It started with a ball that had fallen in the water.

Last week, the kids had been kicking a ball around in the yard of a waterfront home in Maryland owned by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Robert F. Kennedy's daughter.

When the ball landed in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, (Kennedy Townsend's daughter and RFK's granddaughter) along with her 8-year-old son Gideon got into a canoe to rescue it.

READ MORE:
Kennedy family pay tribute to RFK's granddaughter Saoirse Kennedy Hill
Saoirse Kennedy Hill's final hours detailed, family and friends gather for funeral
Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, Saoirse Hill, dies at 22
Saoirse Kennedy Hill: Cause of Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter's death revealed

Advertisement

Around 4.30pm, a concerned person rang emergency services to say that he had seen two people in a "small canoe or kayak drifting in the bay".

Boats, helicopters and the Coastguard were scrambled, searching until night fell and then resuming the next day.

On Friday, an overturned canoe was found and on Monday, Maeve's body was discovered by authorities. Her son's body was found by divers about 600 metres from his mother on Wednesday.

"They just got farther out than they could handle and couldn't get back in," husband and father David McKean told The Washington Post.

In a statement Maeve's mother said, "My heart is crushed."

David McKean with his wife Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and their children including 8-year-old son Gideon who died. Photo / Getty Images
David McKean with his wife Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and their children including 8-year-old son Gideon who died. Photo / Getty Images

For the Kennedys, this tragedy is the latest in a sad history of deaths and disasters that have befallen the famous dynasty.

Indeed, for the better part of a century, despite being the closest thing the United States has to a royal family, a storied clan whose history boasts huge wealth, privilege and a Presidency, the Kennedy name has also been inexorably linked to misfortune and loss which can be traced back to World War II.

A father's dream

The Kennedys, from left, seated: Eunice, Jean, Edward (on lap of father Joseph P. Kennedy), Patricia, and Kathleen. Standing: Rosemary, Robert, John, Mrs Rosemary Kennedy, and Joseph, Jr. Photo / AP
The Kennedys, from left, seated: Eunice, Jean, Edward (on lap of father Joseph P. Kennedy), Patricia, and Kathleen. Standing: Rosemary, Robert, John, Mrs Rosemary Kennedy, and Joseph, Jr. Photo / AP

No matter whether Joseph Kennedy made his fortune during Prohibition in the 1920s via bootlegging, which was long rumoured, or via legitimate means, by the 1930s he was a pillar of society, being appointed as the US ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1938. He and wife Rose had nine children, three of whom would go on to be towering forces in American politics.

Advertisement

However, it was another son, Joseph Kennedy Jnr that Joseph Snr had pinned his political hopes on, a dream that was dashed in 1944 when the younger man was killed in action in Europe, resulting in the elder man shifting his political ambitions to his son John F. Kennedy.

Joseph and Rose's oldest daughter Rosemary, had suffered from seizures and violent mood swings since birth.

In 1941, without telling Rose, Joseph had doctors perform a lobotomy on Rosemary, leaving her permanently disabled. She would spend the rest of her life in an institution, passing away in 2005.

Then in 1948, Joseph and Rose's daughter Kathleen Cavendish Kennedy, Marchioness of Hartington was killed in a plane crash on her way to the South of France. (Her first husband had been killed during the war.)

Devastating decade

Some conspiracy theorists claim Jackie Kennedy was hired by the CIA and shot dead her husband over 50 years ago. Photo / Getty Images
Some conspiracy theorists claim Jackie Kennedy was hired by the CIA and shot dead her husband over 50 years ago. Photo / Getty Images

The 1960s would prove to be a devastating period for the family.

In 1953, John F. Kennedy Jnr. was elected as US Senator, the same year he married Jacqueline Bouvier. Their first child, a daughter named Arabella, was stillborn in 1956.

Advertisement

A rising star in Democratic politics, Kennedy was elected as the 35th President of the United States in 1960 with the young family moving into the White House, giving rise to a period known as the Camelot years.

Having already welcomed son John Jnr and daughter Caroline, in August 1963 Jackie gave birth to a son named Patrick who was born five and a half weeks prematurely.

Less than two days after arriving in the world, Patrick died of infant respiratory distress syndrome.

Three months after the heartbreaking loss, Jackie joined her husband for a trip to Dallas, Texas. As the couple rode in the Presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza, at 12.30pm two shots rang out and the President slumped over.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination before himself being shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days later.

In 1964, Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy (John, Robert and Joseph's brother) suffered a broken back in a plane crash that claimed the life of one of his aides and the pilot.

Advertisement

In the run up to the 1968 Presidential election, Robert F. Kennedy was the front runner for the Democratic nomination. On June 5 of that year, as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles he was shot.

Despite being hit three times, Kennedy was still conscious, telling kitchen worker Juan Romero, 17, "Everything's going to be okay."

Sadly, it was not to be and despite extensive neurosurgery, he passed away a day later.

An unemployed Palestinian man named Sirhan Sirhan was arrested and convicted of the killing and to this day remains in a Californian prison.

The alleged 'Kennedy curse' has primarily struck the children and descendants of businessman Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., but it has also affected family friends and other relatives. Photo / Getty Images
The alleged 'Kennedy curse' has primarily struck the children and descendants of businessman Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., but it has also affected family friends and other relatives. Photo / Getty Images

Like the conspiracy theories that have swirled around the death of JFK, there have long been rumours that there was a second gunman who had been in the kitchen that night. (In 2018 his son Robert F. Kennedy Jnr visited Sirhan Sirhan in jail and told The Washington Post: "I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence. I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father.")

Political ambition now rested on the shoulders of JFK and RFK's brother Ted, however any hope he might have had of following in his brothers' footsteps and running for President was dashed in 1969.

Advertisement

After hosting a party for people who had worked for RFK, Ted lost control of his car as he crossed a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island.

Also in the vehicle was Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old Democrat party campaign worker, who was trapped inside the car. Ted later said he had dived beneath the water seven or eight times but was unable to reach her. He only reported the accident the following morning after her body had been found.

Ted later pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the accident causing personal injury.

Links to a 25-year murder mystery

On Halloween, 1975 the body of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, who had been bludgeoned and stabbed, was found in her parents' backyard in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The teenager was last seen alive with friend and neighbour Thomas Skakel, 17, who was a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's widow. Two years later, police traced the golf club used in the violent attack to one that had been owned by the Skakel family.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, in 2000, Michael Skakel, then aged 39, would be charged with Martha's death. In 2002 Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life however after serving 10 years behind bars, in 2013 he was ordered free on bail.

Advertisement

In 2018, after nearly two decades of legal wrangling and appeals, the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated Skakel's conviction and ordered a new trial.

Drug battle

RFK's son David, then aged only 13, was upstairs in a hotel room on the night of his father's assassination and had watched the shooting live on TV.

Fifteen years later in 1984, David died of a drug overdose in a hotel in Florida after a long battle with heroin and alcohol addiction.

Cancer and a fatal crash

John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Carolyn died in a plane crash. Photo / Getty
John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Carolyn died in a plane crash. Photo / Getty

After widowhood and marriage to Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis in the 80s, Jackie Kennedy had established herself as a successful editor at New York publishing house Doubleday.

In 1993, after being thrown from a horse, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and passed away the following year at the age of only 64.

By the 90s, John F. Kennedy Jnr, the cute little boy who captured the world's heart when he was photographed playing in the Oval Office, had become the world's most eligible bachelor. After dating actress Daryl Hannah, he met Caroline Bessette, falling head over heels for the statuesque fashion PR.

Advertisement

In 1996, they wed secretly on a private island off the coast of Georgia in a bid to outmanoeuvre the paparazzi who stalked the glittering couple.

By 1999, their marriage was reportedly foundering. Despite their troubles, she had agreed to join John at a family wedding on Martha's Vineyard, flying with her sister Lauren in his small private plane.

The trio took off from a New Jersey airfield around 8.30pm on July 16. When they failed to arrive on the exclusive island, authorities were notified. Wreckage of the aircraft was found on the seabed three days later.

The next generation

The new generation Kennedy clan. Photo / Getty Images
The new generation Kennedy clan. Photo / Getty Images

More recent times have brought even more sadness for the Kennedys with freak accidents and sudden deaths.

RFK's son Michael was killed in 1997 after losing control while skiing and hitting a tree.

Ted Kennedy's only daughter Kara died suddenly of a heart attack after a workout at a Washington gym in 2011.

Advertisement

The following year Mary Richardson Kennedy, who was then separated from husband Robert F. Kennedy Jnr, committed suicide at age 53.

In 2018, Christopher Lawford, John F. Kennedy's nephew, died at age 61 of a heart attack after a hot yoga class.

In his 20s, he had struggled with drug addiction, but after the death of his cousin and best friend David Kennedy, he had gone to rehab and gotten sober.

Last year Saoirse Kennedy-Hill was found dead at the Kennedy compound. Photo / Getty Images
Last year Saoirse Kennedy-Hill was found dead at the Kennedy compound. Photo / Getty Images

Then in August last year, emergency services were called to the Kennedy family's famous Hyannis Port compound after Saoirse Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, suffered a drug overdose and died at the property.

Now, in 2020, the Kennedy family is again grieving the loss of a daughter, mother, wife and sister and of her little boy.

After the events of 1969, Ted Kennedy pondered whether "some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys".

Advertisement

Sadly, his words remain as relevant today as they might ever have been.