Sure, everybody knows that JFK had affairs and that Kennedy family patriarch Joe Sr. was long rumored to have made his fortune as a bootlegger, but there's still much that the general public doesn't know about this political dynasty. Here are five under-the-radar insights into the Kennedy clan.
1. Family matriarch Rose was actually a countess: Wife of Joe Sr. and mother to his nine children, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (daughter of a former Boston mayor nicknamed "Honey Fitz") was also a devout Catholic. Rather than attending Wellesley College, she went to a convent, on the advice of an archbishop; Rose got so pally with the Vatican that they even named her a countess!
No, this wasn't an honor acquired by marriage, like Countess Luann of Real Housewives fame; Rose was actually given a noble title in her own right in 195 from Pope Pius XII, acknowledging her service to the Catholic faith. Only six American women have ever received the title of papal countess; Rose got hers in "recognition of her exemplary motherhood and many charitable works."
2. Slain scion Joe Jr. was a proto-Nazi: Before John became the heir apparent to the Kennedy dynasty, eldest son Joe Jr. was the clan's "Golden Boy," whom his father wanted to be president. Though he died young, Joe Jr. held some reviling beliefs during his lifetime. During a trip to Germany ten years before his death, Joe saw Hitler's burgeoning evil firsthand.
He was a big fan, praising Hitler's oppression of the Jews and naming that group as "unscrupulous" businessmen who controlled everything. Joe even was a fan of Hitler's eugenics plan, approving his sterilization law that would "do away with many of the disgusting specimens which inhabit this earth," as he wrote in a letter. Some have speculated that he was thinking of his disabled sister, Rosemary, when he made that comment.
Ensign Joe Jr. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
3. A still-alive JFK was presumed dead and given a funeral during WWII: It's well-known that Lieutenant John Kennedy saved his crew of the sinking PT-109 in World War II, but did you know that his dad believed him to be dead after the craft went down? As Ted Kennedy wrote in his memoir, True Compass, the family didn't even know John was presumed dead until his rescue was in the news.
But Joe Sr. knew of JFK's disappearance; Ted admitted that his dad knew John was thought to be lost, but decided to "remain hopeful" and didn't tell anyone. Actually, JFK's own comrades believed him to be dead and held a funeral for him...before he was found to be alive. Whoops!
4. Bobby Kennedy was a bit of a mama's boy as a child: Of all the nine Kennedy kids, Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy was probably his mom's favorite. He wasn't outgoing like Jack, preferring to stay home and collect stamps rather than go sailing or dancing. Like his mother, Bobby was "deeply religious," recounted Ted; this sensitive son was "small and shy," a student who struggled academically and socially. But he adored his family, fiercely proud of their work: his sister, Jean, even introduced Bobby to his future wife, Ethel Skakel (although RFK originally dated Ethel's sister, Pat).
5. Patricia didn't go the political route: she went Hollywood: Patricia "Pat" Kennedy Lawford didn't head to Washington, D.C., instead heading to Hollywood. She aspired to be a movie producer, but the sexism present in Hollywood at the time stood in her way. Close pals with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, she fell for actor Peter Lawford, in part due to his star quality. Like her sisters, she may have helped recruit women for her brothers to both marry and flirt with; her own husband was quite the ladies' man. But Pat didn't allow Peter to cheat on her; she divorced him!
Feature image via Wikimedia Commons.