When Jackie Kennedy became the First Lady of the United States, she instantly became one of the most popular and powerful women in the world. Adored for her iconic sense of fashion and dignified persona, she became a role model for young girls around the US and was named in 1999 on Gallup's list of Most Admired Men and Women in 20th-century America. One would reasonably assume that Jackie's ascendancy to a sort of superstardom would be celebrated by her family, but instead, it was the opposite. It triggered a sense of jealousy and fierce rivalry between herself and her sister, Lee Radziwill, that would only come to an end when Jackie passed away from cancer in 1994.
While tales of JFK's infidelity and womanizing are now practically open-secrets to the American public, few are aware of what often behind the scenes in a troubled marriage; a marriage that was purely built on Jackie Kennedy's continued lust for the highest possible social standing, an opulent lifestyle, and a burning desire to one-up her sister.
In his new book Jackie, Janet & Lee, biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, who is known for biographies of contemporary entertainers and political figures such as Diana Ross, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Madonna et al traces the siblings' rivalry down to their childhood and how they were raised by their mother, Janet Bouvier Auchincloss.
The book is a tell-all on everything that went behind the scenes in the sisters' turbulent relationship and has reportedly upset Lee, who is now 84, who is said to have felt betrayed by her cousins who went and spoke to Taraborrelli and aired her 'dirty laundry' for the entire world to see.
Janet had it hammered into her two children from a very young age that the ultimate goal of life was not love, but instead, money and power, a notion that was taken to heart by older and more favored sibling Jackie, but not by the rebellious Lee, who was appalled by the idea of a loveless marriage.
It was a mantra Janet herself followed, having married her first husband and the children's' father Jack Bouvier when she was just 21-years-old. The marriage was born out of Janet's desire herself to climb the social ladder and Jack, who was then a well-to-do Wall Street broker and socialite, fit the bill perfectly. Financial struggles, Jack's propensity for heavy drinking, and his philandering meant that the union would end in divorce 12 years later, but that did not stop Janet from wanting her children to follow a similar path.
Her second marriage in 1942 saw her stick to her itinerary, marrying an older, but much wealthier investment banker, attorney, and Standard Oil heir Hugh Auchincloss and in the process, becoming his third wife. The pair would have one son, Jack, and one daughter, Janet, together.
While Janet insisted that her daughters Lee and Jackie 'marry up,' she also tried to ensure that the two sisters always supported and were there for one another and that they never compete, whatever the reason may be. But Janet's constant favoritism towards Jackie meant that Lee harbored a sort of resentment towards her sister and instilled an insecurity complex which would be compounded further when Jackie became First Lady and one of the most recognized people on the planet.
According to Taraborrelli's new book, as children, Janet dragged her daughters to museums and libraries and then quizzed them on everything they had learned. A failure to do so would often evoke a furious reaction from Janet, who is said to have slapped her daughters when they defied her.
One such instance was when Jackie lost her virginity at the age of 21 to John Marquand Jr., the son of a famous author. It was not Jackie losing her virginity that incensed Janet, but the fact that she lost it to Marquand, who was broke at the time. Janet instead cultivated a relationship between Jackie and John G.W. Husted, a young stockbroker. After only a month of dating, the couple announced their engagement in the New York Times in 1952.
The engagement was called off after only three months, with Jackie giving the reason that she had found Husted 'immature and boring' once she had gotten to know him better.
However, Taraborrelli claims that it was because Janet investigated the stockbroker's finances and found that he earned a paltry £12,000 year and proceeded to force her daughter out of the impending marriage.
Lee was more difficult to convince. Her first marriage was 'out of love' in April 1953 and was to Michael Temple Canfield, a publishing executive. Lee was only 19 at the time, and because Canfield could not fund the extravagant lifestyle his wife expected, the marriage was always doomed to fail; this despite Canfield being relatively well-to-do at the time and owning a house with two servants in London's upscale Belgravia region. The pair would file for divorce in 1959 and have their marriage annulled by the Roman Catholic Church in November 1962.
Around the same time as Lee's marriage, Jackie was acquainted with future husband and President of the United States John F. Kennedy at a dinner party by mutual friend and journalist, Charles L. Bennett. Attracted to Kennedy's looks, charm, and wit, the pair hit it off immediately, with their alliance no doubt helped by the fact that Kennedy hailed from an incredibly wealthy family that was worth in the hundreds of millions. Their relationship was given the seal of approval by Janet and the pair married in August 1953. After two miscarriages in two successive years, Jackie gave birth to their first daughter, Caroline, via Caesarean section in 1957.
Kennedy credited his marriage to Jacqueline for his re-election to the Senate in 1958, with her natural shyness and her visibility in both ads and campaigns crucial to the future president's victories. Noted historian Arthur M. Schlesinger described Jackie as having 'tremendous awareness, an all-seeing eye, and ruthless judgment,' with her husband calling her campaign contributions 'invaluable.'
Not to be outdone by her sister, Lee was said to be having an affair with Duke of Beaufort David Somerset, who owned the 52,000 acre Badminton Estate, as well as 44-year-old former Polish prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill. The pair married in 1959 and had two children, Anthony and Christina. This marriage, too, would end in divorce in 1974.
Furthermore, according to Canfield, Lee had boasted to him of having sex with JFK while the two couples were on holiday together. That story was corroborated by another relative of the sisters, who said that Lee confessed to sleeping with Kennedy after Jackie had given birth to Caroline. The relative said that Lee purposely kept the door open so her then-husband could hear her and JFK having sex.
While her marriage to Radziwill would only end in 1974, Lee was reportedly already having an affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, one of the wealthiest men in the world. Onassis is said to have told his friends that he was attracted to Lee because she was a 'sad and lonely little creature' and because of her general approachability.
Lee had her eyes set on marrying Onassis but was undone by her philanthropy towards her sister. In early 1963, Jackie was pregnant once again and gave birth to son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. He would die of hyaline membrane disease just two days after his birth via emergency Caesarean section. While the death would bring the Kennedys closer together in their shared grief and strengthen a troubled marriage, Jackie went into a depression after Patrick's death.
Aware of this, Lee invited her onboard a cruise with Onassis in October 1963. While President Kennedy initially shared his reservations, he relented because he believed the cruise would be good for Jackie. The trip was widely disapproved of within the Kennedy administration, by much of the general public, and in Congress but Jackie went ahead with it.
Onassis, who was once infatuated with Lee, now turned his attention to Jackie. The pair grew close to another, with Jackie reportedly impressed by Onassis' opulence and extravagance. Following JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963, Onassis is said to have called Jackie on a private number she had shared with him to comfort her and then flown to Washington to be by the First Lady's side during her time of need. He even stayed at the White House on her insistence.
Onassis had set his eyes on Jackie and would continue to always be there when she was in need of him, but at the time, continued his affair with Lee. Meanwhile, Jackie had grown close to architect Jack Warnecke, who managed to sweep her off her feet in the months following JFK's death.
But Warnecke ran into similar problems as those who had dated Jackie before him. He was unable to keep up with Jackie's money-hemorrhaging lifestyle. He would eventually admit to Jackie how he was $1 million in debt after a two-and-a-half year relationship and how he had to spend the staff bonuses at his firm to keep up with her demands, spelling the end of their fling.
Jackie then finally turned her attention to Onassis, who managed to woo her with a massive jewel that he would unveil during dinner with her in the summer of 1967. Janet, who was aware of Lee's affair with Onassis, was against the pair's relationship because she knew it would wedge a divide between the sisters. But those pleas fell on deaf ears and Jackie would marry Onassis in 1968.
Taraborelli writes in his book that when Jackie returned from her honeymoon, she had a furious argument with her mother, which ended with Janet slapping her daughter 'first on her right cheek with the palm of her hand, then on the left with the back of it - just as she had done when her girls were younger.'
Lee was said to be similarly incensed with her sister and felt betrayed. Acting on the advice of their mother, she had rejected Onassis' advances to stay with Radziwill so she could maintain an amicable relationship with Jackie. It would remain so, with Onassis' death in 1975 from respiratory failure doing little to placate the anger.
It was not just with her family that Jackie's standing had decreased. The marriage with Onassis brought her considerable adverse publicity and speculation that she might be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church because her husband was divorced and his former wife Athina Livanos was still living. She was also condemned by some as a 'public sinner' and became the target of paparazzi, who followed her everywhere and nicknamed her 'Jackie O.'
Their mother Janet was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1983, and in her deteriorating health, had a new favorite in Lee. Jackie, who constantly cared for her mother in those final years before her death in 1989, was said to have been unhappy about this, with that feeling compounded further when she found that their mother had left Lee $750,000, and her, nothing.
After Janet's death, the sisters grew further apart. From 1980, Jackie had maintained a close relationship with Belgian-born industrialist and diamond merchant Maurice Tempelsman, who was also her companion and personal financial adviser and would see little of her younger sister after their mother's death.
But Lee was present for her sister's final moments as she struggled against the battle with anaplastic large-cell lymphoma in 1994. She was at Jackie's bedside when she passed away, reportedly whispering 'I love you so much, I always have, Jackie.' Jackie, who was too drugged up on Morphine, is likely to have never heard her sister's last goodbye.
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