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Prince William Honors JFK, ‘A Man Whom My Family Continues to Hold in the Highest Esteem’

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Prince William continued a royal family tradition of honoring John F. Kennedy’s legacy with a reception for The Kennedy Memorial Trust at Buckingham Place on Thursday night.

The Kennedy Memorial Trust was established in 1964 to create and maintain a British memorial to the late president, who was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

“My grandmother would very much like me to pass on some words to all of you,” William said in a speech. “In 1965, my grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen inaugurated the memorial to President Kennedy, which stands at Runnymede, on land bequeathed by her to the people of the United States.

Frank Augstein/Pool/Getty
Frank Augstein/Pool/Getty

“Her Majesty spoke that day of the extent to which we recognized what President Kennedy had already accomplished, and of the high hopes that rode with him, in a future that was not to be.

“So I am honored, half a century on, to be here this evening and pay tribute to a man whom my family continues to hold in the highest esteem.”

Jacqueline Kennedy traveled to Runnymede, 20 miles west of London, with her children Caroline and John Jr. on May 14, 1965, for the memorial’s dedication service. As the family greeted Queen Elizabeth, then 4-year-old John Jr. gave a shy bow to the monarch.

“The unprecedented intensity of that wave of grief, mixed with something akin to despair, which swept over our people at the news of President Kennedy’s assassination, was a measure of the extent to which we recognized what he had already accomplished, and of the high hopes that rode with him in a future that was not to be,” Queen Elizabeth said in a moving speech at the dedication.

Runnymede was seen as a particularly appropriate location given the signing of Magna Carta there in 1215, the foundational document for English – and American – civil liberties.

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In addition, it was agreed that a “living memorial” consisting of scholarships for British graduate students would be established, “thereby recalling the President’s interest in bringing into fruitful combination the disciplines of traditional humane studies and modern technology and so making their strength effective in the activities of government and in the direction of world affairs,” according to the organization’s site.

The first group of Kennedy Scholars went over to Harvard and MIT to begin their courses of study in September 1966. Since then, 512 British students have been awarded Kennedy Scholarships.