Love letters shed light on JFK's affair with aristocrat
A secret love affair between John F Kennedy and a Swedish aristocrat he met three weeks before marrying Jacqueline Bouvier is recorded in a series of letters being sold at auction.
The future US president pursued Gunilla von Post for two years after he kissed her while on holiday in the French Riviera in August 1953.
The 11 handwritten letters and three telegrams chronicle the young senator's long-distance pursuit of Ms von Post and their reunion at a castle.
"I thought I might get a boat and sail around the Mediterranean for two weeks -- with you as crew," Kennedy wrote in a letter that was dated June 28, 1954. "What do you think?"
The letters are being sold in the US by Ms von Post (87), who has kept them in a safe deposit box for more than half a century. The two-week online auction, which began yesterday and is being handled by Legendary Auctions, has a starting price of $25,000 (€18,000).
"People have read about Kennedy's family life, and the type of person he was as a political figure," said Doug Allen, the president of the auction house. "These letters are very romantic. They show a different side of Kennedy. It's not an appropriate relationship. But it is part of history." The John F Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston declined to comment.
Ms von Post revealed the affair in a 1997 book titled 'Love, Jack'. She met Kennedy (36) when she was 21 and had been sent to the Cote d'Azur to improve her French.
They had dinner, danced and went for a walk at 2am before parting with a kiss.
According to the book, Kennedy told her: "I fell in love with you tonight." Explaining that he was about to marry Bouvier, he added: "If I had met you one week before, I would have cancelled the whole thing."
The letters show that Kennedy continued to pine for Ms von Post. The following year he began writing to her to try to arrange a rendezvous when he visited Europe.
However, back surgery forced him to cancel his trip. Instead, he jokingly suggested that Ms von Post, then working for the Swedish Automobile Association, visit him. "Why do you not suggest to the Swedish Automobile Association that they send you to the US to explain the beauties of driving through Sweden to American tourists," he suggested.
A year later Kennedy was still insistent that the two should meet. When Ms von Post suggested a Swedish castle, he responded: "My plans are your plans -- so now instead of going to the warm Riviera -- I am going to Sweden where the summers are, according to what you once wrote to me, 'cold and damp'." On his way across the Atlantic he sent a telegram saying simply: "A bientot -- Jack."
In a TV interview Ms von Post said: "I borrowed him for a week -- a beautiful week, that no one can take away from me."
After the couple's romantic getaway, Kennedy wrote again, seemingly resigned that the affair was over.
According to her book they met once more in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. "He embraced me quickly and kissed me on both cheeks. 'It's marvellous to see you,' he said, looking into my eyes. No one saw us. He turned quickly and walked through the door into a room full of a thousand people," she said.
Kennedy's love life has been the subject of much scrutiny -- he is famously linked to screen siren Marilyn Monroe. (© The Times, London)