The auction of private letters written by Jackie Kennedy to an Irish priest 50 years ago was called off because the college selling them discovered it did not actually own the items, an official told NBC News on Friday.
Dublin's All Hallows College said that it had only been discovered that the letters were not theirs to sell in the past few days after the lost will of Kennedy's confidant, Father Joseph Leonard, was discovered.
Father Leonard's will stipulated the 33 letters - which reveal intimate information about the notoriously private former first lady - should be left to the Vincentian congregation rather than the college itself, both of which he was connected to.
College spokeswoman Carolanne Henry told NBC News that the Kennedy family had become involved in the discussions about what to do with the trove and this had also played a role in the auction's cancellation.
"In recent days it has been discovered that ownership of the letters lies with the Vincentian congregation, rather than with the college," Henry said. "That was a factor in the auction being canceled, because they were not ours to sell. That, and the introduction of the Kennedy family into the proceedings."
She added: “The college learned this when it found Father Joseph Leonard’s will in the past couple of days, in a different place to where the rest of his papers were kept."
Sheppard's Irish Auction House
Jackie Kennedy - then Jacqueline Bouvier - with Father Joseph Leonard at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland, in 1950.
The letters were due to be sold by Sheppard's Auction House in Ireland's Durrow County on June 10 where they were expected to fetch as much as $5 million.
The auction house described them as "in effect the unpublished autobiography" of the former first lady.
A notoriously shy woman, Kennedy wrote to Father Leonard about her distress at her husband's murder in Dallas in 1963 as well as her concerns that he would become a philanderer, according to a BBC report.
When contacted by NBC News on Thursday, the auction house declined to comment on the cancellation other than to point to a short statement on its website confirming the development.
First published May 23 2014, 3:26 AM