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Jackie O's younger sister Lee Bouvier Radziwill

Jackie O's younger sister Lee Bouvier Radziwill

Lee Bouvier Radziwill

Last week marked five years since the passing of Lee Bouvier Radziwill, the younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and, many have argued, the more stylish of the two. While Jackie O stole the spotlight as a former US first lady and global style icon, Lee emanated an elegance that was still shining well into her 80s.

In fact, Lee had grown up in fierce rivalry with the more studious and athletic Jackie, in one of New York’s wealthiest families. In 1953 Jackie married the charismatic future president John F Kennedy, thereby joining what many consider America’s equivalent to a royal family.

In the same year, 1953, Lee had married US diplomat Michael Temple Canfield, but in 1959, as her sister’s star ascended alongside JFK’s political career, Lee exchanged Canfield for a much older Polish prince, Stanislaw Radziwill. Jackie may have been just two years off becoming first lady, but the now Princess Caroline Lee Radziwill was ensconced in a mansion near Buckingham Palace.

Not evidently tied to convention, even when married into royalty, Lee would go on to have an affair in 1963 with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis – five years before Jackie, widowed in late-1963, would accept Onassis’ offer of marriage. Some 20 years later, Lee would later marry a third time, to Broadway director and choreographer Herbert Ross.

For all the sisters’ apparent competitiveness, it’s widely believed that Lee encouraged Jackie’s wardrobe style, introducing her to European designers and broadening her taste beyond the American designers favoured by JFK. Lee kept an apartment in Paris, on the Avenue Montaigne, and once said “When you see some sun, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. It brings tears to your eyes.”

Lee Radziwill died on February 15, 2019 at the age of 85 in her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, drawing the curtain on perhaps the grandest era of the style-setting and scandal-courting partners of presidents and princes.