The Ambassador: Joseph P. Kennedy at the court of St. James’s 1938 – 1940

In December 1937, Joseph Patrick Kennedy—father of the future president—announced through The New York Times that he would be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in London. He had temporarily outwitted President Roosevelt, but at what cost? Kennedy was finally sworn in as ambassador on February 18, 1938 and officially remained in his post to Great Britain until January 11, 1941. An unlikely diplomat, known for his “plainspoken” opinions, rough charm, womanizing, family values, profound Irish roots, and staunch Catholicism, Kennedy was an unusual choice of ambassador as Great Britain and Europe hurtled toward war. Kennedy had been America’s youngest bank president, an unscrupulous Wall Street trader, a Hollywood film distributor and producer, and a financier brought in to restructure ailing film companies, earning him many millions, and all before he was forty-five. While constantly claiming he had “no political ambitions either for myself or my family” Kennedy hoped to become a presidential candidate in 1940. Becoming ambassador was the final stepping-stone to achieve that goal.

But Kennedy’s plainspokenness, publicity seeking nature, and inability to take advice meant that he was temperamentally ill-suited to the job. What could Roosevelt have been thinking, many asked? Yet, incredibly, Kennedy was loved initially by the British press. Even so, in just two short years, he was loathed at the White House, the State Department and almost everyone in the British establishment.

Why? Kennedy believed he was the president’s equal and was not shy about telling everyone how he could stop all thought of a war in Europe. Constantly overstepping his remit, Kennedy failed to realize that Roosevelt made the political weather in the United States and was in charge of foreign policy. THE AMBASSADOR is about Kennedy’s dreams and relationships with FDR and the State Department, the British Government and the Vatican. It is about Kennedy’s rise to his highest achieved office, and how his tremendous ego and unfettered ambition to make the name of “Kennedy” greater than “Adams” caused his tribe of nine children to become “Hostage to Fortune.”

Reviews

Seldom has the Joe Kennedy story been told in such a searing, remorseless way as it is in Susan Ronald’s “The Ambassador”

“Ronald really delivers… steeped in intimate detail, it feels as if we are eyewitnesses to each decisive victory, and each crushing defeat.”

—J. Randy Tarraborelli, bestselling author of The Kennedy Heirs

“An indispensable book that will change forever the way we think about the Kennedy family.”

— Laurence Leamer, bestselling author of The Kennedy Women

“Ronald’s lucid narrative… not only examines United States resources, but also enhances the story by reviewing a multitude of British documents that few have included, resolving any ambiguities [and] leaving the reader with the inescapable conclusion that The Ambassador was a Nazi and fascist appeaser as well as a blatant anti-Semite.”

— Irwin F. Gellman, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of Secret Affairs

“The Joe Kennedy of Susan Ronald’s The Ambassador is essential reading to understand the man who started a political dynasty. Kennedy is charming, yet petty, gracious yet cocky, short-sighted yet strategic.”

— Luke A. Nichter, bestselling author of The Last Brahmin