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Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

Review

Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

Since the early part of the 20th century, the Kennedy clan has made headlines. While the men, including Joe Sr., Jack and Bobby, gained the most notoriety, one sister, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, was every bit as brave and bold as her brothers, living life to the fullest and grabbing fun where and when she found it.

Born into an Irish Catholic family in 1920, Kick was the fourth child of nine and the second daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. As part of a family whose motto was “Kennedys never cry,” Kick embraced the lifestyle wholeheartedly. Independent, outgoing and confident, Kick took after the father she worshiped and who adored her in return much more than she did the mother who was a distant and devout disciplinarian and who never hugged or kissed her children.

"While Kick Kennedy's story had a tragic ending, as did the stories of so many of her siblings, reading the fascinating details of her life and the poignant highs and lows she experienced make the tale all the more bittersweet."

In spite of having a father who engaged in numerous illicit affairs and a mother who found solace in her social status, fortune and possessions, Kick grew into a well-rounded young woman. Educated at convent schools, both in the United States and abroad, from age 13 on, Kick was popular among those of her social set and never lacked for invitations no matter where she was in the world.

When her father was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1938, Kick enjoyed a London season where she made her debut and was presented at court. An immediate hit with British society, Kick developed a love for England and a desire to remain there. Unfortunately, by the fall of 1939, Germany invaded Poland and Ambassador Kennedy sent his family home to safety in the United States.

Determined to return to England, Kick began working for the Red Cross in 1943. Her job would be to hand out coffee and doughnuts, and chat with the lonely GIs to provide them with a taste of home so far away. Once back in England, Kick quickly reunited with a man who had caught her interest during her tenure there before, William “Billy” Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington and heir apparent to the Duke of Devonshire.

Deeply in love, the couple faced obstacles when it came to their plans to marry. Kick, a Catholic, and Billy, an Anglican, knew that there was no way to create a union that would satisfy both families and both religions. Ultimately, Kick turned her back on her Catholic roots to embrace Billy and Anglicanism, much to her mother's despair.

Once married, the couple spent four weeks together before Billy went to fight in World War II in France. Unfortunately, he was killed in battle in Belgium and would never see his bride again. Kick survived the next four years without him before finding love again, this time with a married man, the Earl Fitzwilliam. Instead of achieving her happily ever after, she perished in a plane crash with Fitzwilliam while flying during a storm over the mountains of France.

While Kick Kennedy's story had a tragic ending, as did the stories of so many of her siblings, reading the fascinating details of her life and the poignant highs and lows she experienced make the tale all the more bittersweet. In death, as in life, Kick remains a remarkable woman whose potential sadly went unfulfilled for no reason other than her early demise.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on July 22, 2016

Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth
by Paula Byrne

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2016
  • Genres: Biography, History, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062296272
  • ISBN-13: 9780062296276