She was the First Lady whose elegance defined a golden age for America. But while Jackie Kennedy might have awed world leaders with her White House dinners, we now know she could stick the knife in.

She described India’s future leader Indira Gandhi as a ‘pushy, horrible… bitter prune’, French president Charles de Gaulle as a ‘spiteful egomaniac’ and civil rights leader Martin Luther King as a ‘terrible’ man and a ‘phoney’, who took part in sex parties.

Such jaw-dropping candour, all the more remarkable from a woman who spent her life keeping the world at arm’s length, has been revealed in a series of taped interviews she gave 47 years ago to friend and former White House aide Arthur Schlesinger.

She also recalled how he had told a historian that Abraham Lincoln was remembered as a great president only because he was assassinated immediately after winning the Civil War.

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