The “Hidden” Kennedy Family

LORELAI: I can’t believe [the Beales] were related to Jackie.

RORY: Well, the Kennedys kind of hid them in the background for many years.

LORELAI: Well, when you’re a Kennedy, how do you even choose who in the family to hide?

I’m not sure that there’s much evidence that the Kennedy family “hid” Jackie’s relatives away. Jackie and her sister Lee Radziwill certainly didn’t seem to pay them much attention until they began to be featured in the tabloid press as eccentric upper-class hoarders.

However, it’s said Jackie and Lee paid for Grey Gardens to be cleaned up to some extent – the house in the documentary is actually much less of a hovel than it had been previously. And it was Jackie and Lee who approached the filmmakers about the documentary, hoping it could be a way for the Beales to make some money, so they actually helped give them publicity, rather than hid them away.

Lorelai’s snarky comment reflects the number of scandals the Kennedy family have had over the years. She may be specifically thinking of Rose Marie “Rosemary” Kennedy (1918-2005) [pictured], the sister of President John F. Kennedy. Due to a difficult birth, she was developmentally delayed, although it is unknown to what extent, as the Kennedy family kept her life private.

When Rosemary was in the early twenties, she became increasingly irritable, and went into convulsions, as well as attacks of rage in which she would hit other people. At the age of 23, her father, Joseph Kennedy, agreed to her being lobotomised to help control her violent mood swings – he did not tell his wife until the procedure had taken place.

The lobotomy had a devastating effect on Rosemary, whose mental capacity became that of a two year old. She couldn’t walk or speak intelligibly, and was incontinent. She was immediately institutionalised, and separated from her family for over 20 years – her siblings did not know where she was, and the press was told she was “reclusive”. After her father’s death in 1969, she gradually became part of the family again. By that time, she had learned to walk, although with a limp.

Some say that Rosemary was one of the inspirations for Eunice Kennedy Shriver to later found the Special Olympics, although Eunice said that the Games were never about one individual.