Chatsworth’s Most Famous Brides (Part 2) – Kick Kennedy

Remember Andrew Cavendish, the son and heir to the 10th Duke of Devonshire, and husband to Deborah Mitford?

Well Andrew was actually the Duke’s second son. His older brother Billy became the 11th Duke, only to be killed in action in the Second World War. But before his untimely demise, Billy only went and married the sister of future US President John F Kennedy. As you do.

Time for some more Chatsworth marriage intrigue…

 

That’s Kick Kennedy in the front row, right next to her brother, the future JFK.


The Glamour and Scandal of Chatsworth’s JFK Connection

Kathleen Kennedy was the rebel of the nine Kennedy children. She got the nickname ‘Kick’ for being so much fun to be around. After moving to the UK with her US ambassador father, she was named debutante of the year in 1938, when she was 18.

 

Kick (left) caused quite a stir as a London debutante. Here she is with mum Rose and sister Rosemary. Credit: Getty Images.

 

Kick’s arrival on the scene was a sensation, and her lust for life and lack of pretence charmed the members of British high society. She chewed gum. She started food fights at fancy dinner parties. She called the Duke of Marlborough (Winston Churchill’s cousin) ‘Dukie Wookie’.

And when she met William Cavendish, heir to Chatsworth and the future Duke of Devonshire, William became Billy, and Billy and Kick fell in love.

Then the Second World War happened. Despite her protests, Kick was sent back to the US and separated from Billy, who was in the British Army. Undaunted, Kick managed to return to the UK four years later as a Red Cross volunteer to rejoin the love of her life.

 

Kick became known as ‘the girl on the bicycle’ during WW2 after this photo of her appeared in the Daily Mail in 1943.

 

But both families were strongly against Billy and Kick being together: Billy was Protestant and the Kennedys were devoutly Catholic. In the ultimate act of defiance, the couple got married in a 10-minute civil ceremony in 1944.

Kick wore a pink crepe dress paid for with clothing ration coupons. Only one of Kick’s siblings attended the ceremony.

 

Kick and Billy on their wedding day in Chelsea in May 1944.

 

Not exactly the society event of the year the wedding might have been.

Only four months later, Billy was killed by a German sniper in Belgium.

More scandal was to come. Back in England, Kick began a relationship with the Earl of Fitzwilliam, a married man and notorious gambler and womaniser. Shocked by her actions, Kick’s parents threatened to disown her.

And when Kick and the Earl were killed in a plane crash in France soon after, the Kennedy family kept the tragedy quiet, not wanting her brother JFK’s blossoming political career to be consumed by the inevitable scandal that Kick’s love life would ignite. Kick was only 28 when she died.

It all sounds like a storyline from The Crown, doesn’t it?

 

Kick Kennedy’s grave at Chatsworth, with the flowers left by JFK.

 

Kick is buried in the village of Edensor, here on the Chatsworth Estate. While he was President, her beloved brother JFK made a special detour from a state visit in 1963 to come to Chatsworth and pray at her graveside. Her great-niece and namesake, the American actress Kick Kennedy, also visited Edensor in 2016.


Next up: Georgiana, the Empress of Fashion.

Missed part 1? Here’s the story of Debo, Mitford sister and Chatsworth saviour.


Fancy following in Kick’s Chatsworth footsteps?