The Tragic 1948 Death Of The Second Eldest Daughter Of The Kennedy Family, Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy, nicknamed Kick, was the fourth child and second daughter of Joseph Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. She was known as a rebellious yet charming child. Author of the biography "Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times" Lynne McTaggart wrote (per the New York Post), "She was the only rebel of the family. If you look at all nine children, she was the only one who didn't march down the prescribed road."

Kathleen was born in 1920 in Massachusetts and moved with her family to New York when she was 7 years old. In 1938, the Kennedys moved to England when Joseph Kennedy Sr. became the Ambassador to Great Britain, and that same year, Kathleen made her formal entrance into society as a debutante. Unlike other young women, however, she wasn't shy and demure. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind and laugh at her own mistakes, and her refreshing and charming personality caught the attention of many. She was often invited to parties and social gatherings, and it was in one of those events, according to British Heritage, where she met the Marquess of Hartington, William Cavendish, who was an eligible bachelor and the future Duke of Devonshire.

Kathleen Kennedy and William Cavendish's short marriage

Kathleen Kennedy and William Cavendish, or Billy as she called him, fell in love. The two were opposites. While Kennedy had an easy and outgoing personality, Cavendish was reserved. However, their romance was cut short in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland and Britain declared war. As reported by the New York Post, Joseph Kennedy Sr. wanted his family to return back to the U.S. Kathleen asked her father if she could stay with Cavendish, but her father refused. Despite the distance, that wasn't the end for the couple.

While in the U.S., Kennedy spent her time volunteering for war efforts. She also worked for the Times-Herald newspaper and became a Red Cross volunteer in London in 1943 (via the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum). She and Cavendish resumed their relationship, and they eventually married in a civil ceremony, much to the dismay of her family (especially her mother, Rose). The Kennedys were Catholics, and Cavendish was a Protestant. Rose wrote in her diary that she was "horrified" by her daughter's choice, as noted by People. Ever the rebel, Kathleen chose love over her family. The only Kennedy who attended the wedding was her brother, Joe Jr. The marriage ended in tragedy when just four weeks after the union, Cavendish — a member of the British Army — was called to duty and killed during combat in September 1944. Just a month prior, Kennedy lost Joe Jr., who died when his plane exploded while on a mission in France.

Kathleen Kennedy's tragic death

While Kathleen Kennedy mourned the death of her husband and her brother, she returned to the U.S. to visit her family. She then traveled back to London to reside there permanently. After a couple of years, she began a relationship with Earl Peter Wentworth Fitzwilliam. Again, her family was against the relationship. Not only was Fitzwilliam a Protestant, but he was also a known gambler and was already married, according to the Daily Mail. However, he had already started divorcing his wife when he began the relationship with Kathleen. Still, the Kennedys were against it and threatened to disown her if she didn't end the relationship.

In 1948, Fitzwilliam and Kennedy arranged for a meeting with Joseph Kennedy Sr., who was in France at that time, to talk about the relationship and ask for his blessing. The couple boarded a 10-seater charter plane with six other passengers. When the plane stopped to refuel in Paris, six passengers disembarked, and the pilot alerted Fitzwilliam and Kennedy that the weather was too bad to proceed. However, Fitzwilliam insisted that they depart right away, as reported by People. They encountered strong winds, heavy rain, and turbulence. About a couple of hours into the flight heading to Cannes, the plane crashed in the mountains near Saint-Bauzile (per Bureau of Aircraft and Accidents Archives). Everyone in the plane — the pilot, a navigator, Fitzwilliam, and Kennedy — were killed.

Only her father attended her funeral

A farmer immediately headed to the scene of the crash, and rescue teams arrived the following day. It was Joseph Kennedy Sr. (pictured left) who identified his daughter's body, as reported by People. The loss was devastating to the Kennedy family, but no one, except for her father, attended her funeral, which was held in England and arranged by Kathleen's mother-in-law. Her mother, Rose (pictured center), was shattered by her daughter's death, as they were not able to resolve their issues before the tragedy happened. The Kennedys didn't want more attention on the circumstances regarding her death, especially with John F. Kennedy's political career, which was why they opted not to go to her funeral.

She was buried at St. Peter's Churchyard in England, and her gravestone reads (via Find a Grave), "In Loving Memory of KATHLEEN (1920 – 1948), Widow of Major The Marquess of Hartington Killed in Action & Daughter of The Hon. Joseph Kennedy Sometime Ambassador of the United States to Great Britain. Joy She Gave Joy She Has Found." Kennedy's great-niece, Robert Kennedy Jr.'s daughter, was named after her, and she described her great-aunt as a brave and strong woman, per the Daily Mail. "Her decisions were informed by her own moral compass, not that of her parents or society," she said.