President Kennedy & Lord Harlech

A newly-discovered trove of papers in two Barrow Hepburn & Gale despatch boxes from the man at the heart of the Kennedy legend.

 
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Matthew Haley, Director and Head of Books at Bonhams, comments exclusively for Barrow Hepburn & Gale on this important find and eventual sale.

‘David Ormsby Gore, Lord Harlech, locked his despatch boxes before he died in 1985. When Bonhams were instructed to sell the contents of Glyn Cywarch, the family home, in 2017, we found these boxes and heard rumours from the household staff that there might be letters from Jackie Kennedy inside them – certainly, a gentle shake of the boxes indicated something inside. Like in any country house, there were hundreds of keys tucked away in drawers and we tried key after key but none of them were right. As the auction deadline approached, I took the despatch boxes to a furniture restorer on an industrial estate near Oxford. While the restorer set to work on the locks, I sat nervously on the floor with his pet dachshund on my lap, trying to ignore the sound of drilling and sawing.

 
 

As the first lock sprang open, the restorer brought the box to me and said “you should be the one that opens it.” I slowly lifted the lid, and found piles of letters: White House stationery, John F. Kennedy’s angular signature, and letter after letter from Jacqueline Kennedy in her unmistakable loopy handwriting. It was a breath-taking moment, revealing intensely personal correspondence that had been locked out of sight for three decades. Bonhams eventually sold the despatch boxes and their contents for £100,000.’