8 New Details About The Jackie Kennedy/Lee Radziwill Feud

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8 New Details About The Jackie Kennedy/Lee Radziwill Feud
Entertainment And News

Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jackie Kennedy and mother in law to Carole Radziwill of Real Housewives of New York City fame, died this week at the age of 85. While her son’s wife was the one to be a star on a reality show about the antics of wealthy people in New York City, Radziwill and her sister were no strangers to drama and controversy.

Lee and Jackie had a famous rivalrous relationship their whole lives; competing for men, money, and the affections of their mother, Janet. In the end, Lee was beside Jackie when she died, but Jackie left her sister out of her will.

What drove the two sisters apart? Read on for eight details about the infamous Jackie Kennedy/Lee Radziwill feud.

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1. They were raised in the upper-class New York Society.

Lee and Jackie were raised in the upper classes of New York society in the 1940s and 50s. The mother, Janet, was a fierce social climber, having divorced Jackie and Lee’s father, John Vernou Bouvier III, when Lee was only 7 years old.

Janet then remarried the heir to the Standard Oil fortune Hugh Dudley Auchincloss Jr. They would remain married until 1976 when he died. During the sister’s formative years, Janet groomed them to marry wealthy men and take a similar role in society to her.

2. Their mother had different feelings about their first marriages.

Janet approved of John F. Kennedy as a match for Jackie. His political aspirations and vast family wealth appealed to her, though she was distrustful of his reputation for philandering.

She did not have such warm regard for Lee’s first husband, Michael Canfield, a publishing executive. Janet would pressure Lee to divorce Canfield after only six years of marriage and would assist in having the union annulled by the Catholic Church.

3. They had a romantic rivalry.

Whatever tensions existed between the sisters before, they were certainly escalated when Lee split with Canfield.  

Canfield claimed that Lee bragged about sleeping with her sister’s husband when the two couples were on vacation together shortly after the birth of Jack and Jackie’s daughter Caroline.

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4. Lee had many affairs.

After divorcing Canfield and seducing Kennedy, Lee moved to London and married Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill, a member of Polish aristocracy. Lee would insist on using the title Princess even though Radziwill renounced his title when he became a British citizen.

Despite her new marriage, Lee was still seeking other affairs. In 1962, she started an affair with Aristotle Onassis, one of the richest men in the world at the time. While Lee may have had aspirations of leaving Radziwill for Onassis, those hopes were dashed when she introduced him to her sister.

Onassis was taken with Jackie and seemed to forget about Lee.

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5. Onassis was close to Jackie after JFK assassination.  

A mere month after meeting Onassis, Jackie’s husband JFK was assassinated. Onassis rushed to Jackie’s side to comfort her, raising suspicions about his real motives.

While the former First Lady was in no position to start a new relationship as she became a widow, Onassis evidently never forgot about her. In 1967, he invited her to his private Greek Island and swept her off her feet. She returned to the US and ended the affair she’d been having with architect Jack Warnecke, who had gone deeply into debt trying to keep up with Jackie’s lifestyle.

Mother Janet was alarmed about Jackie’s relationship with Onassis, knowing that Lee still harbored feelings for the billionaire. Janet tried to intervene and tell Onassis to stay away from both women but Jackie married him in 1968.

6. Lee was resentful about Jackie's new marriage.

It turned out that Lee had considered leaving her husband for Onassis and marrying him herself — he had even suggested the match to her. But Lee remained with Radziwill out of fear of what the scandal of a divorce would be with Jackie and JFK in the White House.

She was furious at her sister for stealing Onassis from her and the two were never as close again.

7. Jackie cared for their mother right before her death.

In the 1980s, Janet was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Jackie took on the responsibility for caring for her. However, it was during that time that Janet began favoring Lee, much to Jackie’s bewilderment.

She grew more upset when she found out that her mother had paid her sister $750,000 to make up for her favoring of Jackie when the girls were young. After their mother died in 1989, the sisters grew even further apart.

8. Jackie snubbed Lee out of her will.

Jackie had received over $25 million after the death of Onassis in 1975, on top of what she received from the Kennedy estate. She was able to live a lavish life until her death from cancer in 1994.

Lee was at her side in her final days and reportedly told her: “I love you so much. I always have, Jacks. I hope you know it.”

But after Jackie died, Lee was stunned to find out that Jackie had not mentioned her in her will at all saying, “I have already [provided for my sister] during my lifetime.” Radiziwill went on to marry movie director Herbert Ross, whom she divorced in 2001. She died last week at the age of 85.

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a co-host of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.