The Kennedy Curse: Family Tragedies - JFK, RFK, etc

Every family must deal with misfortune and tragedy; however, not every family must do it in front of a nation, and with such frequency as the Kennedys. Kennedy family patriarch Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. used his immense wealth and influence to encourage his sons' political careers, but their luck ended there. From the WWII death of Joseph Jr., to the unexplained mental illness of Rosemary, to JFK's and RFK's political assassinations, the Kennedy family has seen more than its fair share of terrible circumstances. But, they remain America's royal family. In this video, explores the Kennedy Curse.

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The Kennedy Curse

They are America's royal family. Welcome to, and today we'll be exploring the Kennedy Curse.

Kennedy Family Origins

The Irish-American Kennedy family rose to prominence as dedicated and wealthy Democratic Party members. Their charisma, good looks and commitment to public service fascinated the public; however, it did not save them from tragic ends: many Kennedy family members died prematurely, which led to the suggestion of a “Kennedy Curse.”

Joe Kennedy, Sr.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. was part of the family's second generation, and he amassed impressive wealth after foreseeing the crash of 1929. He used his money and influence to bankroll his sons' political futures.


But that luck ran out during the third generation: Joseph's daughter Rosemary was born with unexplained mental health problems that worsened over time. At 23, she was lobotomized and lived the rest of her days as a shadow of her former self. Ironically, she was the first third-generation Kennedy to die of natural causes when she passed away in 2005. Her older sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was so moved by her sister's situation, she founded the Special Olympics in 1968.

Joe, Jr.

It was their older brother, firstborn Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., who was supposed to lead the family to political greatness. Unfortunately, this all-American was killed-in-action during a classified World War II mission when his plane exploded. Another plane incident took his sister, Kathleen Agnes Kennedy, just four years later. The Kennedy family legacy then fell to the next-oldest son, John Fitzgerald.

John Fitzgerald and Jackie Kennedy

As JFK's political life improved, his personal life worsened: he and wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy suffered through a miscarriage, the birth of a stillborn baby, and the death of their two-day-old son. By then, John was president and the couple had produced two heirs: Caroline Bouvier and John Fitzgerald, Jr.

JFK Assassination

The most infamous example of the Kennedy Curse was yet to come: on November 22nd, 1963, JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald while traveling through Dallas, Texas. The Kennedy family was left with two sons: Robert Francis and Edward Moore, better known as Ted.

RFK Assassination

It was Bobby who tried to lead the family's political aspirations. After serving as Attorney General, he became a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination; however he was assassinated on the campaign trail in 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan. Much like his brother's murder five years earlier, RFK's death sparked elaborate conspiracy theories about who was ultimately behind the crime.

Ted's Plane Crash

Teddy was the last Kennedy son from that generation left alive, but he was not immune to personal problems: in 1964, he survived a plane crash that killed two and left him with chronic pain. His months-long recuperation stirred his interest in healthcare issues, but was not the last of his difficulties.


In 1969, a car he was driving went into the water off Chappaquiddick, killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. This not only stunted his political future, it also caused his wife to have a third miscarriage. Ted remained a senator until his brain cancer death in 2009, before his dream of universal healthcare was realized.

David Kennedy

The Curse carried down to the next generation: Bobby Kennedy's son, David, almost drowned days before his 13th birthday, but was saved by his dad. Later that night, David watched live as his father's assassination was announced. He soon began abusing drugs. In 1973, he was injured and his girlfriend was paralyzed when the car driven by his brother, Joseph P. Kennedy II, crashed. David's drug use worsened, until he died of an overdose in 1984.

Michael Kennedy

David's younger brother Michael also met a tragic end in 1997 when he crashed into a tree on an Aspen mountain while playing football on skis.

JFK, Jr.

But, the most notable fourth-generation Kennedy was JFK, Jr. John-John enchanted the masses on his third birthday at his father's funeral, and remained a fixture throughout his life. Women across the country cried when he married Carolyn Bessette in 1996. However, just three years later the pair and her sister died when the plane he was flying towards Martha's Vineyard crashed into the ocean due to pilot error.

“They Had Every Gift But Length of Years”

The Kennedys remain an integral piece of the American puzzle. While every family endures misfortune, it is the frequency and manner of the Kennedy tragedies that make them remarkable. As Ted Kennedy said after JFK, Jr.'s death: “They had every gift but length of years.”

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