It’s been 50 years since John F Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, but the legend of the iconic president – and our collective memory of that fateful day – lives on.
JFK and his young wife Jackie brought a dazzling combination of sophistication, elegance and intellectual curiosity to the White House, ushering in an unprecedented epoch in the American culture which became known as the Camelot era.
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- Jacqueline Kennedy coined the term Camelot to refer to their time in the Executive Mansion. A week after his death the most famous widow in America told a reporter that her slain husband had loved listening to a record from the popular Broadway musical about King Arthur’s court Camelot.
She said his favourite lines from it were: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”
- The First Lady spoke fluent French and Spanish. Her charm and gift for languages made Jackie popular with foreign dignitaries.
When the couple travelled to Paris the French were so enthralled with her, the President joked: "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris."
- Jackie was a skilled equestrienne and horse riding was a lifelong passion for her.
- As a naval officer in 1943, Jack was marooned on a Pacific island for five days when his vessel was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.
He towed a badly burned crewman through the water with a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth, later winning several medals for his bravery.
- In the Oval Office sat a model of a PT109 torpedo boat as a reminder of Jack’s World War II heroics. He also wore a metal tie clasp shaped like a torpedo boat with “PT 109” stamped on its bow
- A committed catholic, JFK prayed every day and went to mass each Sunday. He also swore with "the unconcern of a sailor," reported a profile of him three days before his inauguration.
- His faith was needed when the Kennedys suffered two tragedies. In 1956, Jackie gave birth to a stillborn daughter they called Arabella after the tiny ship that had accompanied the Mayflower. Then in 1963 their son Patrick died two days after being born prematurely. (They had two other children Caroline, born 1957, and John junior, born 1960.)
- After Patrick’s death, there is evidence that the President stopped his constant womanising.
- Following the assassination the First Lady’s famous pink suit was sent to a sealed vault in the National Archives, still blood-stained to preserve the historical moment. The Kennedy family has given instructions that it cannot be viewed until 2103.
- Jackie planned every detail of the funeral herself basing it on Abraham Lincoln’s final farewell. She herself lit the eternal flame that burns night and day at his grave in Arlington National Cemetery.