Courtney Kennedy Hill, the 5th of the 11 children born to Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, is one of the clan’s more private members. She was born Mary Courtney Kennedy, and she is RFK’s second eldest daughter.
Vanity Fair once described Courtney as “the most sensitive and emotionally vulnerable of the bunch.”
She has weathered great tragedy in her life; the assassination of her father, the untimely deaths of her two brothers, and now the sudden death of her daughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, 22, who died at the famous Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port.
Saoirse’s death was from an accidental overdose (of a mix of methadone, fluoxetine, norfluoxetine, diazepam, nordiazepam, and alcohol) adding to a long list of tragedies to strike the Kennedy clan. Authorities have not confirmed her cause of death, however. But the New York Times also reported that Kennedy Hill died of an “apparent overdose,” citing two people close to the Kennedy family.
Hyannis News is reporting that the call came from the home of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy and Saoirse’s grandmother. That property is located on the complex at 28 Marchant Ave.
Here’s what you need to know about Courtney Kennedy:
1. Courtney Kennedy Was Only 11-Years-Old When Her Father Was Assassinated & Sometimes Visits His Grave Alone
Courtney Kennedy Hill was only 11 when her dad died. Courtney was the 5th of the 11 children born to Ethel and RFK. She was born on September 9, 1956.
Paul Hill, her former husband, told the New York Times that the Kennedys will “go to a party or event and 20 times in the course of an evening, some stranger will come up to them and say, ‘I remember the day your father died.’”
That article quoted Courtney as saying, “People will say, ‘I know just how you feel.’ And it’s like, ‘No. You don’t. I lost my daddy.’”
The Times described how Courtney would go to the cemetery to visit her father’s grave often and usually alone, quoting her as saying it made her feel “almost complete.”
She posted a string of photos of her dad on Facebook in 2015, writing, “Remembering my father on the 90th anniversary of his BIRTHDAY!!!”
The Times article describes Courtney as “the most private of” the siblings. She said she didn’t want to run for office because “I hate appearing in public,” according to the Times.
2. Courtney Married an Irishman Who Was Wrongfully Imprisoned for IRA Bombings
The Associated Press reported that Saoirse is Courtney’s daughter with Paul Michael Hill, “who was one of four falsely convicted in the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings of two pubs.” He was her second husband.
Vanity Fair reported that Courtney has a “deep affinity” for Ireland, quoting her as saying of her first visit there: “I felt like I was at home.” She studied Irish history at Trinity College in Dublin, according to Vanity Fair.
The couple was married on board “the yacht Varmar VE in the Aegean Sea by the ship’s owner and captain, Vardis Vardinoyannis.” According to UPI, Hill and three others “were later exonerated by a judge who ruled that police falsified evidence against Hill and three others.”
The Irish Times reported that at one time Hill “had signed confessions to his role in three pub bombings in Guildford and Woolwich, and eight murders” and implicated others. This led to more wrongful convictions, the newspaper reported, and “forensic evidence that could have helped clear them was kept from the jury at their original trial, as were witnesses who came forward to provide them with alibis.” Hill says he was beaten, dangled out a window, and his family was threatened to force false confessions.
Paul Hill first befriended Courtney’s brother, Joe Kennedy, but it was Ethel Kennedy herself who played matchmaker, according to The Independent. “I couldn’t understand a word he said,” Courtney Kennedy recalled to the publication of his Belfast accent. “But I thought: ‘He’s gorgeous.'” They were married from 1993 to 2006, when they separated.
Hill, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, and Courtney, raised their child partly in Ireland and gave her a Gaelic name meaning “freedom,” The New York Times reported. Courtney had her first child at age 40, according to Vanity Fair.
3. Courtney Kennedy Filled Her Facebook Page With Photos of Her Daughter, the Sea & Joe Biden
Courtney Kennedy, who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, filled her Facebook page with pictures of her daughter as well as pictures of the sea. “Courtney, this brings joyful tears to my eyes…..the peace your daughter has found w you…..Mother and Daughter forever love and peace!” wrote one friend about the above photo that Courtney posted with her daughter.
Her top visible post shows her with Joe Biden in 2018. “Me and the V.P. !!!” the caption reads.
“Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the Kennedy family said in a statement, according to the Times. “Her life was filled with hope, promise and love.” Ethel Kennedy, 91, said, “The world is a little less beautiful today.” The Kennedy statement further stated that Saoirse “was passionate about human rights and women’s empowerment and that she worked with indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico,” AP reported.
The statement continued: “She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit.”
4. Courtney Quoted Her Uncle JFK at a Gun Control Rally
Saoirse appeared in 2018 at a March for Our Lives rally with her mom, Courtney. “Closing the rally was Courtney Kennedy-Hill, daughter of Robert Kennedy, who stood beside her daughter, Saoirse Roisin Kennedy Hill, a student at Boston College,” the Barnstable Patriot reported.
“He and I are the product of gun violence, and we are damaged goods,” Kennedy-Hill said of her father, the newspaper reported, adding that Courtney quoted her uncle, John F. Kennedy, by saying, “When one person is killed by gun violence, the whole nation is degraded.”
On Facebook, Courtney says she “went to Milton Academy” and “Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart,” is from McLean, Virginia, and lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
5. Courtney Kennedy Was Married Once to an ABC Producer & Worked in Children’s Television
Before Paul Hill, Courtney Kennedy was married to a man named Jeffrey Ruhe, an ABC sports producer.
“She chose not to go to college and instead went to work at the Children’s Television Network,” according to AJC. “She met her first husband, Jeffrey Ruhe, through her work and was married to Ruhe from 1980 to 1990.”
Vanity Fair reported that Courtney “helped bring environmentally responsible companies into Eastern Europe and served as a U.N. representative there for pediatric aids, taught elementary school, and did fund-raising for the R.F.K. Memorial” but quoted her as saying, “I was never very good in school. I didn’t finish college or anything.”
She has also been a representative of the United Nations AIDS Foundation.
Ethel Kennedy’s large brood has had its share of tragedy since the assassination of her husband. While some of the 11 children have been very successful (such as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend), two children died tragically, David and Michael. David Kennedy died at age 28 of an overdose in Palm Beach back in 1984. Michael was killed in a skiing accident.