You may have heard that Queen Elizabeth II was never exactly a fan of Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John F. Kennedy. JFK numbered among the many presidents whom the queen met over the years. But thanks at least in part to Netflix hit The Crown, many Americans have realized that there was actually a feud between the queen and the first lady.
Read on to discover the real reason why Queen Elizabeth II didn’t like Jacqueline Kennedy.
1. Jacqueline Kennedy criticized the queen and Buckingham Palace
One reason Queen Elizabeth II may not have loved Jacqueline Kennedy? The first lady had some not-so-nice things to say about the monarch and her home. As NBC reports, historians say “there is some evidence that Jacqueline Kennedy was critical of Buckingham Palace and the queen.”
Photographer Cecil Beaton “claimed that Jackie was unimpressed with the palace furnishings and the queen’s comparatively old-fashioned wardrobe and hairstyle” during the 1961 visit that she and the president made to Great Britain.
Next: The queen didn’t like that this happened when the president and first lady arrived.
2. Britain ‘went mad’ for the first lady when she arrived
The Washington Post reports that according to historians, “Britain did indeed go positively mad for Jackie when she arrived. The queen wasn’t pleased.” One wrote that Queen Elizabeth II’s resentment toward Jacqueline Kennedy was real (even though Netflix dramatized it a bit).
News accounts, as well as biographies of both Jacqueline and Elizabeth, note a real tension between the two women during the Kennedys’ 1961 visit to Buckingham Palace. That includes a “passive-aggressive catfight” that Netflix left out of The Crown.
Next: Queen Elizabeth II and Jacqueline Kennedy fought about this before the evening began.
3. The queen and the first lady fought over the guest list
The Washington Post reports that the queen and the first lady had a passive-aggressive tussle over the guest list for dinner. The first lady wanted to invite her sister and brother-in-law, a Polish prince who had been divorced twice. “One divorce back then was too many for the queen and the monarchy,” the Post reports. “The queen objected. The first lady objected to the objection.”
The queen relented. But she also retaliated by deciding not to invite “her own more fashionable and risqué sister, Princess Margaret, and their aunt Princess Marina. The queen knew the first lady wanted to be photographed with them.” Jacqueline Kennedy reportedly told her friend Gore Vidal of the guest list, “No Margaret, no Marina, no one except every Commonwealth minister of agriculture they could find.”
Next: The first lady was critical of this choice of the queen’s.
4. Jacqueline Kennedy was skeptical of the queen’s new haircut
Vanity Fair reports that in addition to being unimpressed by Buckingham Palace, Jacqueline Kennedy was also skeptical of the queen’s dress and hairstyle. The first lady dressed for dinner in a sleek, blue silk Chez Ninon gown, while the queen wore a more old-fashioned a-line tulle dress.
The Crown suggests that Kennedy wasn’t the only person who was skeptical of the queen’s newly cropped, curled hairstyle, but we don’t know for sure whether Prince Philip or anybody else really joked about it.
Next: Queen Elizabeth II may have felt this when Jacqueline Kennedy arrived.
5. The queen may have felt upstaged by the first lady
Vogue reports that though we don’t know for sure, it’s possible that Queen Elizabeth II did feel upstaged by Jacqueline Kennedy when the first lady arrived, looking glamorous as she always did. Robert Lacey, a historical consultant for the Netflix show, tells Vogue that while some of the events on the show are imagined, they aren’t unlikely.
6. Jacqueline Kennedy said there was no obvious chemistry between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
The Washington Post reports that Jacqueline Kennedy also told Gore Vidal about her perception of the chemistry — or lack thereof — between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. “The queen was pretty heavy-going,” Kennedy reportedly said.
The first lady also made a pretty pointed criticism about the royal couple. “Philip was nice, but nervous. One felt absolutely no relationship between them.” That can’t have sat well with the queen if or when she heard about the first lady’s comments.
Next: The president offered this gesture.
7. JFK tried to break the ice by bringing a hostess gift
Vanity Fair reports that John F. Kennedy presented Queen Elizabeth II with a signed portrait of himself in a silver Tiffany frame. The photograph bore a message he had handwritten, “To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with appreciation and the highest esteem, John F. Kennedy.”
It sounds like a sweet gesture. But as Vanity Fair notes, “the hostess gift did not seem to thaw the monarch’s steely veneer during the meal.” Jacqueline Kennedy reportedly said afterward, “I think the queen resented me.”
Next: The queen did give the first lady some advice.
8. But the queen did offer the first lady some advice
Vanity Fair notes that despite the tension between them, Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II did seem to share a warm moment after dinner. The queen reportedly asked the first lady about her recent trip to Canada.
Jacqueline Kennedy, still getting used to life as a public figure, reportedly told Elizabeth how tiring it was to always be on display. The queen reportedly responded reassuringly, “One gets crafty after a while and learns how to save oneself.”
Next: Other guests may not have noticed the tension.
9. Everybody else thought the evening was pleasant enough
Though Queen Elizabeth II may have resented having Jacqueline Kennedy at her dinner table, the monarch obviously kept things civil. In fact, the rivalry may not have been obvious to any of the other guests in attendance at the banquet. Town and Country reports that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan described the evening in his diary as “very pleasant.”
Kennedy’s chief of protocol, Angier Biddle Duke, used the same phrase when he spoke about the evening in a 1964 interview. “It was a delightful evening, very pleasant, very charming, very attractive evening! I think everybody enjoyed it very much.” The president himself also seemed to enjoy the banquet, writing to the queen, “We shall always cherish the memory of that delightful evening.”
Next: This scandalous accusation about Jacqueline Kennedy may have some basis in fact.
10. Jacqueline Kennedy may have been under the influence of drugs when visiting the queen
Newsweek reports that though The Crown takes some liberties in its portrayal of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Jacqueline Kennedy, the show may not be entirely off-base when it depicts the first lady high on a cocktail of drugs.
As Newsweek notes, the infamous Max Jacobson — also called “Dr. Feelgood” — visited the White House more than 30 times between 1961 and 1962. He gave his other clients injections of addictive liquid methamphetamine and steroids. As Newsweek notes, “It’s not confirmed, though it’s plausible, that Jackie may have been under the good doctor’s influence while visiting the queen.”
Next: The resentment probably began before the two met in person.
11. But the queen resented the first lady before they even met
Queen Elizabeth II had several reasons to dislike Jacqueline Kennedy after the two met (and fought over the guest list). But the monarch may have already decided that she didn’t like the first lady before she even arrived at Buckingham Palace.
Newsweek reports that according to historians, Queen Elizabeth II resented Jacqueline Kennedy before they even met. “Despite being the same age as Elizabeth, Jackie was considered a style icon (not to mention almost a modern American queen in her own right).”
Next: But the rivalry almost definitely didn’t have this effect.
12. The rivalry likely didn’t affect foreign policy
NBC is quick to assure viewers of The Crown that the rivalry between Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II almost certainly didn’t shape foreign policy. And it likely didn’t play a role in the queen’s travel plans.
On The Crown, Elizabeth is jealous of the American first lady, who wows world leaders with her charm, elegance and command of the French language. And so Foy’s Elizabeth, eager to even the scales with Jackie, travels to the commonwealth nation of Ghana to prove that she, too, is a major player on the world stage. It’s a good conceit — if only it were true.
Next: Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II met on other occasions, too.
13. Jacqueline Kennedy visited Queen Elizabeth II again
Vanity Fair notes that despite the icy tone of the 1961 visit, Jacqueline Kennedy visited the monarch again the following year. This time, she went without her husband. She was staying in town with her sister, who lived several blocks away from Buckingham Palace. So the queen invited the first lady to lunch on March 28, 1962.
Jacqueline Kennedy said little to the press about the visit, reporting only, “I don’t think I should say anything about it except how grateful I am and how charming she was.”
Next: The queen responded in this way to JFK’s assassination.
14. John F. Kennedy’s assassination inspired a period of mourning at Buckingham Palace
Newsweek reports that in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination — which was shocking enough on its own — Queen Elizabeth II was surprised to see such a public display of grief. “It inspired a period of mourning at the palace,” Newsweek notes.
The queen decreed that the bell in Westminster Abbey should ring for Kennedy, as it had for late members of the royal family. Newsweek adds, “We’ll never know what the women said to each other behind closed doors, but it’s clear that the queen reacted with deep grief and horror to the death of Jackie’s husband.”
Next: The queen also did this after the assassination.
15. The queen created a memorial for JFK after his assassination
Vanity Fair also reports that two years after John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, Queen Elizabeth II opened a memorial for him at Runnymede in Berkshire. Jacqueline Kennedy attended the dedication, along with her children Caroline and John. The queen gave a speech, saying:
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.
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