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Jackie Kennedy's letters to priest reveal doubts about her marriage, faith

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(CBS)- Jackie Kennedy's letters to Father Joseph Leonard are not so much letters as they are a series of confessions to a priest -- not of sin, but of doubt. Jacqueline Bouvier, as she was known when she first started writing, has provided an insight into her and her husband's personalities that the world has never had before, reports CBS News' Mark Phillips.

Kennedy got to know the Irish priest before she married John F. Kennedy. The first notes, written on Jacqueline Bouvier stationary, date back to 1950. The correspondence would continue for 14 years.

It tells of a woman who had become enthralled by a young, ambitious politician named Jack Kennedy. The relationship provided, she said, an "amazing insight on politicians -- they really are a breed apart."

The letters amount to the autobiography Jackie never wrote. Of the early years of the relationships, she says she was just dazzled and pictured herself in a glittering world of crowned heads and "Men of Destiny," as she put it, and not just a sad little housewife."This is a great window into her soul as a human being and the struggles she had and the triumphs she had with her husband," historian Douglas Brinkley said.

According to historians like him, the letters reveal the inner doubts Jackie had from a very early stage of the marriage -- that JFK had a roving eye, something she had seen in her own father.

"I think the most important quote that has thus far surfaced from this batch of letters is Jackie Kennedy connecting her husband to her father, saying both of them had a sense of enjoying the chase in life, particularly with women, but didn't have the stability," Brinkley said. "And she saw that that was destroying, in many ways, her mother and she feared the same fate in life."

Fate, of course, would play a devastating role in Jackie Kennedy's life. The JFK assassination cast her as a shocked and widowed mother. She became, in many ways, the grieved face of the nation.The letters show that she also became someone who began to doubt her faith.

God, she said, will have "a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see Him."

"The excerpts of the letters really point to a loneliness which is one of the great diseases of America," Brinkley said. "It's particularly a disease of a Washington, D.C. power wife."

The letters ceased when Father Leonard died in 1964.

Jackie Kennedy has always been a familiar, yet a mysterious figure. Now there's a little less mystery about her.

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