The Auchinclosses and Lee Radziwill
From childhood, Jackie's relationships with her mother and sister were complicated. Throughout her life, Jackie struggled to find common ground with Janet. On one hand, her mother represented a lifestyle Jackie found stifling — a career housewife whose primary function was to run the house and present the image of the perfect Social Register family. On the other hand, Jackie understood and embraced dedication to family. She also shared her mother's desire for deep financial security. Where they disconnected was in their views of a woman's place once the children were grown. Jackie was a teenager during World War II, when women entered the work force en masse and discovered independence and the fulfillment of having a career. Janet's goal was to be the perfect Social Register wife. Jackie saw her mother's pursuit of status as gauche. Like many daughters, Jackie loved her mother, but she didn't particularly like her. While her breeding demanded she treat her mother with respect, it didn't make her feel obligated to include her mother in every aspect of her life.
SHE SAID …
“I have made no provision in this my Will for my sister, Lee B. Radziwill, for whom I have great affection, because I have already done so during my lifetime. I do wish, however, to remember her children and … set aside the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars for each child surviving me of my sister.”
As children of a troubled marriage, Jackie and Lee developed a bunker mentality and forged a protective bond. But as they matured they also struggled with intense sibling rivalry. As teens, Lee — four years Jackie's junior — was always considered the more beautiful, the more precocious, and the more vivacious of the two. But Jackie had the sharper intellect and a playful, self-deprecating humor that drew people to her — and left Lee constantly overshadowed. Lee was also very insecure and took any slight teasing as a personal slight.
In November 1976, Jackie's stepfather Hughdie died at age seventy-nine after years of failing health. Life had thrown Hughdie unexpected hardships. Instead of enjoying his golden years, he spent the latter part of his life immersed in financial woes. He had lost the majority of his fortune through a series of bad investments. Although he kept his money problems a secret as much as he could from as many people as he could, his money crunch forced him to sell Merrywood.
Hughdie Auchincloss bought Merrywood in 1934 for $135,000. He spent an additional $100,000 in improvements. In 1962, he agreed to sell the property to a group of developers for $750,000. They planned to build three seventeen-story apartment buildings on the property. His attempt to sell the property to developers created a bitter community backlash.
After Hughdie's death, Jackie's mother, Janet, sold Hammersmith Farm, which became a private museum. Janet moved to a home in Georgetown. Jackie supported her mother by providing her with a million-dollar trust fund. But their relationship remained emotionally distant. Janet often appeared bitter at not being included in Jackie's life as much as she would have wanted. She passed away in 1989.
Unlike Jackie, Lee showed little interest in proving herself as a career woman, channeling her energies instead on marrying well — and beating her sister to the altar. Her first marriage, to Michael Canfield, took place on April 18, 1953, a month before Jack Kennedy proposed to Jackie. There were suggestions that Lee was jealous that Jackie had attracted the handsome young senator.
During Jackie's time in the White House, Lee was one of her closest companions. By then Lee had divorced Canfield and remarried to Stas Radziwill. But after the assassination, the sisters' lives drifted in different directions. They always maintained a relationship but never got past their inherent resentment and competitiveness. It was Lee who first became romantically involved with Aristotle Onassis in 1963. But it was Jackie Ari married.
Where Jackie found fulfillment in being a wife and mother, Lee was on a constant search for her niche. In 1967, Lee appeared in a dinner theater production in Chicago of Philadelphia Story. Critics skewered Lee's performance, but the public wanted to see Jackie's sister and the play sold out. A year later, she starred in the television production of Laura on ABC. Again, the public watched in large numbers although her acting was universally panned by critics. Lee's close friend, Truman Capote, who had been instrumental in getting the TV movie produced, blamed Jackie for the critics' vitriol. He went on the David Suskind talk show and explained that the media came after Lee regardless of what she did because Jackie — then still seen as a grieving widow — was untouchable.
The Rift Deepens
Tension between the sisters flared in 1974 when Lee left Stas — after fourteen years of marriage and two children — and moved in with photographer Peter Beard. Jackie was close to her brother-in-law and let Lee know she disapproved of her actions. The estrangement was exacerbated the following year when, for reasons never publicly explained, Jackie prevented Lee from attending Aristotle Onassis's funeral. Lee reacted bitterly, but the resentment went much deeper. Lee's life seemed in constant upheaval and turmoil while Jackie flourished in her new, post-Onassis life. When Lee heard Jackie had been offered an editor's job at Viking, she took out her frustration on Tom Guinzburg when she ran into him at a dinner party.
Through it all, Jackie still felt responsible for the care of her younger sister. Lee was usually in dire need of money and Jackie frequently helped her out financially, but the emotional bond between them was forever damaged.