In recent weeks we’ve heard a lot about the death of 52-year-old Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr. All over the news, it’s “the Kennedy curse” ad nauseam. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the Kennedys over the years, so let’s take a look at various Kennedy troubles and see whether or not they seem to constitute tragedies/a curse.
- 1941: While Rose Kennedy is on a shopping trip to Paris, Joe Kennedy decides to have daughter Rosemary lobotomized. Rosemary was always a bit “slow,” but after the lobotomy she is much worse, and ends up living in an institution until dying at age 86 in 2005. I thought it was really sad that I once read something to the effect that, in a normal family, Rosemary would have seemed fine originally. But she was never able to keep up with the other “super special” Kennedys, thus her marginalization within the family and the need Joe apparently saw to pursue the surgery.
- 1944: Oldest Kennedy son, Joe Jr., dies at 29 as a WWII pilot. No doubt a tragedy, although he did ask for it a bit by volunteering for a super-risky mission in order to raise his value within the family.
- 1948: Kennedy daughter Kathleen dies in a plane crash along with married man she plans to marries against Rose Kennedy’s wishes.
- 1963: Patrick Kennedy dies 2 days after his birth to JFK and Jackie Kennedy. He was born 6 weeks premature and would most likely have survived had he been born today.
- 1963: JFK assassinated in Dallas.
- 1964: JFK’s brother Teddy is in a serious plane crash that kills an aide.
- 1968: Robert Kennedy assassinated just after winning California’s democrat primary.
- 1969: Ted Kennedy drives off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, killing his aide Mary Jo Kopechne. Around this time, it seems that some of the tragedies start to be caused by Kennedys rather than happening to them.
- 1973: Ted Kennedy’s son Edward loses a leg to cancer.
- 1973: RFK’s son Joseph is driving when he wrecks his car, leaving a passenger paralyzed.
- 1984: RFK’s son David dies of a drug overdose.
- 1991: Kennedy daughter Jean’s son William Kennedy Smith goes on trial for rape. This was about the time I tuned into all the Kennedy news. It was the era of news going 24/7: Clarence Hill and Anita Thomas, the OJ case, and then William Kennedy Smith on trial. I remember thinking learning about WKS and old uncle Teddy hitting the bars, and thinking he was probably totally guilty. Then, I wasn’t too happy when he was acquitted.
- 1997: RFK’s son Michael dies in a ski accident. Earlier, Michael was in hot water for having an affair with the family babysitter.
- 1999: JFK’s son John crashes while piloting a plane, killing himself, his wife, and his sister-in-law.
- 2012: RFK’s son Robert Kennedy’s wife Mary is found hanged in a barn behind their home.
I guess I’d have to say that there were certainly many sad things that happened to this family through no fault of their own. But as the years went on, it seems that they began making progressively worse choices that led to the perpetuation of an apparent “curse.” All their wealth and influence hasn’t led them to make especially good decisions. You have to remember, too, that there are a lot of Kennedys: Joe and Rose had 9 children, then RFK had 11. So just statistically they’re bound to have more tragedy — and more good things. Because let’s not forget that along with tragedy, the Kennedys have also made millions, had a president, and almost-president, a senator, and numerous other powerful family members.
Here’s where Robert and Mary Kennedy lived … it looks strange to me; more like a college dormitory than a house.
What do you think? Does tragedy seem to follow Kennedys more than the rest of us mere mortals?