Jackie's Quest for Security

Bobby Kennedy's assassination convinced Jackie that the Kennedys were being targeted for their political and ideological beliefs. She became increasingly concerned for her children's safety and her own. Beyond their physical safety she also worried about their emotional development — the constant attention from the public and media in every aspect of their lives had became unrelenting and oppressive.

Jackie's solution was to marry Onassis. He could provide Jackie with financial freedom and make her less beholden to the Kennedys. Although she would have to give up her Secret Service detail, Jackie knew Onassis had the wealth — estimated at half a billion dollars — and the power to keep her family safe. Onassis could also ensure a certain measure of privacy. In turn, Onassis thought marrying Jackie would get him the respectability he craved. So he broke off his nine-year affair with Maria Callas and presented Jackie with a 40-carat engagement ring.

In September 1968, Jackie took Onassis to visit Rose Kennedy. Jackie wanted Rose's blessing. Although she would have gone ahead with her plans regardless, she wanted the mother of her husband to understand that marrying Onassis in no way diminished Jack's memory, nor could it replace him in her heart. Rose had known Onassis socially for several years and found him articulate, amusing, and charismatic. Still, she had concerns about their age difference, about the religious differences, and about how Caroline and John Jr. would adjust to having Onassis as a stepfather. But Rose also knew Jackie was not a person who jumped rashly into anything important.

On October 20, 1968, less than five months after Bobby Kennedy's assassination, Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis. The Greek Orthodox ceremony was held on Onassis's private Aegean island, Skorpios. Jackie had kept her plans so secret that her mother almost didn't make the ceremony — Janet couldn't find her passport and was only able to travel after the State Department gave her a special clearance. When news of their marriage became public, there was an outcry the world over. Newspaper headlines from the United States to Europe expressed shock and outrage. Some lamented that and outrage. Some lamented that America had lost a saint; others described the pairing as sad and shameful. A report that her prenuptial agreement included a $5 million wedding gift added to the sense that Jackie had sold out her good name.

SHE SAID …

“She of all people was the one who encouraged me. She's been extraordinarily generous. I was married to her son and I have his children, but she was the one who was saying, if this is what you think is best, go ahead.”

Contrary to popular belief, Jackie never moved her children to Greece. They continued attending private school in New York then spent a month and a half every summer on Skorpios. They also spent time at his home in Paris.

While Onassis made an effort to befriend Caroline and John, Jackie's relationship with his children was chilly. Both Alex and Christina had grown up largely ignored by their parents. Onassis was busy running his businesses and spending time with Callas while Athina filled her emptiness with parties, travel, and drugs. Instead of giving their time, they gave their children their every whim, and both Alex and Christina grew up into spoiled and demanding adults. Alex was openly hostile toward Jackie for taking his mother's place as Mrs. Onassis. Christina desperately wanted her father's approval and saw Jackie as an obstacle to his affection. However, Christina and Alex liked Caroline and John Jr., and the stepsiblings spent many happy times together during the summers.

Aristotle and Jackie Onassis celebrate their first anniversary, 1969

Photo Credit: Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

  1. Home
  2. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
  3. The Greek Tycoon
  4. Jackie's Quest for Security
Visit other About.com sites: