How the JFK Assassination Affected the British Royal Family

When John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in November 1963, the event rocked a nation in the midst of the Cold War. But America wasn’t the only place feeling the effects of the tragedy. Allies from Berlin to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth was several months’ pregnant, mourned as well.

Immediately after the assassination, British Prime Minister Alexander Douglas-Home spoke on behalf of the UK. “Tonight I fear there is no comfort that I can bring to the American people … nor indeed to men anywhere who care for tolerance and liberty and justice and peace,” he said.

At JFK’s November 24 state funeral, Prince Phillip showed up to represent the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II’s pregnancy prevented her from traveling. However, in May 1965, the Queen dedicated a memorial to the slain U.S. president at Runnymede, England.

Queen Elizabeth’s moving remarks that day showed how the JFK assasssination affected her and her family.

The Queen described the ‘unprecedented intensity of that wave of grief.’

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, wipes a tear from her eye at a ceremony dedicating a memorial to her father. Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II sit in front of her. | Bettman/Getty Images

In her remarks, Elizabeth referenced her early meeting with JFK, whose father Joe served as ambassador to the UK in the late 1930s. She described it as “that doom-laden period” prior to World War II. The Queen continued by remarking how Kennedy maintained his ties to Britain afterward.

Then, Elizabeth discussed the Kennedys who died with a connection to the UK, including JFK’s brother, who died fighting in WWII, and his sister who was buried there. “Bonds like these cannot be broken,” she said. Next, she addressed the impact of JFK’s death.

Queen Elizabeth noted “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.”

She added that the heavy sadness “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.”

Elizabeth’s dedication of the JFK memorial had a moving ending.

5th June 1961: Prince Philip, Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Buckingham Palace, London. | PNA Rota/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth continued by officially dedicating the memorial at Runnymede. She said that plot of English soil was “bequeathed in perpetuity to the American people.” Her final lines brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance.

Elizabeth declared the plot of land to be “in memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whom in death my people still mourn, and whom in life they loved and admired.” Today, you can hear a wave of applause flood the video’s soundtrack.

Though the World War the two countries fought together had ended, the tragedies had not. In 1979, the British royal family felt the same type of shock when Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen, died at the hands of IRA terrorists.

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