Carolyn Bessette Kennedy ‘Rattled’ and ‘Horrified’ by Princess Diana’s Death

People the world over mourned the death of Princess Diana in 1997 but for Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Diana’s death became a cautionary tale about what could happen to her husband, John F. Kennedy Jr. (JFK Jr.), or herself.

Once the couple got married, they became one of the most famous couples in the world and were constantly being photographed by paparazzi. Get the details on why Princess Diana’s death left Carolyn Bessette Kennedy “rattled” and “horrified” ahead.

‘Carolyn was horrified by Diana’s death’

A friend of JFK Jr.’s, RoseMarie Terenzio, and his executive assistant at George magazine told People about the impact Princess Diana’s death had on Bessette Kennedy.

“At the time, John and Diana were the two most famous people in the world,” Terenzio said. “Carolyn was horrified by Diana’s death. She worried about her children and how they’d grow up without their mom.”

When Diana died that fateful night in Paris in August 1997, Bessette Kennedy and JFK Jr. had been married a little over one year. They married in a secret ceremony on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia and thought the press wouldn’t be interested in them after they tied the knot.

JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“They thought that people were going to be interested in the wedding, and if they could pull off the wedding being private, their marriage would not be that interesting,” a college friend of Bessette Kennedy’s told Town & Country. “She’s off the market; business is done; they’re going to be private citizens.”

The possibility of leaving behind her husband — and maybe someday her own kids — upset Bessette Kennedy further.

“But she was also rattled by the fact that it could happen to John—that it could happen to her,” Terenzio added.  “She feared, ‘Now they’re going to focus on us even more because they don’t have her.’”

JFK Jr. knew ‘press was not going to go away’

JFK Jr., also saddened by Princess Diana’s death, didn’t express himself the same way as his wife.

“The more things were amplified, the less he would show it,” Terenzio explained. “He felt bad for her and her family, but to him, it was a no-win situation. The press was not going to go away.”

Kathy McKeon, First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s former assistant and later part-time nanny, recounted a weekend she and her husband, Seamus McKeon, spent in Hyannis Port with JFK Jr. and Bessette Kennedy, in her memoir, Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family, during which they talked about the paparazzi.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy walk by photographers to attend the preview of the movie, Air Force One, in Washington DC. | JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images

The weekend trip happened to coincide with Princess Diana’s funeral on Sept. 6, 1997.

“We talked about it that night,” McKeon said. “John said, ‘Tell Carolyn how my mom handled photographers.’ I said, ‘She was nice to them—she smiled and gave them one good picture.’ He said, ‘Carolyn, did you get that? You’re treating them all wrong.’ She said, ‘I hate those bastards.’”

Bessette Kennedy also told her husband and close friends about a particular run-in she had with photographers.

“She told us about them cornering her and running and chasing her into a building and they were right on top of her,” Seamus said. “She said, ‘I’m terrified of them.”

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, arrive for a reception at the Whitney Museum. | Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The constant scrutiny was the last thing Bessette Kennedy wanted. Even her minimalistic wardrobe gave off an unassuming “don’t look at me” vibe.

“She couldn’t take that,” McKeon added. “She wasn’t brought up with it. John was. Carolyn wasn’t. She wanted peace and quiet and for nobody to bother her.”

Sadly, her wish never came true. Paparazzi continued to hound Bessette Kennedy until her untimely death at the age of 33 when she died in a plane crash with her husband, JFK Jr., 38, and sister, Lauren Bessette, 34, on July 16, 1999.