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Archive for the ‘Jackie Kennedy’ Category

John F. Kennedy loved to eat at Howard Johnson restaurants:

Whenever he saw one on the campaign trail, we’d have to stop so he could duck in, order two hot dogs and a soft drink,” said photographer Stanley Tretick, who covered the 1960 presidential campaign for United Press International. Kennedy was the democratic candidate.

1960 Presidential Campaign Sticker

1960 Presidential Campaign Sticker

Once Tretick almost got a candid shot of Kennedy eating a hotdog. Kennedy was sitting in his car. Tretick aimed his camera but

He [Kennedy] slid under the dashboard so I couldn’t see him,” recalled Tretick. Then Kennedy wolfed down his lunch undisturbed. (1)

Kennedy thought such photographs – politicians eating hot dogs, for example – were “corny.” He cared immensely about his image. Kennedy studiously avoided being photographed eating, drinking, combing his hair, or wearing any one of the endless hats – sombreros, cowboy, Native American headdresses –  given to him while on the campaign trail. He generally refused to put on the hats, except a hard hat. Heavy laborers – miners, electricians, factory workers – “went big” for him and he appreciated their acceptance.

Senator John F. Kennedy wears a hardhat. May 1959

Senator John F. Kennedy (l.) wears a hardhat. May 1959

THE RICE HAT

Below is the rare photo in which Kennedy looks a little silly. It was taken before he had actually declared his candidacy for president. It was October 1959 and he was Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts. He and his wife Jackie were guests at the International Rice Festival in Crowley, Louisiana. Kennedy was drumming up interest in a presidential run.

Kennedy is wearing a rice hat. I’d like to think that, the next day, Kennedy saw this picture in a local newspaper and thought, “Woah! I’ve got to be more careful when I actually do declare my candidacy! If I look this dopey, I’ll never beat Dick Nixon!” I’d like to think that this picture taught him the lesson he needed to eschew wearing hats in photos that would go viral.

Senator John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie at the Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. October 1959

Senator John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie at the Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. October 1959. Reggie Family Archives.

Three years into his presidency and the president’s aversion to wearing hats was legendary. But that didn’t stop the hatmakers from forcing hats on him everywhere he went.

Here’s YouTube footage of John Kennedy refusing to put on a cowboy hat given to him at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Fort Worth, Texas, on the last day of his life. He enters the ballroom at 9:45 on the tape and he jovially refuses to wear the hat at 45:45.

In three hours he would be dead. The hat was never found.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the Kennedys. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012.

 

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American journalist and author Kitty Kelley (b. 1942)

American journalist and author Kitty Kelley (b. 1942)

Writer Kitty Kelley always wondered what her photographer friend Stanley Tretick kept in his Marine Corps locker that he used as a coffee table in his study. One day she asked him what was inside.

Nude pictures,” he told her, winking.

She took him at his word and thought no more about it. The two had been friends since 1981 but it wasn’t until 1999, when Tretick died, that Kelley found out what was really in the battered old trunk, as Tretick had left it to her in his will.

Inside she discovered a trove of keepsakes from Tretick’s days of photographing President John F. Kennedy for United Press International and Look magazine.

American photographer Stanley Tretick (l.) photographs President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1962. (Abbie Rowe, JFK Library and Museum)

American photographer Stanley Tretick (l.) photographs President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1962. (Abbie Rowe, JFK Library and Museum)

Among the signed photographs of the president and his wife, Jackie, handwritten notes and letters, and Kennedy buttons and bumper stickers was this PT-109 boat tie clasp that JFK had given Tretick when he followed him in his 1960 presidential campaign. (1)

JFK PT 109 boat pin

JFK PT 109 boat pin

The 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign distributed this boat pin as a reminder of Kennedy’s WWII military service aboard the patrol torpedo boat PT-109.

Patrol Torpedo 109 commanded by John F. Kennedy at far right. 1943

Patrol Torpedo 109 commanded by John F. Kennedy at far right. 1943

On the starless, moonless night of August 1, 1943, Lieutenant Kennedy was at the helm of PT-109, cruising the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific to spot Japanese warships, when:

At about 2:30 in the morning, a shape loomed out of the darkness three hundred yards off PT-109’s starboard bow.”(2)

It was the Japanese destroyer the Amagiri, cruising at top speed. It rammed the PT-109 just forward of the forward starboard torpedo tube, ripping away the starboard aft side of the boat, and cutting the boat in two.

Painting of the August 2, 1943 sinking of PT-109 by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. By Gerard Richardson. Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

Painting of the August 2, 1943 sinking of PT-109 by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. By Gerard Richardson. Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

The extreme impact tossed Kennedy around the cockpit. Most of the crew were knocked into the water. Two died; two were injured. Fully expecting the boat to explode into flames, Kennedy ordered his crew to abandon ship.

The eleven survivors took to the water and struck out swimming for an islet three-and-a-half miles away.

Lieutenant Kennedy was a strong swimmer. He had been on the swim team at Harvard University. He saved one of his men by towing him ashore with a lifejacket strap clenched between his teeth. He was the first of his crew to reach the island.

Six days later, islanders scouting for the Allies on Naru Island found the men and sent for help, delivering the following SOS message Kennedy had scratched into the husk of a green coconut:

NAURO (sic) ISL
COMMANDER . . . NATIVE KNOWS
POS’IT . . . HE CAN PILOT . . . 11 ALIVE
NEED SMALL BOAT . . . KENNEDY

Despite the proximity of the Japanese patrols, the crew was rescued without incident and the men reached the U.S. base at Rendova on the Solomon Islands on August 8, 1943.

PT-109 Collision August 1943 (by Philg88; Attribution: Wikimedia Foundation)

PT-109 Collision August 1943 (by Philg88; Attribution: Wikimedia Foundation)

John F. Kennedy receives the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his courage in the PT-109 incident. 1943

John F. Kennedy receives the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his courage in the PT-109 incident. 1943

Upon the crew’s return, Kennedy was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his leadership and courage. For injuries suffered, he also qualified for a Purple Heart.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the Kennedys. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012.

(2) John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum online

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Jackie Kennedy

In 1966, multimillionaire Robert David Lion Gardiner invited Jackie Kennedy to visit him on to his private islet, Gardiners Island, off the coast of Long Island. Gardiners Island had been in Gardiner’s family for four centuries and was one of the largest privately-owned islands in the world.

Eunice Bailey Oakes Gardiner and Robert David Lion Gardiner

Gardiner arranged a dinner party for Jackie which was attended by both Gardiner and wife, the former British model Eunice Bailey Oakes, and several others.

After dinner, the guests retired to the lavish wood-paneled den, where coffee and cognac were served. According to Gardiner, he watched as Jackie took out a cigarette and looked around for a light. A gold cigarette lighter belonging to Eunice lay on a  nearby table. Jackie picked it up and used it to light her cigarette. Then, inexplicably, she slipped the lighter into her evening bag.

Gardiner was aghast. Jackie Kennedy had deliberately stolen his wife’s lighter.

Gardiner didn’t know what to do. Several uncomfortable minutes later, he went over to his humidor and took out a cigar. Turning to the roomful of guests, he asked:

Have any of you seen my wife’s gold cigarette lighter?” 

Getting no response, he addressed his most distinguished guest:

Did you, Mrs. Kennedy? I believe you were the last one to use it.”

Jackie shrugged, replying in her little girl voice:  

I have no idea where it went. ”

The lighter was never returned to its owner. Gardiner was furious and retaliated by spreading stories accusing Jackie of kleptomania.

Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, June 5, 1969, at Kennedy Airport, New York. The couple had been married less than a year.

The gossip reached the Greek ears of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie’s husband from 1968-75, who sent Gardiner a check for $5,000, along with a note threatening legal action for slander. Jackie had admitted to Ari that she had accidentally placed the lighter in her purse that evening at Gardiner’s but had, since then, simply lost track of it.

At some point, though, the missing lighter “resurfaced.” After Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s death in 1994, the lighter was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in New York as part of her multi-million-dollar estate.

Source: Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story. New York: Atria, 2009.

Readers, for more posts on Jackie Kennedy on this blog, click here.

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Jackie Kennedy wears the famous pink suit in this 1962 photo. She is looking at plans for Lafayette Square.

President John F. Kennedy looked out the window of his Fort Worth, Texas, hotel suite. The November sky was dark and threatening. It looked like rain. Forecasters predicted cool weather. The president advised his wife Jackie to dress warmly for the long and demanding day and personally selected her oufit. He chose a pink wool suit with three-quarter-length sleeves and a blue underblouse. To it, Jackie added a pink pillbox hat and white gloves.   

Jackie, 34,  had worn the suit before – she called its color “raspberry” – and it was one of the president’s favorites.  He had told mutual friend Susan Mary Alsop that Jackie, his wife of ten years, looked “ravishing in it.” (1)   

President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House, October 1962. Jackie Kennedy is wearing the pink wool Chez Ninon she wore in Dallas, November 22, 1963

Jacqueline Kennedy‘s pink suit was made in 1961 by the New York dress salon, Chez Ninon. It was a copy of a Chanel pink boucle wool suit trimmed with a navy blue collar. (1)   

   

Jackie Kennedy was a style icon. People noticed what she wore. Kennedy critics were quick to pounce when Jackie wore Paris fashions. Jack urged his wife to buy American and she did. Such a move was both financially and politically savvy. The Chez Ninon knockoff cost between $800 and $1,000 compared to over $10,000 for a custom-made Chanel suit.  Plus, he and Jackie were in Texas with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and wife Lady Bird to officially kick off their 1964 presidential campaign. They had to minimize the fallout from Jackie’s expensive French taste.   

Jackie’s pink suit was a hit at the Fort Worth breakfast that morning. The president beamed at the attention she drew, noting that “nobody notices what Lyndon and I wear.” A short plane ride later, they were disembarking at Dallas Love Field to a promising reception. Jackie was presented red roses.   

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy arrive at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.

The sun had come out and the day had become unseasonably warm. The Kennedys climbed into the back seat of the presidential limousine to begin the winding 11-mile route through downtown Dallas where the president was to speak at a Trade Mart luncheon. Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie got into the jumpseat in front of the Kennedys and behind the driver and two Secret Service agents.   

The presidential limo was a midnight blue 1961 Lincoln that had been flown in from Washington, D.C. Because the weather was so nice, the plastic bubble top had been removed and the bullet-proof side windows were rolled down. This is how President Kennedy preferred to ride. At 11:50 a.m., the 12-car motorcade with its motorcycle escort and Secret Service attendants left the airport “on its rendevous with fate.” It was November 22, 1963. (2)   

The crowds lined the parade route so thickly that the motorcade moved at a crawl of only 6-7 miles an hour. The president clearly loved the warm Texas welcome, smiling and waving at all the friendly faces.   

JFK and Jackie ride in the presidential limo through the streets of Dallas, November 22, 1963. Texas Governor John Connally sits up front.

The temperature was 76 degrees. The sun was blindingly hot. Jackie was wearing wool.  She shielded her eyes from the big Texas sun with her trademark sunglasses.   

The people shouted, “Jack, Jackie!” recalled Nellie Connally. “They seemed to want her as much as they wanted him.” She could hear Jack say to Jackie,” Take your glasses off….When you’re riding in a car like this, in a parade, if you have your dark glasses on, you might as well have stayed at home.”

November 22, 1963: Up front, Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie ride with the President and Mrs. Kennedy through downtown Dallas.

Nellie Connally smiled to know that Texans were treating their president with such courtesy. She turned to him and said,   

Mr. President, you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.” (3)

Thirty seconds later, at 12:30 p.m., three shots rang out. The 35th President of the United States was shot. As the car sped toward Parkland Hospital, Kennedy slumped in his wife’s lap, his blood and brain fragments staining her pink wool suit, gloves, stockings.  Jackie crawled out the back of the limo for help from the Secret Service riding in the car behind them.

In an image from the Zapruder film, a fatally-wounded President Kennedy slumps over as Secret Service agent Clint Hill leaps onto the president’s car and pushes Jacqueline Kennedy back.

At the hospital, the doctors worked feverishly to save the president but it was futile. President Kennedy was declared dead, his once vital body loaded limply into a coffin. Jackie accompanied his body to Dallas Love Field where it was loaded onto Air Force One to be flown to Washington.

In her bedroom on board the plane, Jackie’s personal assistant had laid out a fresh outfit for the First Lady. Despite urging from staffers and handlers to “clean up her appearance,” Jackie  refused to get out of her bloodied clothes. She shook her head hard:

No, let them see what they’ve done.”  

Just hours after her husband's assassination, widow Jackie Kennedy stands next to Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One as he is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States. Although her personal assistant laid out a fresh change of clothes on her bed aboard the plane, Jackie refused to change out of her blood-spattered clothing. Also aboard Air Force One was the casket carrying the body of President John F. Kennedy, age 46.

Somehow, that was one of the most poignant sights,” Mrs. Johnson later wrote, “that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.”  

At Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., JFK's brother Attorney General Bobby Kennedy meets Jackie Kennedy when she arrives on Air Force One with the coffin carrying her slain husband's body. Note Jackie's bloodstained suit. Her left leg is caked in blood.

It was not until 5 a.m. the next morning at the White House that Jackie took off the bloodied suit, bathed, and changed outfits. Her mother put the suit in a plastic bag and stored it in her house for many years.   

The suit was never cleaned and never will be. It sits today, unfolded and shielded from light, in an acid-free container in a windowless room somewhere inside the National Archives and Records Administration’s complex in Maryland; the precise location is kept secret. The temperature hovers between 65 and 68 degrees; the humidity is 40 percent; the air is changed six times an hour. (4)  

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the pink pillbox hat remain a mystery. It has never been found.  Somewhere inside Parkland Hospital, the hat came off.  Jackie’s personal secretary, Mary Gallagher recalls:

While standing there I was handed Jackie’s pillbox hat and couldn’t help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin. I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head.”

What happened to the hat after that is unknown. Mary Gallagher lost track of it.

(1) Source   

(2) Source   

(3) Source   

(4) Source: The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 30, 2011. 

Readers: For more on Jackie Kennedy, click here.

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The U.S. Secret Service provided security for Pope Benedict XVI at the Papal Mass in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008. Although the agents have no official uniform and can be seen wearing anything from tuxedos to blue jeans, they are often identified by their dark sunglasses, listening devices, and lapel pins bearing the agency's gold star logo.

The United States Secret Service uses code names to refer to the President of the United States, his family, other officials, and places. Originally, these code names were designed to protect sensitive communications, back in the day before restricted communications were routinely encrypted. Nowadays, there is no need to keep these names secret. Nevertheless, The Secret Service who guards the First Family and other U.S. officials continues to use the code names for clarity, brevity, and tradition. (1)

The U.S. Secret Service Star Logo. The U.S. Secret Service protects the President and First Family, other officials of the U.S. government, and visiting dignitaries.

General Code Names

President of the United States:  POTUS

First Lady of the United States:  FLOTUS

Vice President of the United States:  VPOTUS

The Obamas

Barack:  Renegade

Michelle:  Renaissance

Malia:  Radiance

Sasha:  Rosebud

The Bushes

George W.:  Tumbler

Laura:  Tempo

Barbara:  Turquoise

Jenna:  Twinkle

The Clintons

Bill:  Eagle

Hillary:  Evergreen

Chelsea:  Energy

The Bushes

George H.:  Timberwolf

Barbara:  Tranquility

The Carters

Jimmy:  Deacon

Rosalynn:  Dancer

Amy:  Dynamo

Secret Service agents respond to the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr. on March 30, 1981. President Reagan took a bullet in the abdomen but made a full recovery.

The Reagans

Ronald:  Rawhide

Nancy:  Rainbow

The Fords

Gerald:  Passkey

Betty:  Pinafore

The Nixons

Richard:  Searchlight

Pat:  Starlight

The Johnsons

Lyndon:  Volunteer

Lady Bird:  Victoria

Lynda Bird:  Velvet

Luci Baines:  Venus

 

A motorcade carries President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy through the streets of Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Texas Governor John Connally and wife Nellie ride in front of the Kennedys.

Secret Service agent Clint Hill stood on the running board of the car behind the Kennedy’s limo.
Agent Hill heard the first shot that hit President Kennedy. Mr Hill is the figure in the famous Zapruder film of the killing which shows him climbing onto the back of the president’s limousine. “I heard the first shot, saw the president grab his throat, lurch left, and I knew something was wrong,” recalled Hill in the book, The Kennedy Detail. Jackie Kennedy can be seen crawling out the back of the car onto the trunk to get help for her slain husband, slumped in the seat.

Agent Hill got in the back seat with Mrs. Kennedy and the president and shielded them with his body on the way to Parkland Hospital.

The Kennedys

John F.:  Lancer

Jackie:  Lace

Caroline:  Lyric

John Jr.:  Lark

Other Individuals

Queen Elizabeth II:  Kittyhawk, Redfern

Prince Charles:  Unicorn

Frank Sinatra:  Napoleon

Pope John Paul II:  Halo

Sarah Palin:  Denali

John McCain:  Phoenix

Places

The White House:  Castle

The Capitol:  Punchbowl

 

(1)  Source: Wiki “Secret Service Codename

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Jackie and President Jack Kennedy land at Orly Airport, Paris, on May 31, 1961

It was May 31, 1961, when Air Force One, carrying  American President John and First Lady Jackie Kennedy, landed on the tarmac at Orly Airport in Paris. The president was less than five months into his term of office and this was his first European stop. The Kennedys were greeted by French President Charles DeGaulle and Madame DeGaulle. The contrast between the trim and stylist Americans and their “grizzled” counterparts was striking.

“As soon as the crowds pressed against the airport fences spotted Jackie in her navy-blue silk suit and black velvet pillbox hat, they broke into a rhythmic chant: ‘Vive Jacqui! Vive Jacqui!’ (1)

First Lady Jackie Kennedy is greeted warmly by Parisians on May 31, 1961. Her style was understated: a wool suit, double strand of pearls, and her trademark pillbox hat. The French were captivated by "Zhak-kee."

Hundreds of thousands of people followed their motorcade through the streets of Paris, waving little French and American flags as the open limousine carrying Jack and DeGaulle passed by. When the second car appeared, carrying Jackie and Madame DeGaulle, the crowd sent up a wild roar.  Later, during an official luncheon at the Palais de L’Elysée, Jackie chattered away in French about Louis XVI, the Bourbons, and French geography. DeGaulle turned to Jack Kennedy and said:

‘Your wife knows more French history than any Frenchwoman!’ [He then] turned back to Jackie and did not take his eyes off her for the rest of the meal.” (1)

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

The next night was the big event of the three-day visit: a candlelit supper in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais de Versailles. Jackie wanted to look extra good. But to look good, Jackie had to “feel good” – and Jackie didn’t.  She suffered from migraines and depression since her C-section 6 months earlier.  Jack didn’t feel good either. His back pain was  agonizing.  That’s why, on this trip to Europe, Jack had brought along not just his extra-firm horsehair mattress but New York physician Max Jacobson. Presidential photographer and friend Mark Shaw had referred President Kennedy to Dr. Jacobson. Jacobson’s “miracle injections” instantly stopped Jack Kennedy’s pain. Jack didn’t know what was in the shots – only that they worked.

First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore this graceful Givenchy gown to the June 1, 1961 dinner at the Palace of Versailles.

The night of the Versailles dinner, Max visited Jack Kennedy at the Palais des Affaires Estrangères. Jack occupied a suite of rooms called “the King’s Chamber” in the elegant 19th Century palace on the Quai d’Orsay. The president soaked his back in “a gold-plated bathtub the size of a pingpong table” (2) then Max gave him his customary injection. Max then ambled down the long hallway to the Queen’s Chamber and was admitted to Jackie’s bedroom.

“Jackie sat in front of a mirror, being fussed over by Alexandre, the famous Parisian hairdresser, and a bevy of his assistants….In another part of the room, Jackie’s maid was laying out two different gowns for the evening – one an American design by Oleg Cassini, and the other a French creation by Hubért de Givenchy. Earlier, Jackie had planned to wear the Cassini [Jack preferred her to wear American clothes], but then she was not so sure.”   (2)
 

Alexandre finished with Jackie’s hair and left the room so she could slip into her gown. But first Jackie motioned to Max. She was ready for her shot. The short, dark-haired man with the red cheeks and German accent reached into his black doctor’s bag and withdrew a syringe.

“He injected his magic elixir into her buttock. She was ready for Versailles. She took one last look at the two ball gowns hanging side-by-side…and chose the one she knew would attract the more favorable reaction from the French press [and play up her French bloodline]. She slipped into the Givenchy….” (2)

Jackie Kennedy with French President, Charles de Gaulle, June 1, 1961

Jackie Kennedy dazzled French President Charles DeGaulle at this June 1, 1961, dinner in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. 150 guests ate a 6-course dinner served on Napoleon's gold-trimmed china. Jackie sported an elaborate topknot with a diamond tiara. Her rhinestone-studded white satin gown with embroidered bodice was by French designer Givenchy.

Jackie dazzled everyone at the dinner, and it is no wonder. Dr. Jacobson’s shots were a mixture of amphetamines, vitamins, painkillers, and human placenta. (3)  The mysterious physician referred to his particular brand of therapy as “miracle tissue regeneration.”

“You feel like Superman,” said writer Truman Capote, one of the high-profile clients who experienced instant euphoria from Dr. Feelgood’s injections of ‘speed.’ “You’re flying. Ideas come at the speed of light. You go 72 hours straight without so much as a coffee break….Then you crash….” (2)

The crash for Dr. Jacobson came in 1969 when his patient and Kennedy friend Mark Shaw died at the young age of 47 due to “acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning.” The Bureau of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs discovered that Dr. Jacobson was buying huge quantities of amphetamines in order to deliver high level amphetamine doses to his clients. “Miracle Max” and many of his clients had become amphetamine addicts. Dr. Jacobson’s medical license was revoked in 1975.  

(1) Spoto, Donald. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

(2) Klein, Edward. All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.

(3) Leaming, Lawrence. The Kennedy Women: The Saga of An American Family. New York: Random House, 1994.

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Wallis Warfield marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France. The day before the wedding, the Prince's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent him a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the Prince, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted. (J.Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy,

Wallis Warfield (Simpson) marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France, after he gave up the British throne to be with her. Wallis Warfield Simpson was an American divorcee. For the King to have married her and tried to install her as his Queen would have precipitated a constitutional crisis in Great Britain....The wedding day dawned bright and sunny. It was Wallis' third wedding; her dress was not white but blue. Blue was also the mood. The day before the wedding, the former king's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent Edward a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the former king, now titled the Duke, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' At her entrance, no women had to curtsey, no men to bow. She would not be referred to as "Her Highness" but with the lower form of "Her Grace." "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted upon reading the King's letter. (Bryan III, J. and Murphy, Charles J.V., The Windsor Story. New York: Dell, 1979.)

In 1937, after King Edward VIII had given up the British throne to marry his American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson, the two tiny, trim party animals were exiled to France, where they were doomed to live a life of idle nothingness. They were given the new but hollow titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Accustomed to a lifetime of adulation and privilege yet denied a kingdom, the Duke (and the Duchess), set about creating an imaginary realm of their own that would given them the validation they craved as royals. This new kingdom:

“…was a region whose borders were outlined in society pages, peopled mostly by glamorous nobodies lucky enough to have been born into wealth. It was an ornamental place, whose citizens, according to Andrew Bolton, the curator of ”Blithe Spirit” [a past costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum], were unsurpassed ”in the beauty, elegance and craftsmanship” of their dress. For self-indulgence, they were also hard to beat.”

The people who congregated around the Duke and Duchess were dubbed the “Windsor set.” They were all-consumed with the photographic image.

“They arranged those lives to suit the lens. Voluntarily estranged from the real aristocracy, the Duke of Windsor, with the aid of his wife, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, set up a parallel court composed of people like Elsie de Wolfe, the interior decorator and social arbiter; Mona Bismarck, a gorgeous adventuress who was the daughter of a stableman on a Kentucky horse farm; and Daisy Fellowes, whose fortune derived from sewing machines and who had the distinction of being one of the first people on record to alter her nose surgically.”

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

Granted, the Windsors were despicable people, dining with Adolf Hitler in 1937 and hobnobbing with fellow Nazi sympathizers and British ex-pats Oswald Mosley and wife Diana Mitford. Nevertheless, the Duke and Duchess – and their fancy friends – obsessed with clothing,  had tremendous style.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of ARt, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcemen from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcement from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

The Windsors were famous for their elegant Paris dinner parties, creating a demand for expensive clothes and jewels for them and their guests. Thus, the prewar years in France from 1935-1940 were rich in the decorative arts, putting trendy fashion designers front and center. It was a time when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was “rethinking the suit” to allow for the way women really move and Elsa Schiaparelli* was designing lobster dresses with surrealist Salvador Dali.*

Then Hitler invaded Poland and World War II shattered the fantasy world of endless cocktail parties and silk and organza gowns made to order. The Germans invaded and occupied France.

Shockingly, Coco Chanel spent the war years living at the Ritz in Paris with a Nazi officer. After the war was over, Chanel was arrested by the free French for suspicion of collaborating with the Nazis. She purportedly offered this explanation for sleeping with the enemy:

 “Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover.”

It is generally believed that Winston Churchill  intervened with the French government, convincing them to let his old friend Coco Chanel escape to Switzerland rather than be paraded through the streets of Paris with her head shaved like other female Nazi collaborators.

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

Fast forward 19 years. It's November 22, 1963. Jackie Kennedy,* in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, is riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

*For more on the Kennedys on this blog, please see right sidebar – Categories – People  – the Kennedys.
See “Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor,” which follows this blog post.

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