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The story of the Kennedy family is one filled with great achievement but overwhelming heartache. Most of us know the Kennedy name from JFK and Jackie Kennedy as they were the 35th POTUS and FLOTUS, but the family’s tragic story begins way before them. The first Kennedy’s to arrive to America were Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy in 1849 from Ireland. The couple ended up in east Boston and continued to live in the area, creating new generations of Kennedy’s that started their long lineage with political ties. Patrick and Bridget had a son P.J., whose brother in law served as the Mayor of Brockton, Massachusetts in 1913. Their son Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was the first Kennedy to gain notable fame for his business successes—mostly in banking and securities trading.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is responsible for Joseph Sr.’s political career, as he appointed him to chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Later in his career he also served a term as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, which was extremely controversial as it was during the lead up to WWII. As I previously stated, the family had many political ties and they continued with Rose Fitzgerald, Joseph Sr.’s wife and the daughter of John F. Fitzgerald. Rose served in the US House of Representatives and as the Mayor of Boston in the late 1890’s.

What’s unfortunate about the Kennedy lineage is they are almost just as famous for their tragic curse as they are for their achievements. It’s no doubt that the Kennedy bunch are highly educated and have tried to overcome many political boundaries; but for some of the family, life was more difficult and painful than it should be. There are entirely too many occurrences with plane crashes and assassinations for it all to be just a coincidence, and by the end of this list you’ll be surprised at just how many people are involved…

20. Joseph Kennedy Jr.

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This is the point in the Kennedy history where the names might start to become more familiar, starting with John, one of their nine children (Joseph Jr., John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted). John F. Kennedy served the US as the 35th president and is most commonly known by his initials J.F.K., but we’ll get to him later.  Joseph Sr. always had high hopes for his children (most of them went to Harvard University) and when their son Joseph Jr. died in WWII the pressure was set on John to succeed politically. Joseph Jr. died in a tragic plane explosion when he was completing a top-secret mission flying over Europe. Unfortunately, it was only two weeks before the war ended when he died at the tender age of 29.

19. Rosemary Kennedy

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However, John wasn’t the only successful one; Robert and Ted became senators. Unfortunately, for Rosemary the eldest Kennedy daughter, the story wasn’t such a happy one. Many women throughout history have been deemed intellectually incompetent or manic for having emotions, and Rosemary was one of them. She was said to have extreme mood swings, which led to her being placed in a mental health facility. Instead of working with doctors and keeping an open mind about her emotional and mental situation, her father thought it would be easier to institutionalize her for his fear of messing up the family’s reputation. While institutionalized she was given a lobotomy. The procedure violently separates the right side of the brain from the left, and it left her unable to walk or talk. The forgotten Rosemary Kennedy died in 2005, spending most of her life in a mental institution.

18. Kathleen Kennedy & Husband

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The fourth child, Kathleen Kennedy, had a slightly more promising life because she wasn’t institutionalized. Her career led her to be appointed to the position of Ambassador to the United Kingdom. While she was in London obliging her duties, she met her husband William Cavendish, Marquess of Harington. The couple married in May 1944 but he was killed in action only four months later. William died by sniper fire in Belgium, right before the war ended, just like her brother Joseph Jr. Before his death he wrote to Kathleen expressing the deepness of the love he had for her, “so unworthy of it all living as I have in reasonable safety and comfort during these years… I have a permanent lump in my throat and long for you to be here as it is an experience which few can have and which I would love to share with you” (Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty)

17. Kathleen Kennedy’s Death

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As if that wasn’t bad enough for Kathleen, to experience the love of her life being taken from her so soon, she suddenly passed away just four short years later. Just as her brother Joseph Jr. did, she too died in a plane crash. She boarded the aircraft expecting a pleasant holiday with friends in France, when the ride ended tragically. The plane lost control in the midst of a storm and the passenger’s last minutes were filled with terror as it bounced around dropping thousands of feet in seconds. When the plane finally made impact all four were killed instantly. Surprisingly, her father was the only one to attend her funeral.

16. JFK & Jackie’s Pregnancy Nightmare

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Back to JFK’s troubled life: Yes, his life didn’t only end tragically but he had some bumps along the away as many of us do. JFK and Jackie Kennedy suffered tremendous loss during their first attempts at starting a family. The first time the couple endured the heartbreak of a miscarriage. The couple had trouble carrying a pregnancy to term, and Jackie gave birth to a stillborn daughter, Arabella, in 1956.  The couple continued to try and in 1963 Jackie had a C-section and gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick. Unfortunately Patrick was premature and died two days after entering this cold world.

15. JFK’s Assassination

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The most notable Kennedy tragedy is definitely JFK’s assassination. On November 22nd, 1963 the world watched as President Kennedy was shot and killed on live television in Dallas, Texas. He was seated next to his wife, Jackie, when a sniper shot him in the head and neck. Jackie’s reaction, as well as the reaction of the entire US, was of shock, dismay, and disbelief as she crawled to safety off the back of the convertible. It was a traumatic and tragic event remembered around the world. He was the 35th P.O.T.U.S and his term lasted from January 1961- November 1963.

14. Ted Kennedy

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After the unbelievable assassination of JFK, Ted Kennedy was also involved in a tragedy. Believe it or not, just like his two other siblings Kathleen and Joseph Jr., he was involved in a plane crash. The plane hit an area of bad weather and was engulfed in a storm, and crashed into an apple orchard in Southampton, Massachusetts. Shockingly, he survived—a rare occurrence when dealing with plane crashes. Somehow, someway Ted survived but the pilot and other passenger were not so lucky. He didn’t escape unharmed however, and he spent copious amounts of time recovering from a broken back and multiple ribs.

13. Ted Kennedy Continued

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As for Ted Kennedy, life got a lot worse for him as time went on. Not only did he lose most of his siblings by this time, he actually ended up killing someone. On July 18th, 1969 Ted drove his car off a one-lane bridge in Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. He survived the wreckage but his friend and companion that was with him, Mary Jo Kopechne, was trapped and drown. The weirdness of this accident is that Ted left the scene and didn’t alert authorities until they had already discovered the wreckage the following day. It seems a bit odd that Ted didn’t try to alert the authorities if it was truly an accident, which he stated it was during his testimony. He only received a two month, suspended jail sentence—perhaps it was due to lack of evidence, or his name that got him out of severe consequences, but one thing is for sure—Mary Jo lost her life that day.

12. Ted’s Issues Didn’t Stop There

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Not only did Ted have legal and moral issues regarding the crash, his wife, Joan Bennett, also had trouble conceiving children before the incident. Fertility issues can cause problems within marriages because of the emotional toll it takes on the prospective parents. The couple had experienced two miscarriages before the Chappaquiddick incident and a third one following it. Joan stood by her husband’s side through the whole court processes and until 1982 when the couple divorced.

11. Robert Kennedy

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As if the family’s history isn’t tragic enough, son Robert Kennedy was also assassinated. In June 1986 Robert, also known as Bobby, was gunned down shortly after midnight. Robert was a United States Senator and was speaking at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles when he was fatally shot exiting through the kitchen. All he was trying to do was live up to his brother’s legacy and it ended his life. There have been too many assassinations and horrible accidents (mostly being plane crashes) throughout the Kennedy family history to brush it off as acts of coincidence.

10. The Kennedy Curse

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The Kennedy curse goes way back, all the way to the first Kennedy’s that came here from Ireland. Patrick Kennedy, the original Kennedy man emigrated from Ireland in 1849 to give his family a new life in America. The family came from a long lineage of farmers and coming to America Patrick plunged his lineage into the American political system. Unfortunately, Patrick wasn’t able to enjoy his new life very long as he died from cholera at 35. Although it wasn’t abnormal for people to die young from disease back then, it seems to have started somewhat of a curse on the family.

9. Kennedy Infants of Tragedy

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The curse followed to his son, the great-uncle of JFK also died from Cholera. Cholera took his life when he was still an infant, perhaps sparking the infamous family curse. John III entered this world on January fourth, 1854, and left it later that year. It seems that this family just can’t catch a break. Another Kennedy that died in infancy was Francis Benedict Kennedy, who would have been the great-aunt of JFK. She perished in 1892, at the precious age of one year and three months. There aren’t easily accessible photo’s that are from that time period, but, here are some cute Kennedy kids from the 1920’s to look at while you read.

8. JFK Jr.

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Following the unfortunate theme of plane crashes: John F. Kennedy Jr. also met the traumatic fate of perishing in a tragic accident while in the air. Jackie and John’s only son died on July 16th, 1999 when his plane went down in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. His wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren also perished in the accident as they were accompanying him. The fact that a majority of this family has died in plane crashes seems a bit too much of a coincidence not to be a curse.

7. David Kennedy

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Coming back to Robert F. Kennedy, his child David, was the fourth out of eleven. David was described as having a strong connection with his father as well as being an introvert and sensitive—and after the death of his father things changed for him. Due to his many emotional difficulties, he had quite a troubled life. He almost drowned at the age of 13, but his father jumped into the ocean, saving his life. Just a day later, the young man watched the assassination announcement of his father—he began abusing drugs shortly after.

6. David Kennedy Continued

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That wasn’t the only hardship for young David; in 1974 there were numerous kidnapping threats against him and his siblings, which caused them to go under secret service protection. Following these threats he was also involved in a car accident where his then girlfriend was left paralyzed. He had a rocky life that left him unstable and in and out of treatment. In 1984 David Kennedy was found dead on the floor of his hotel room from a drug overdose.

5. Michael LeMoyne Kennedy

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Another one of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, Michael LeMoyne Kennedy also had an interesting life that was met with a tragic ending. He was the sixth of eleven children, and was only ten when his father died. He married Victoria Denise Gifford in 1981 and was rumored to have taken part in an affair with the family’s baby sitter—when she was only fourteen. He went to rehab for alcohol abuse shortly after, but never made amends with his wife. In December on 1997 he died in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado.

4. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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Good old Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has also had his fair share of troubles over the years. In 1983 he was stopped at a South Dakota airport and caught concealing heroin. He attempted to make a name for himself with a career in law, but was disbarred and fired shortly after passing his exams, for drug abuse. Kind of ironic that a lawyer was disbarred for illegal drug abuse. He plead guilty and was given community service for his felony possession charge. It’s interesting how he only got community service when there are thousands of people sitting in prison for drug possession. He suffered more personal trouble when his wife, Mary, committed suicide.

3. Caroline Kennedy

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Another close call for the Kennedy family happened when Caroline, daughter of JFK and Jackie, was almost killed in a bomb explosion. The young girl was completing a year-long art course in London, when a car exploded right outside the house she was staying in. Caroline was supposed to be in that car at the very moment it exploded, barely avoiding death. She went on to become an author and diplomat for the US, as well as Ambassador to Japan from 2013-2017.

2. Ted Kennedy Jr.

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Back to the plane crashes… Ted Jr., the second child of Ted Sr., BARELY avoided a plane crash. In 1982 Ted was running ten minutes behind schedule and he missed his flight that was traveling from Washington National Airport to Hollywood International Airport. The plane went down into the Potomac River killing a total of 74 people on board. Even before his close call with death via plane crash, Ted Jr. had a hard life early on as he was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of twelve, resulting in the loss of his right leg.

1. Joseph P. Kennedy

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The father of the famous 35th POTUS had a close call in his life just like many of his children. We’re taking it all the way back to September 16th, 1920 when he was present during the Wall Street bombing. Joseph Kennedy was thrown from the intensity of the blast yet somehow survived the violent outburst. The Kennedy curse didn’t take him that day.