- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

The death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy brings down the final curtain not just on one man’s career but on a five-decade docudrama in which the triumphs and tragedies of a single family seized the public imagination and influenced American political life.

His generation of Kennedys and their spouses was the closest thing America has seen to its own royalty, epitomized by visions of virile and handsome brothers tossing a football in an age of innocence, long before Watergate laid bare the sins of ego and power at the pinnacle of political power.

It was a political era that spanned storybook weddings and assassinations, Jackie fashions and Chappaquiddick - elements that spawned the storybook notion of Camelot and immortalized it in an almost mythical dynasty.

That dynasty was virtually set on the wedding day of Joseph Fitzpatrick Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald in 1914. Joseph, a prominent businessman and Harvard graduate who made a fortune as a stock market and commodity investor, was one of the top figures in the Democratic Party. A major backer of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential bid in 1932, he was rewarded with an appointment as the first chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He later became ambassador to Britain.

Rose was the daughter of a politically connected Boston family headed by John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, the city’s mayor and a one-time congressman known for his gift of gab. Her father became allies with Patrick J. Kennedy, Joseph’s father. When Joseph and Rose wed, they cemented the bloodlines of two Irish families into a political dynasty.

Based in Hyannis Port, Mass., the couple had nine children in 17 years, establishing a remarkably engaged family unit that some described as impossibly beautiful and smart. They hotly debated the news at the dinner table, and competed in everything from intellectual exercises to sports.

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The expectation of greatness - of success and service - became so ingrained in each of them that it was almost taken for granted that they would make their mark on U.S. history.

Check out the Washington Times interactive Remembering Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Joe Kennedy Jr., the eldest son, was thought the most likely to become president, but the World War II pilot was killed when his plane blew up while he was flying a secret mission over the English Channel in 1944.

The baton was passed to brother John F. Kennedy, two years younger and known as Jack, who was elected president in 1960. JFK and his wife, Jacqueline, moved into the White House with daughter Caroline and son John Jr., who was born three weeks after the election. America quickly became captivated, and the notion of Camelot, if not yet the name, started to take hold.

Check out more video coverage of Sen. Kennedy, here.

The name emerged after the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963, the most shocking and public of all the Kennedy tragedies. Author Theodore White said Jacqueline repeatedly played the hit song “Camelot” after her husband’s death. She said the song, from the theatrical musical of the same name, had been her husband’s favorite, and she was drawn to the final lyrics: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Mr. White immortalized this in a Life magazine article and the Kennedy version of Camelot was born. For good measure, Mr. White later wrote that Camelot portrayed “a magic moment in American history, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers and poets met at the White House, and the barbarians beyond the walls held back.”

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