The untold story of the rivalry between America’s most famous first lady, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and her sister, Lee Radziwill, is being told in a new book.
In Jackie, Janet and Lee, bestselling biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli says the sisters' lifelong competition was sparked by their controlling mother, Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss.
“When Jackie died, much to Lee's surprise, she left her no money at all,” he said. “Janet did not want them to compete with one another. She made that very clear, but after she gave them that speech she would take Jackie off to go shopping and leave poor Lee behind.”
The rivalry even extended into the bedroom, according to Taraborelli.
While Jackie was in the White House, Taraborrelli says her married sister had an affair with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. But after President Kennedy’s assignation, Onassis turned his sights on Lee's more famous and now-available sister, Jackie. Their mother did not approve.
“Janet did everything she could think of to keep Onassis away from Jackie and from Lee because Janet knew how competitive the sisters were and she knew if Onassis come into the picture he would come between [them] and he did — and they never recovered,” he said.
The attraction of both sisters to the billionaire may have stemmed, in part, from a lesson they learned from their mother, Taraborelli says. She told them as young girls to marry for money, not for love.
“She asked them, ‘Do you want to know the secret to ever after?’ And the girls looked at them with wide eyes and said, 'Yes,’ and she said, ‘Money and power,'" Taraborrelli claims.
Taraborrelli says the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination nearly drove Jackie to end her own life. He claims she told her sister that she wanted to take as many pills as she could and wash them down with vodka.
“I don't think Jackie ever recovered from the assassination of her husband,” he believes. “She suffered greatly from PTSD.”
She married Onassis in 1968 and became known to the world as "Jackie O," but her mother made it painfully clear to the former first lady that she did not approve.
“Jackie defied her and married Onassis and when Jackie got back from the honeymoon, she slapped her and slapped her like a kid,” Taraborrelli said.
As for the sisters, the author says their often rocky relationship was never resolved because Jackie’s life was cut short by cancer in 1994.
“There were a few years when they had no communication at all, but then Jackie had cancer and she was diagnosed around January and she was gone by May and so they didn’t have a lot of time," Taraborrelli said.