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JBK - Jackie Kennedy's Gifts to Her Children

JBK - Jackie Kennedy’s Non-Material Gifts to Her Children

Jackie Kennedy’s greatest pride was her children. The lasting legacy she left them was worth more than her extensive jewelry collection, her prestigious positions as First Lady or editor or wife of the wealthiest man in America.

My Grandmother always said the Kennedys were “American Royalty” but I was too young to understand what this meant. Learning about the history of the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Jewelry Collection has been fascinating, from connecting countries to gifts of state from foreign and far away lands (which now thanks to the Internet the world seems much closer), to heirloom pieces handed from generations from long ago!

Philip Katz the historian for the Jackie Kennedy Jewelry from Camrose and Kross detailed that while Jackie received great gifts of jewelry from JFK-often jewelry-most often custom piece of jewelry, her presents to JFK were handcrafted scrapbooks. These scrapbooks can be viewed in the Kennedy Museum.


Jackie Kennedy and Her Children

Photo of Jackie Kennedy with Caroline in her lap

Photo of Jackie Kennedy with Caroline in her lap

Photo of Jackie Kennedy with JFK Jr playing with her pearl necklace

Photo of Jackie Kennedy with JFK Jr playing with her pearl necklace

Jackie Kennedy with newborn John-John

Jackie Kennedy with newborn John-John

Jackie Kennedy with Caroline

Jackie Kennedy with Caroline

Jackie Kennedy and children Riding in Middleburg, VA

Jackie Kennedy and children Riding in Middleburg, VA

Jackie Kennedy helping a child

Jackie Kennedy helping a child

Jackie Kennedy and daughter Caroline by Alfred Eisenstaedt photo watching bird in cage at home

Jackie Kennedy and daughter Caroline by Alfred Eisenstaedt photo watching bird in cage at home

“John was one of Jackie’s two miracles.” The Irish Ambassador recited a poem to John’s father soon after John was born:

“We wish to the new child,

A heart that can be beguiled,

By a flower,

That the wind lifts,

As it passes,

If the storms break for him,

May the trees shake for him,

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Their blossoms down,

In the night that he is troubled,

May a friend wake for him,

So that his time be doubled,

And at the end of all loving and love

May the Man above,

Give him a crown.

God bless you, John and Carolyn. We love you and we always will.

Source: J.F.K. Jr. by Stephen Spignesi Citadel Carrol Publishing Group 1997 NY

Yes, the jewelry, the clothing are all fascinating but the legacy of values taught is also equally fascinating and worthwhile to include. Journey with me as we explore the everlasting values Jackie pasted down to both Caroline and John.

Lasting Legacies

The values of loving literature, appreciation and frugality were the lasting legacies left to her two children and for generations to come.

Photo of Caroline Mimicking Mom Tells It All

The photo of Jackie Kennedy talking on the phone with tiny Caroline by her side mimicking her Mother tells the entire story. Children do what we do. Children learn from us. What habits and values we have are given for a lifetime and in same cases for a legacy.

1- Value of Literature - Poetry

In two of her books, Caroline details the Wednesday afternoon poetry reading and memorizing sessions that Jackie had with her Grandfather with his big handlebar mustache. I found it interesting it was every Wednesday after Jackie's dance class. What a great memory!

2 – Value of Non-Material Gifts - Gift Giving – Non-Material - Return to Poetry

Holidays for the Kennedy children, John and Caroline were always preceded by finding a poem and copying it in their own penmanship. What a wonderful family tradition to instill the real value of holidays and also at the time instill the love and appreciation of literature.

Caroline confided at one point, that both she and John stated that they hated it but in truth they look back with fond memories.

3 – Value of Family - Setting Boundaries

When I asked the Kennedy historian, Phil Katz about the values that Jackie handed to her children, the answer was very clear – unless the information pertained directly to the jewelry, her children were not an item of disclosure.

Given today’s problems with pictures of children on the Internet, Jackie would have done exceptionally well just coaching parents about boundaries.

4 – Value of Appreciation - Thank You Notes

My grandmother raised me to always, always send hand written thank you notes. While I hated the chore when I was younger, as an adult, the simple act of appreciation is a basic value.

I stood up and took notice when I learned many years ago that Jackie’s son JFK, Jr. always wrote hand written thank you notes!

Wonder who instilled that value?

5 – Value of Frugality

The Sotherby’s Auction held in 1996, 2 years after Jackie's death, was actually orchestrated by Jackie prior to her death. Jackie knew the value of her brand, she knew she wanted to leave her children comfortable enough to maintain what she called the “big houses” Auctioning off 1,200 pieces or what they term “lots” in the auction business was a major decision – a major family decision that Jackie orchestrated prior to her death.

Some entertainers were aghast that "American’s Royalty" would resort to a common auction. Those same entertainers showed up and help support over $34 million in gross proceed or roughly $28,000 per lot sold on average. One entertainer supposedly purchased a painting in order to mass produce its image in a scarf.

Nonetheless, the auction in retrospect was a brilliant initiative serving the Kennedy well in perpetuating the esteemed Kennedy brand with many items purchased for permanent retention at museums. Sharing the legacy with 1,200 lots with the world seemed “common’ at the time.

In the light of the recent events in our global economic history, the timing and the execution by one of the world’s top auction houses showcases Jackie’s values, a family value all of us need or must instill upon our children – a basic value of frugality.

Summary – Non-Material Gifts

As the years go by and the wrapping paper is quickly thrown away from our material gifts, it is the handwritten cards, the sharing of literature and poetry, the sharing of new ideas that remain the most memorable and everlasting.

A gift of a legacy - a lasting legacy.

These five values are the true gifts that Jackie shared with both Caroline and John, gifts that will be passed down through the generations…a true legacy of values not jewelry, not position, not possessions - a lasting legacy of values.

Love of Literature

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis loved literature, especially poetry. “once you can express yourself”, she wrote, “ you can tell the world what you want from it…all the changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words.”

source: The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 2001 Caroline Kennedy hyperion books

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Kelly Kline Burnett (author) from Madison, Wisconsin on September 25, 2010:


You bring up a great point. From what I have read and heard shared from Phil Katz, the historian, JFK was the love of her life and she would even wear jewelry differently - his jewelry forever, even after she remarried would be on her left hand. Part of her agreement with her second husband is she still wore JFK's wedding ring.

Jackie was allot like all of us - afraid. The public eye didn't really appeal to her and sometimes it scared her - I don't know this but I can imagine after losing her husband and all the other crazy events in this world, she felt money would protect her and her family - and that was a real possibility.

For all her great wealth, Jackie was a very astute business woman. She wanted her jewelry shared and to capture that notoriety for her children for the support of the "big houses". Her second marriage may not have been for her - her marriage may have been for the sake of her family. We simply don't know but it makes a very interesting question which we will never really know.

Christina M. Castro from Baltimore,MD USA on September 24, 2010:

I always thought that Jackie Kennedy was very beautiful and very special, and that she had been chosen for JFK. At a young age, I couldn't understand why she had to remarry after the President, her husband was killed. Surely, no one could have been better than JFK (in my opinion). CM

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