Icon, glamor star, fairy in the White House, trophy wife. There is hardly a term from the dream and fairy tale world of legend formation that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) has not been considered. Compared to the wild punching and stabbing in the political America of Donald Trump (77), her life has transfigured into a monumental fate to this day.

“The feeling of loss remains, a kind of cultural phantom pain,” wrote “Stern” on the tenth anniversary of her death. “In times when the White House is brimming with stuffiness, some people want the cosmopolitan flair back that the elegant Jacqueline once provided.”

This “phantom pain” has not disappeared, but rather has increased. Although Jacqueline Kennedy was First Lady of the USA for less than three years, many Americans who did not consciously experience her at all mourn her. On May 19th she has been dead for 30 years – but the myth of Jackie is apparently immortal.

The legend of Jackie K., or Jackie O., depending on the stage of her life, lives on because not only writers like the author Sally Bedell Smith (in her book “Grace and Power”) talk about the “sublimity, wisdom, beauty and humanity” of this woman rave, but rather an ancient-seeming tragedy has made a decisive contribution to the transfiguration and at times disturbing breaks and awkward, even bitchy peculiarities have set the accents of distinctiveness. This is how the native Jacqueline Lee Bouvier became the great American female figure of the 20th century.

She did not become extraordinary through her marriage to a shining hero, the future US President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), but she was that from birth as the senior daughter of the French-born banker John Vernou Bouvier III (1891-1957). She grew up in East Hampton on Long Island in a Roman Catholic family, in a discreet retreat for New York’s distinguished financial and business nobility.

The young Jacqueline learned French from childhood, her father’s native language, but she also spoke fluent Italian and Spanish and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, in Grenoble and Washington, with two degrees in French literature and American history.

Her father, a charming light-footed man who had, however, lost a large part of his fortune during the great American economic crisis, and her class-conscious mother Janet Norton Lee (1907-1989) separated in 1940, and the New York stockbroker Hugh Dudley Auchincloss Jr. became the new stepfather. This meant that the young Jacqueline finally rose to the top American aristocracy. Her younger sister Caroline Lee (1933-2019) was later elevated to the status of princess through a befitting marriage to Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill (1914-1976) from a Polish noble family.

These were the social conditions when Jacqueline met the young John F. Kennedy, the rich son of the entrepreneur and American ambassador in London, Joseph P. Kennedy (1888-1969), at a dinner party in May 1951.

It was a meeting of, well, equals: two good-looking people, a young congressman with whom his father still had big plans, a beautiful woman with intellectual ambitions who worked as a journalist and was engaged to a stockbroker, but that was no obstacle . The couple married two years later in June 1953.

Actually, Jackie, as he called her in good American style, was socially superior to her Jack, as he was called. The Kennedys, who were of Irish descent and therefore also strictly Catholic, were rich and influential, but they were not distinguished like the Bouviers. She was unfamiliar with the sporting ambitions and the rough manners of the New England clan, who often made fun of Jackie as a “debutante,” which she must have hated.

Her sister-in-law Ethel (96), wife of Kennedy’s younger brother Robert Kennedy (1925-1968), is said to have laughed loudly when Jackie told her about her ballet ambitions: “What are you doing with your square-toed shoes?!” Conversely, Jackie could also dish it out bitchy and mock the rustic manners of the Kennedys and, above all, laugh at Ethel, who was the one who “put a protective blanket over a Louis Quinze sofa” and pronounced it “Lü Kans”.

The new glamor couple of American society experienced a high point when the charismatic John F. Kennedy became the 35th US President in 1961 and Jackie became the First Lady. As the best-dressed woman in the world in 1960, she not only made elegant, simple-cut suits and pillbox hats popular, she also advised her husband on his speeches, for which she provided the historical background.

She designed the interior of the White House as a place of US history and took TV audiences through the center of power in US politics, which was seen by 50 million viewers. She introduced French cuisine and organized a meeting of 49 Nobel Prize winners in the White House. People should see that she had “something under the pillbox hat.”

Jackie became so popular that John F. Kennedy, on a state visit to France, told the enthralled press that he was just the man to accompany Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris. The First Lady had cult status even among average women; seven percent of American women wore their hair like Jackie.

But not everything was right in the marriage of the dream couple idolized by the media. In secret letters to the Irish clergyman Joseph Leonard, she writes of her “great love” for Jack, who, however, was “obsessed with power like Macbeth” and gave her an “amazing insight into the lives of politicians.” “Maybe I’m just blinded and see myself in a glittering world of crowned heads – and not as a sad little housewife. It’s a world that might seem very glamorous from the outside, but for you, when you’re inside and lonely, it’s hell can be.”

Her verdict on the marital fidelity of the notorious philanderer JFK was: “He’s kind of like my father, he loves hunting and is bored with conquest. Even after the wedding he will remain an attractive guy for a long time and flirt with other women. I I personally experienced how my mother almost died because of it.”

But it wasn’t all the glitz and glamor alone that made Jackie a myth, but rather the crises and tragedies of her life. They gave her “that sentimental depth that lasts for decades” (“Stern”). In a TV report lasting several hours, which was only published 17 years after her death, she described to historian Arthur Schlesinger the agonizing hours and days during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world was on the verge of nuclear war. She told her husband, the President, “even if there is no room in the White House bunker, I said, please, I just want to be with you. I would rather die with you, and the children want it too, than without you live on.”

Death accompanied her like a companion not only during her ten-year marriage to JFK. Of their four children, Arabella was stillborn in 1956, and Patrick died two days after his birth in 1963. Three months later, on November 22nd, images of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy went around the world. According to the “Stern”, one saw a “First Lady in a pink Chanel suit, stained and crusted with the dried blood and brain matter of her shot husband. Unforgettable was the upright posture in which she, with both children holding her hand, saw John F. Kennedy So Jackie became the guardian of the grail of the dreams of a new, noble America…”

The fact that this woman, who had to endure her personal pain like an American martyr, married the nouveau riche Greek shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975) in 1968 initially came as a shock to the US public. Because she chose a parvenu and not a presentable man from US society, a US newspaper commented that her second marriage was “the gravest insult to American men since Pearl Harbor.” For “Bild,” America had “lost a saint,” and a friend is said to have told her: “You will fall off your pedestal.” Jackie’s answer: “It’s still better than freezing to death.” She later said: “I could no longer live as a Kennedy widow. It was a break from the oppressive obsession with which the Americans occupied me and my children.”

The second marriage did not go well. She spent most of her time traveling and shopping, which is said to have led to heated arguments with Onassis, who realized that his much desired trophy wife cost him as much as buying a supertanker.

“Marriage to Jackie was the biggest mistake of my life,” he said – and was about to file for divorce when he died on March 15, 1975. Jackie received $27 million as her share of the inheritance – and began a new phase of her life. She became a recognized editor of art books at the New York publishing house. For 16 years she did an outstanding job, almost unnoticed by the general public. Then, at 64, she died of lymphatic cancer on May 19, 1994.

She had to experience a lot, but she was also spared a lot, such as the excitement surrounding her posthumously published comments on well-known contemporaries during her time in the White House. For her, India’s formative politician Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) was “a real dried plum, bitter, somehow pushy, a terrible woman”, France’s Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) was “an egomaniac”, the charismatic civil rights activist Martin Luther King (1929 -1968) called her a “fraud”, constantly looking for new loves.

She was also spared from having to bury her son, John F. Kennedy, Jr., who crashed his private plane in 1999.

Although her life was constantly accompanied by tragedy, the American women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem (90) says of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: “She represents an era. Her face is the constant reminder of a time of hope.”