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

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s Friendly – March 12-21, 1962” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by U.S. Embassy New Delhi – Under Commercial use allowed

Behind closed doors Lee and her husband, Stas Radziwill, were slowly becoming distant and she began having affairs with other men. One of them – Aristotle Onassis. Aristotle was a self-made Greek shipping tycoon with an extravagant lifestyle and a sharp mind. According to sources, he saw Lee as an opportunity to get closer to the most powerful family in the USA – the Kennedys.

In 1963 Jackie gave birth to her first son, Patrick, who died just minutes later and in an attempt to distract her sister, Lee invited Jackie to join her on Onasis’ yacht. JFK strongly disliked Onasis and his business so he opposed his wife:

“For Christ’s sake, Jackie!”…Onassis is an international pirate!” – JFK

Jackie was determined to take the much needed escape and not even the President could stop her.

The sisters spent most of their time on the yacht together without his Aristotle and when the getaway was over, Jackie returned back to her duties of a First Lady. On November 22nd 1963, President JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Jackie was crushed and so was the whole world. Lee flew to America to be by her sister’s side.

Once Jackie was not the First Lady anymore, Lee was ”free” again. Truman Capote, a screenwriter & playwright, offered her the role of Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story and despite her husband being strongly against it, she accepted to take part in it. Lee saw this as an opportunity to make the world see her for who she is, other than being Jackie’s little sister. She had one condition, to have her maiden name in the credits. The tickets were completely sold out and there it was, her time to shine. The theater salon was full and the only person who was seemingly missing was Jackie Kennedy. The reason behind her absence was never made clear and some had even speculated that she could have been a bit envious. Jackie sent her sister a mauve box for good luck but Lee’s appearance wasn’t successful and while performing on stage – she had fear written all over her face.

“I got terrible reviews,” Lee recalled with a small smile, “but I really believe they were written before the play opened.” – Lee Radziwill
Vanity Fair

Regardless of the bad reviews, Lee received further offers which included TV films but this time Stas threatened to take their children away. She had no other choice but to leave her acting career behind. Meanwhile Jackie was experiencing another tragedy. Bobby Kennedy, a few hours after winning the California primary for the Democratic nomination for president, was shot. He had helped Jackie raise the children after the assassination of JFK, she was heartbroken once again and afraid for the safety of her children. Only 4 months after Bobby’s death, in 1968 she married Aristotle Onasis on Skorpios — the onetime lover of her sister. Lee found out about the wedding from Aristotle and even though she was hurt by Jackie’s choice, she attended the event.

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‘’I am very happy to have been at the origin of this marriage, which will, I am certain, bring my sister the happiness she deserves,” – Lee Radziwill
Vanity Fair

The relationship between the Bouvier sisters would never recover after this. Throughout the years there would be claims that Aristotle married Jackie only to display her and Jackie, she wanted safety for her kids, something which Ari could provide them with.

A few years later, while visiting Skorpios, Lee fell in love with Peter Beard, a photographer and a close friend of Stas Radziwill. Their romance resulted in the divorce between Lee and Stas in 1974. But the Radziwills weren’t the only ones — Aristotle Onasis was getting his own divorce papers prepared and before he could make the next step, he died in Paris. After Ari’s passing, Jackie inherited a large amount of money and returned back to the USA.

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In 1988 Lee remarried filmmaker Herbert Ross and Jackie appeared to be happy for them. However, six years later Jackie was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and Lee spent the days by her sister’s bedside. After a few months of battling the disease, Jackie passed away. In her will she featured her children, who inherited the bigger part of what she owned, but also family, friends and even employees. The only person who was left out of the will was Lee Radziwill, her children received 500,000 dollars in trust funds.

Lee Radziwill died on February 19th, 2019. She gave interviews until the end of her life, but she didn’t like talking about the relationship that she and her sister shared. She couldn’t stand being asked questions about Jackie Kennedy-Onasis and this became somewhat of a ‘’golden rule’’ for everybody around her.

The Bouvier sisters had a ‘’special’’ bond and maybe even a complicated one, which resembled competition  — ‘’my gain is your loss’’ (The Cut) type of a relationship.

The Complicated Sisterhood of Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill. Sam Kashner. Published on 27. April 2016. Vanity Fair.
Lee Radziwill and the Cinderella Trap Glamorous in life and even after death, the princess was forever compared to her sister.Rhonda Garelick. Published on 17. Feb. 2019. The Cut.
The Secret History of a Kennedy Encounter. Thomas Maier. Published on 21 Nov. 2014. Narratively.
Life of Jacqueline B. Kennedy. JFK Library.

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