The life story of John F Kennedy’s free-spirited sister Kick is filled with rebellion, cross-continent love and tragic death, it has been revealed.
The unpublicized story of Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy is a haunting tale that ends with her funeral in which the only Kennedy to attend was her father.
JFK’s sister was a rebellious yet charming woman who defied her family for love and lost her brother and husband to war. At 28, she died in a tragic plane crash alongside her married lover.
Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy was the fourth daughter of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. Her scandalous life was widely un publicized after her untimely death in 1948 at the age of 28
Despite her parent’s wishes, Kick (right) married William Cavendish, Marquess Of Hartington (left) in 1944. The only Kennedy in attendance was her brother, Joe Jr
Kick, pictured left with mother Rose (center) and sister Rosemary (right), died in a tragic plane crash alongside her married lover
‘She was the only rebel of the family,’ Lynne McTaggart, author of 1983’s Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times, told the New York Post. ‘If you look at all nine [Kennedy] children, she was the only one who didn’t march down the prescribed road.’
Kick’s story will soon be featured on the Smithsonian Channel, in a series titled Million Dollar American Princesses.
Robert F Kennedy Jr’s 27-year-old daughter Kathleen was named after her great aunt
The haunting story is narrated in part by Kick’s namesake, Robert F Kennedy Jr’s 27-year-old daughter.
‘When I was little, I wondered why I had a funny name,’ Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, 27, told The Post. ‘I was named after my great-aunt, who was a lot of fun. She was a ‘kick’!’
The elder Kick, like her brother the future president, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts as the fourth child of Rose and Joseph, future ambassador to the UK.
She attended the Riverdale Country School when her family moved to Bronxville, New York, until her mother decided it was time she studied in a school without boys.
As a 13-year-old, she was sent to Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut, ‘in a grim, forbidding mansion perched high above Long Island Sound’, Edward J. Renehan Jr wrote in The Kennedys at War: 1937-1945.
But Kick was a charmer – though she once called herself ‘tree-stump legs’ according to McTaggert – and never failed to catch the attention of the opposite sex.
‘She dated friends of her brothers – red-blooded American jocks,’ McTaggart told the Post.
When Joe Kennedy was appointed US ambassador to the UK, he and his family departed for London.
Across the pond, 18-year-old Kick was named debutante of the year as she caught the loving eye of nearly everyone in England.
‘She was idiosyncratically charming,’ Her namesake niece told the Post. ‘She would call the Duke of Marlborough “Dukie Wookie“ and chewed gum walking down the streets of London.’
Younger Kick (left) is narrating a special about her great aunt Kick (right) on the Smithsonian Channel, in a series titled Million Dollar American Princesses
American multi-millionaire Joseph Patrick Kennedy (right), with his wife Rose Kennedy (second from right) and eight of their nine children, in London. From left: Edward, Jeanne, Robert, Patricia, Eunice, Kathleen, Rosemary and John F Kennedy who later became the 35th President of the United States
Friends told McTaggert that Kick would take off her shoes and sit of the floors of her friends’ Downton Abbey-like country homes whenever she was invited – which was often.
At one of the parties, she met William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, who was set to be the future duke of Devonshire. Kick called him Billy.
‘He was a great catch, and a sweet guy,’ McTaggart said, adding that he was ‘rather shy’ compared to Kick’s vivacious personality.
Billy, a Protestant, and Kick, a Catholic, soon fell in love.
As Britain braced for air raids after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, however, Joe Kennedy sent his family back to the United States, despite 19-year-old Kick’s pleas to stay with Billy.
‘She fought with her father for two weeks… begging him to let her stay,’ the younger Kick said. But still, she returned to America.
For the next four years, Kick stayed in the United States, traveling between Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC. Billy was in the British Army, and even briefly engaged to another woman.
Kick, determined to make her way back to the UK, joined the Red Cross, which was sending volunteers to England.
When she finally made it back to London, she and Billy picked up right where they had left off. But Kick’s mother was not pleased that her daughter was with a Protestant.
Kick and her brother Lieutenant Joseph Kennedy arrive at her wedding to the Marquis of Hartington, son of the Duke of Devonshire, in May 1944
‘Marrying outside of the church was probably the worst sin one could commit,’ Kick Kennedy explains. ‘It meant living one’s life in mortal sin and eventually going to hell.’
Kick ignored her mother’s fury and tied the knot with Billy anyway.
They were married in a civil ceremony in May 1944, and Kick’s older brother Joe Jr was the only Kennedy in attendance.
Four weeks later, however, Billy was sent to the Belgian front.
In August of the same year, Joe Jr was killed when his plane exploded while he was over France on a secret bombing mission.
Less than a month later – four months after Billy and Kick wed – Billy was shot through the heart by a German sniper.
‘I can’t imagine anything more devastating,’ the younger Kick told the Post of her great aunt. ‘But the rule is, Kennedys don’t cry.’
After mourning Joe in the United States, Kick returned to England as Lady Hartington. Not long after, she found love again.
Her new love, Peter Fitzwilliam was again Protestant and wealthy, but he was also a gambler and a married man.
Fitzwilliam was in the process of divorcing his wife when he began dating Kick, but her parents were still horrified by the relationship and threatened to disown their daughter, according to Forbes.
Friends said that Kick was a charmer and always dated friends of her brothers. Pictured above Kick is center with Patricia Kennedy (left), Shipwreck Kelly (second left), John Pierrepont (second right) and Eunice Kennedy (right)
American matriarch Rose Kennedy (R) with three of her children, (left to right) Eunice, Kathleen, and Bobby in 1942
‘When you’ve seen so much tragedy during the war, it makes you feel that you’d better live for the moment,’ McTaggart said.
‘Fitzwilliam had a lot of money and was a lot of fun,’ she added. ‘I think the chances of him being faithful to her were zero.’
But their love, too, ended in tragedy.
While traveling to France to meet up with Kick’s father, the couple boarded a plane for a stop on the Riviera. Storms caused the plane to crash in the mountains, killing all passengers and crew aboard.
Kick’s father Joseph, who was in Europe at the time, was the only Kennedy at the funeral.
Because of JFK’s blossoming political career and the scandalous circumstances surrounding Kick’s death, the family kept the death quiet.
She was buried in a small churchyard in Edenser, England. The gravestone identifies her as Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington. Billy, upon his family’s request, was buried in Belgium where he was killed.
‘The times she lived in necessitated bravery and a strong ability to carry on in the face of tragedy,’ the second Kick Kennedy said. ‘Her decisions were informed by her own moral compass, not that of her parents or society.’
The younger Kick said she still cherishes a photo of her great aunt, in which she’s dressed in a Red Cross uniform.
‘[My great-aunt] looks quite beautiful and you can feel her vigor,’ she said of the photo. ‘I find her story powerful and her spirit inspiring.’
Portrait of the Kennedy family in their living room, Brookline, Massachussetts, 1930s. Front row from left: Joseph Jr, Rose, Robert, Edward, Joseph Sr, Patricia, Jean; back row from left: Eunice, John, Kathleen, and Rosemary