She had a lot to say about the few times they met.
President John F. Kennedy holds a special place in American history as the second-youngest president ever to be elected. His tragic assassination was captured on film in 1963, immortalizing his death. Likewise his televised funeral was an event so unforgettable that it’s one of the earliest memories that many 1960s kids share. But, even before his death his large personality and his charm made him a celebrity on top of being POTUS. To this day there are a lot conspiracy theories as to what went on behind closed doors in his life, but many people who knew him had nothing but good things to say about him.
Grace Kelly was interviewed by Paul Gallico in 1965 at the Palace of the Principality, Monaco, on the topic of JFK. This was 2 years after Kennedy’s death and 9 years after she had wed Prince Rainier III of Monaco, making her a Princess (formally called “Her Serene Highness”). As a public consort to a member of the monarchy of Monaco she often went to state dinners and affairs, as she did with her husband in May 1961 for a luncheon at the White House where she spoke with Kennedy.
She recalled that President Kennedy seemed to know a lot about high fashion. She said that at the luncheon, “he turned to me suddenly and said, ‘Is that Givenchy you’re wearing?’ And I said, ‘How clever of you, Mr. President. However did you know?'” To this he replied that he had picked up a few things from Jackie on the matter and then he joked that fashion was “becoming more important than politics”.
But, this was not her first time meeting JFK. The two had met before he became POTUS when she had run into Jackie Kennedy and her sister, Lee, at a society dinner. The sisters then convinced Kelly to (begrudgingly) show up at JFK’s hospital room where he was laid up. He was often ill due to his Addison’s Disease and underwent 4 back surgeries during his lifetime.
The plan was for Kelly to pretend to be a nurse while Jackie and Lee waited in the hall and to just see how long JFK took to notice it was her, but he recognized her instantly and made her feel “at ease” with his charming conversation- despite the fact that she was terribly embarrassed.
When it came to politics, Kelly had a liking for Kennedy as a politcal leader. She said that, “He was one of my own generation, so that for the first time in my life I became deeply involved, spiritually, and sympathetically, with the presidency – the office as well as the man. I felt personally involved.” Kelly was also excited that the young POTUS was interested in being a patron of the arts.
For these reasons Kelly took the news of his assassination very hard. She said that, “He was such a strong tie with home…It was as though I had lost a member of my own family. One seemed to know him so well, at least his public image and all the things he stood for. They had been the same things we had been taught to respect or fight for when we were children at home…he warmed the heart and lifted up one’s courage.”
When asked if she thought that JFK’s death was in vain she compared JFK to Abraham Lincoln and then further answered that, “I believe that God allows these certain tragedies to happen in order to emphasize the man and his achievements and to inspire those who follow to have the strength and the will to accomplish his unfulfilled dreams.”