Jackie Kennedy Onassis & Lee Radziwill: the sister duo (Part I)

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s Friendly” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by U.S. Embassy New Delhi – Under Commercial use allowed

Over time, the Bouvier sisters, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill became symbols of elegance and class. The two had given each other the nicknames: Jacks & Pekes. Although Pekes played a significant role in Jackie’s iconic style, throughout the years she was somehow overshadowed by her older sibling. She had a unique sense of fashion and on a few occasions would even ‘’smuggle’’ Givenchy clothes in the White House for Jackie. (The President insisted on having his wife wear only American couture.) The relationship between the Bouvier sisters had always had its ups and downs, until at some stage, it turned beyond complicated.

The two girls were raised in a rather rich family, their father, John Vernou Bouvier III (‘’Black Jack’’) was a Wall Street stockbroker. He was exceptionally successful but had displayed a love for women, gambling and alcohol. This, along with a couple of poor investment decisions led to the divorce with the girls’ mother, Janet Norton Lee. Despite the separation of their parents, Jacks and Pekes always adored their father, they learned from his mistakes and would later prove to be remarkably aware of their finances. John taught his daughters to work hard for what they want and so they did. Jackie was an outstanding student and attended Vassar College in New York, where she studied History and French. She spent her junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. Meanwhile Lee, only 18 years old at that time, was still living in America. She successfully convinced their mother, Janet to let her visit Jackie in France. That year the sister duo traveled across Europe and sealed their adventures in a diary called “One Special Summer”.

Once they returned to the USA, Jacks started her job which would change her life forever. She became the “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the Washington Times-Herald, she would take photographs of people and interview them. Her most prominent interview was one with Richard M. Nixon. During her work for the newspaper, she met John F. Kennedy, a promising young congressman. On September 12th 1953 Jackie and John F. Kennedy tied the knot, making this to be one of the biggest events of the year.

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In April, just a few months prior to Jackie’s wedding, the 20 year-old Lee married her high school sweetheart, Michael Temple Canfield. Shortly after the ceremony, the newlyweds moved to London, where Michael was offered a job at the American embassy. The marriage was not what they had hoped for. She enjoyed living a lavish life and according to Diana DuBois’s book (In Her Sister’s Shadow), her husband once shared that “he will never be able to afford her,”, but this wasn’t the only problem as Michael was quite a heavy drinker. Apart from this, they also couldn’t conceive for years and the last straw in their relationship was Lee’s affair with Stanislaw “Stas” Radziwill. Stas came from a Polish aristocrat family and could provide her with the life that she had always dreamed of: a beautiful large house right next to Buckingham Palace and in 1959 they got married.

In 1961 Jackie moved into the White House, making her the First Lady of America. From that moment on, Lee became ‘’Jackie Kennedy’s sister’’, she didn’t feel ‘’free’’ anymore as she had to behave a certain way and would always feel in the shadow of her older sister.

Sources:
The Complicated Sisterhood of Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill. Sam Kashner. Published on 27. April 2016. Vanity Fair.Life of Jacqueline B. Kennedy. JFK Library.

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