Lee Radziwill — a former princess, interior decorator, actress, publicist, patron of many arts and close friend to of many famous artists, outlived nearly everyone else in her life, including her three husbands and the successive scions of the Kennedys, with whom her family became forever intertwined nearly seven decades ago.
“A remarkable girl,” author Truman Capote raved of Radziwill for a 1976 PEOPLE cover story.
Said architect Philip Johnson for the same story: “Her knowledge of people, her warmth, her glow — outgoing and delicious!”
Despite her own long and storied life, studded with its own jet-setting surprises, victories and defeats, Radziwill could not escape comparison with her older sister, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, wife of President John F. Kennedy and the most famous first lady of the 20th century.
An icon herself, Jackie’s successes in some ways seemed perfectly sized to overshadow her younger sister, who died earlier this week at her New York City home at age 85.
Radziwill was a fixture of the world’s best-dressed lists in her time, but Jackie’s style has been celebrated in museums. And Jackie’s second husband, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle “Ari” Onassis, had been quite close to Radziwill before he wed her big sister. (“I am very happy to have been at the origin of this marriage,” Radziwill told reporters at the time.)
Born not quite four years apart, the only daughters of Janet Norton Lee and stockbroker John Vernou “Black Jack” Bouvier lived most of their lives in the spotlight. Their relationship has long been the subject of curiosity.
The two could be quite close, dating back to their shared childhood in New York City and East Hampton and attending Miss Porter’s School. They shared a magical summer in Italy when Radziwill was 18, touring Italy and Paris — a trip they recounted in the 1974 memoir One Special Summer.
But much later in life, as adults, they could go years with the barest amount of contact. They finally reconnected in the last months of Jackie’s life, in 1994.
They lived through such turbulent times and had a turbulent bond to match.
“It was never sort of black and white,” Kennedy biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli tells PEOPLE. “There were always shades of grey, and when you try to