 1956. Several of her siblings at that time disclosed that the child was never baptized, registered with a birth certificate or legally named. Instead, Jacqueline Kennedy would later make reference to this lost first-born with the sentimental name of “Arabella.”

In 1963, when the child’s remains were later transferred from a local Catholic cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island to be placed alongside those of President Kennedy and the infant Patrick Kennedy, the widowed First Lady did not want a gravestone marked with the informal “nickname” which she had given her.

It is not even clear that President Kennedy was aware of this “name.” Nor was Jacqueline Kennedy known to ever make a written record of this name; it was simply a reference spoken among those with whom she was closest at the time. She made no known further mention of the name after the initial period of loss.

President-elect Kennedy pushing his wife through the hospital lobby following the birth of their son John.

President-elect Kennedy pushing his wife through the hospital lobby following the birth of their son John. (UPI)

Naturally, the loss of any child is a traumatic experience, perhaps a first one in particular. In later editing the book A Thousand Days by her friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jacqueline Kennedy affirmed that she and the President had “five children in ten years,” which he interpreted to be an understandably defensive view from her perspective, having been pregnant with that many children in that number of years.

Ethel Kennedy with ten of her eleven children. (original photographer unknown)

Ethel Kennedy with ten of her eleven children. (original photographer unknown)

She made this remark, Schlesinger thought, in reaction to comparisons often made between her and her sister-in-law Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, who gave birth to eleven children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

The other “child” which Jacqueline Kennedy referred to was actually a miscarriage she suffered, also an experience before the birth of her daughter Caroline in November 1957.

Jacqueline Kennedy holds her infant son John. (Richard Avedon)

Jacqueline Kennedy holds her infant son John. (Richard Avedon)

Along with her son John, Jr. who was born after his father’s November 1960 election to the presidency but before his January 1961 inauguration, Mrs. Kennedy gave birth to her son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August of 1963, while she was First Lady.

Unfortunately, he died of an infant lung ailment within two days.

in First Ladies and Family, First Ladies and Personal Health

First Ladies and Family First Ladies and Personal Health

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Kenzie Hiller January 9, 2014, 6:36 pm

    This story was so touching it made me cry

    Reply
  • Kim February 10, 2014, 7:01 pm

    I too felt very sad with this story. Mrs. Kennedy had such heartaches in her personal life. She was a very strong woman that I did not realize till learning of this story. Loss of a child for a woman and mother is devastating to say the least.

    Reply
    • Carl Anthony February 28, 2014, 1:35 am

      Thanks for your commentary. You might also enjoy one on Ida McKinley who, like many of the First Ladies, also lost several young children.

      Reply
  • aya May 17, 2014, 6:38 pm

    so when did she die?

    Reply
    • Carl Anthony May 22, 2014, 10:12 am

      Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? She died on May 19, 1994.

      Reply
  • sbm August 6, 2014, 8:55 am

    I think it is wrong to say that Joan Kennedy has suffered 3 miscarriages! She has in fact had 1 miscarriage and 2 stillbirths! 1st of June 1964 she had a stillborn son, and in 1963 she was 5 or 6 months pregnant when she lost that baby also. So far gone in a pregnancy, it is considered a stillbirth is it not?

    Reply
    • TOP September 25, 2014, 7:20 pm

      A baby is not considered stillborn if it is a live birth. Patrick lived for 2 days, so he can’t be counted as a stillbirth or a miscarriage.

      Reply
      • Carl Anthony September 26, 2014, 5:38 pm

        Mrs. Kennedy had a miscarriage before 1956 and daughter who was a stillborn birth in 1956. Her son Patrick was not born and did not die until 1963.

        Reply
  • sbm October 25, 2014, 9:31 am

    I am referring to JOAN Kennedy, Jackies sister-in-law. Jackies miscarriage, stillbirth, and the death of infant Patrick, has been paid so much attention. Of course Jackie suffered a lot from all this! But JOAN, she has, I am sure, suffered just as much from her miscarriages/stillbirths as Jackie. Joan has a stillborn boy buried at the Kennedy graveplot in Brookline, Massachussets. Would it not be right to include him among the rest of the Kennedy Family, all the time Arabella is included?

    Reply
    • Carl Anthony October 25, 2014, 5:19 pm

      Thanks for you observations. Of course one must concur with perceiving both women, and all women, who endure such sad loss with an equal share of empathy. Certainly in the case of Joan Kennedy, she played a significant part in her husband’s early political success and had a substantial role in his Senate election campaign following his plane accident, just to name one incident. I think Jacqueline Kennedy receives more interest because she was a globally recognized and popular First Lady. As far as particular count of members of the Kennedy family, I’m not sure such a figure is “official” or maintained by any institution – perhaps the Kennedy President Library’s reference desk would be the place to contact.

      Reply

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