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What Jackie Kennedy Knew About JFK’s Cheating — and Why She Looked the Other Way

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What did Jackie really know? Get new details about her complicated marriage to JFK, suicidal despair after his death and how she found the strength to go on. Subscribe now to get instant access to this Kennedy confidential, only in PEOPLE!

In the five decades since President John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, his legacy, often referred to as the golden era of Camelot, has been colored by revelations of his alleged affairs — yet to this day, exactly what his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, knew and didn’t know remains a burning question.

The couple had been married for a little more than seven years when JFK took office in 1961. Soon he became “consumed with almost daily sexual liaisons,” journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his 1997 book The Dark Side of Camelot.

In this week’s PEOPLE cover story, those who knew Jackie say her complex marriage was one based on love — and a certain understanding.

“It was a marriage of its time,” a close family friend tells PEOPLE. “At the end of the day, Jack came back to Jackie — and that was it. They loved each other.”

Art Rickerby/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

“It was kinetic between them,” adds the friend.” She wasn’t trying to change him.”

Jackie Style author Pamela Keogh says Jackie’s Wall Street stockbroker father, John Bouvier, had his own indiscretions, which informed his young daughter’s view of marriage.

“She came from a world where that is what men did, and it was accepted,” says Keogh.

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Longtime New York City gossip columnist Liz Smith, who wrote extensively about JFK’s alleged mistress Judith Exner, says of the iconic First Lady, “[Her friends] Truman Capote and Gore Vidal told me she knew all about Judith Exner and everybody else, and that she read [my stories] on Judith with high interest.”

RELATED VIDEO: Story Behind the Story: Jackie Kennedy and JFK’s Legacy

To Jackie, privacy was sacred, and her discretion was unmatched. As Cornelia Guest, whose mother, CZ Guest, was a close friend of the First Lady, explains: “It was all just, you turn the other cheek.”

“For these women, if they ever did discuss [their husbands’ infidelities], it was more like, ‘This is what’s going on; let’s go out and get the kids and get on a horse,’ ” she says. “They were much more pragmatic about the whole thing.”