New John F. Kennedy Jr. Book Claims President’s Son Was ‘Two People’ As 20-Year Death Anniversary Approaches

John F. Kennedy, Jr., with his wife Carolyn attend a function in honor of his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, October 4, 1998, at Grand Central Station in New York City.
George De Sota/Liaison / Getty Images

A new book detailing the life of John F. Kennedy Jr. claims the son of President John F. Kennedy was “two people,” and this claim comes as the world ponders what could have been for Kennedy as the 20th anniversary of his death approaches.

On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were flying to Martha’s Vineyard for a Kennedy family wedding. Unfortunately, their single-engine Piper Saratoga, which departed from New Jersey’s Essex County Airport, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. There were no survivors.

The book, written by Steven M. Gillon and titled America’s Reluctant Prince, was excerpted by People. The book details that Kennedy always felt he was living a separate public life and personal life, neither of which was intertwined with the other.

“He said he was two people,” Gillon recalled. “He said he played the role of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., the son of the president. But at his core, he was just John.”

The publication noted that Gillon first met John F. Kennedy Jr. when the former president’s son was Gillon’s teaching assistant at Brown University, and the two maintained a friendship that lasted many years. In the book, Gillon also spoke to many of JFK Jr.’s closest friends, many of whom, per People, had not gone on the record with their recollections of their late friend until the publication of this book.

Gillon also claims that, in naming her only son after his father, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis inadvertently made her child’s life more difficult — never knowing the legacy he would have to hold so close to his heart.

“Jackie told people she regretted naming John after his father,” said Gillon, as reported by People. “She realized it only added to the burden. The irony is that in the effort to honor her husband, she inadvertently made her son’s life more challenging.”

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy wed in a secret ceremony on September 21, 1996, at Cumberland Island, Georgia. Their nuptials followed two years of dating. The couple met when Bessette was working for Calvin Klein as a director of show productions. Bessette was moving in circles that would eventually introduce her to one of People‘s “Sexiest Men Alive” — and one of the world’s most eligible bachelors — John F. Kennedy Jr.

Bessette would go on to move into Kennedy’s New York City loft in the summer of 1995, and the couple became engaged later that year. Prior to their wedding, Bessette quit her job at Calvin Klein — in the spring of 1996 — and attempted to become accustomed to life in the spotlight. The couple was hounded by the paparazzi during their courtship, engagement, and marriage.

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According to the book American Legacy: The Story of John and Caroline Kennedy, penned by David C. Heymann, Kennedy said to the paparazzi after the couple’s wedding, “Getting married is a big adjustment for us, and for a private citizen like Carolyn even more so. I ask you to give her all the privacy and room you can.”

Nonetheless, the couple continued to struggle with life in the spotlight until their untimely deaths. A new documentary titled JFK Jr. and Carolyn’s Wedding: The Lost Tapes will air on TLC, and will trace the life of the couple and reveal intimate details about their secret wedding ceremony.

The documentary will air Saturday, July 13, at 8 p.m. EST. The proceedings will be narrated by Elizabeth McGovern.