Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Last Knight of JFK’s Camelot has Died

A tribute to Hugh D. "Yusha" Auchincloss III

By Robert Hudson Westover

I believe the course of history changed one summer evening over steak and daiquiris at the Auchincloss family estate, Merrywood, in northern Virginia. That was the night Hugh D. “Yusha” Auchincloss III entertained, with his stepsister, a young Congressman from Massachusetts.

Despite some confusion by biographers and journalists, the dinner party was Yusha’s idea (or so he told me). His stepsister, Jackie, was attempting to win over the heart of a man she had met a few months prior but was getting nowhere with him romantically. 

His name was John F. Kennedy. 

After that fateful dinner party a match was made and shortly thereafter Jaqueline Bouvier would become Mrs. John F. Kennedy and play a role in history that would put both her and her husband in the pantheon of the unforgettable personages of recorded civilization.

Yusha Auchincloss (left) with Robert H. Westover
Hammersmith Farm, Newport, RI 2013
Years later, at another dinner party, at yet another Auchincloss estate, Hammersmith Farm, in Newport, Rhode Island, Yusha had this to say about the couple he’d helped to match make,  “First, Mr. President, I want to congratulate you. You’ve been a very good president. I’m glad you had your wedding here in Newport. I’m glad you’re celebrating your wedding anniversary here with Jackie. But I have to remind you: if you hadn’t gotten engaged to Jackie, my stepsister, neither one of you would have been in the White House. And I wouldn’t have had a chance to stay in the White House. So I have to thank you for that!”

What Yusha left out in his now famous toast was that without him, JFK’s Camelot would possibly have never existed.

I call Yusha a knight of Camelot because he not only facilitated that decisive evening at Merrywood, he also became an important adviser to the future President on Middle Eastern issues right up until JFK’s assassination.

But most importantly he was a man both JFK and Jackie could confide in and never worry about a tell-all-book-deal. The First couple was not mistaken in relying on this thoughtful, gentle man. He never betrayed them. He never revealed to the press so many of their secrets. Because of this, few know that Yusha spent many an hour at a sickly John Kennedy’s bedside reading or watching TV with the future President. And, few know that it was Yusha who Jackie considered her dearest friend until her dying day. “You know how much I love you…” she wrote to him just before her death in 1994.

My relationship with Yusha developed in the twilight years of his life. His beloved aunt, a former Russian countess, Olga C. Morgan, was a dear friend of mine and someone I was so close to that I referred to her as my “honorary godmother”. Yusha and I would sit and listen to tapes that I had recorded of Olga, who had passed away in 1991(to read more about my relationship with Olga see previous blog postings below). We became instant “family” and he let me call him “uncle” because “a lot of people call me that…” he jovially commented in his charming wit that only those who knew him could understand.

My husband, Tom Fulton (left), chats with Uncle Yusha about middle east politics. The cane Yusha is holding
was given to him by President John F. Kennedy on one of his visits to Hammersmith Farm in Newport, RI

I will greatly miss my uncle Yusha and only regret I had not spent more time with him. He was the embodiment of a true Noble spirit. If the world were full of Yusha Auchincloss’ we’d have a much better place to live and, now without him, the world has one less living example of honesty and kindness.

The aspect of his passing I'm comforted by is knowing that he died peacefully at his beloved home on Hammersmith Farm—the home of his ancestors. “Behold the upright man, for the end of that man is peace.”

Hugh D. "Yusha" Auchincloss III with Robert H. Westover at
Hammersmith Farm, June, 2014

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