President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jackie Kennedy's two kids, Caroline and John F. Kennedy Jr., were 5 and 2 when JFK was assassinated
Decades after their time in the White House, the Kennedy family left a lasting imprint American politics. The legacies of President John F. Kennedy and former first lady Jackie Kennedy were carried on by their late son, John F. Kennedy Jr., and upheld by their daughter, Caroline Kennedy.
JFK and Jackie welcomed four children during their marriage, although only Caroline and JFK Jr. ever left the hospital. In 1956 — one year before Caroline's arrival — Jackie gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Arabella. The couple's fourth child, son Patrick, was born during JFK's presidential tenure, though he died 39 hours after his premature birth in August 1963.
Of all the modern presidential children, Caroline and JFK Jr. had perhaps the most unique introduction to the White House. Caroline, who was nearly 3 at the time of her father’s election, and her younger brother John, born days after JFK won the presidency, spent their earliest years at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Both their lives were marked by tragedy early on when their dad was assassinated in 1963; their uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated five years later. Tragedy struck the family again in 1999 when JFK Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren Bessette died in a plane crash.
Though the Kennedys suffered several other losses, they also experienced success. Before he died, JFK Jr. started a magazine and was on the verge of launching his own political career. Caroline married her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, in 1986, and the pair have three children together.
In the years since her mother and brother died, Caroline has built a long career in the political and legal spheres. Her son, Jack, has also shown an interest in carrying on the family legacy through law, politics or both — and bears a striking resemblance to his late uncle.
Here is everything to know about John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy’s two children, Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr.
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, 65
Caroline Bouvier Kennedy was born to JFK and Jackie on Nov. 27, 1957. She was almost 3 years old when her father was elected president of the United States and was just 5 when he died.
The Kennedy family nanny, Maud Shaw, was the person who told Caroline about her father’s death. Shaw wrote in her 1965 memoir: “I sat on the edge of [Caroline's] bed [that night] and felt tears well up in my eyes. Caroline looked up at me. ‘What’s the matter, Miss Shaw? Why are you crying?’ I took her in my arms. ‘I can’t help crying, Caroline, because I have some very sad news.’ ”
Shaw continued, “Then I told her. It was a dreadful time for us both. Eventually she fell asleep while I sat on the bed, still patting her. At last I tiptoed from the room, leaving the door open just a crack, as always.”
Caroline grew up in New York City, and after her uncle RFK was assassinated, Jackie moved her and JFK Jr. to Greece, where they briefly lived with Jackie's second husband, Aristotle Onassis. As a child, Caroline partially inspired the Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline.”
After college, she worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she met her husband, Edwin Schlossberg. The couple married on July 19, 1986, and Caroline graduated from Columbia Law School two years later. Since then, she has worked in law and with her family’s various causes, including the Kennedy Library Foundation and the Profile in Courage Award.
That same year, she gave birth to her older daughter, Rose Kennedy Schlossberg. Caroline and Edwin had two more children, Tatiana Celia Kennedy Schlossberg, born in 1990, and John Bouvier Kennedy “Jack” Schlossberg, born in 1993.
Following her mother's death in 1994, Caroline published The Best-Loved Poems of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, a collection of poetry by Jackie’s favorite poets and by Jackie herself in 2001. Six years later, she published A Family Christmas, which included notes and stories from her family.
From 2013 to 2017, Caroline served as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. During that time, Caroline's son Jack briefly lived with her in the country. Caroline and Jack have also stepped onto the political stage together in recent years. The mother-son duo appeared virtually at the Democratic National Convention to support presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020. Since 2022, she has served as the U.S. ambassador to Australia.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. was born to JFK and Jackie on Nov. 25, 1960, just 17 days after his father was elected president of the United States. JFK Jr. spent his early years in the White House, where he would entertain his dad (and photographers) by hiding under his father’s desk.
JFK Jr. and Caroline were raised with the help of nannies, including Shaw, who worked with the family for more than seven years. In her 1965 memoir, she wrote, “I nursed the children from the cradle and came to love them just as if they had been my own. Happily they repaid me with their own love and affection.”
After President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, a photo of 3-year-old JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin came to symbolize the shattering loss. Historian Steven M. Gillon later wrote that Jackie had just one regret in raising her son.
“Jackie told people she regretted naming John after his father,” Gillon told PEOPLE in 2019. “She realized it only added to the burden. The irony is that in the effort to honor her husband, she inadvertently made her son’s life more challenging.”
The loss of his father marked John his entire life. Though he rarely spoke about his father's assassination, he referred to it as "the one fundamental fact of my life." An active child and teen, he once told a friend, “If I had to stop and think about it all, I would just sit down and fall apart.”
However, he found a way to channel some of that energy when he established the political magazine George in 1995. As friends and former staffers told The Hollywood Reporter, running the publication gave him a purpose he had lacked in earlier years.
JFK Jr. was one of the world's most eligible bachelors before getting married — he was named PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive in 1988 — and his mother and sister had strong opinions about the women he dated. Jackie never met Carolyn Bessette, whom he married in September 1996.
JFK Jr. and Carolyn were enormously popular with the public and the press, and they were often chased by paparazzi while out. Seeking privacy, the couple pulled off a top-secret, ultra-private wedding ceremony in the First Baptist African Church on Cumberland Island, Georgia.
Photographer Dennis Reggie spoke to Vanity Fair in 2021 about the famous photograph of JFK Jr. kissing his wife’s hand. “It was an incredibly magical moment,” he said. “John reached for the hand of Carolyn; she was caught off guard."
Nearly three years after their wedding, JFK Jr., Carolyn and her sister Lauren tragically died in a plane crash on July 16, 1999. The trio were en route to the wedding of Rory Kennedy, JFK Jr.’s cousin, on Martha’s Vineyard in a plane that he piloted.
Many have speculated that JFK Jr. would have entered politics himself — in the early ‘90s, he began his foray into law, working as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan for four years, according to The New York Times.
As author Gillon told PEOPLE in 2020, “John would have been president of the United States and I think the tone of our politics would have been completely different. John would be a force for healing and bringing people together."
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