I didn’t want to do any kind of big coverage of Lee Radziwill’s passing over the weekend, but it wasn’t because I didn’t care. Over the years, I’ve loved reading about the Kennedys and the Bouviers, probably because the whole story is so glamorous and tragic. For better or worse, they were America’s royalty. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis and Lee Radziwill were products of their time and their upbringing – their mother, Janet Auchincloss, was a notorious social climber who finally landed one of the richest men in America at that time (Jackie and Lee’s stepfather). Black Jack Bouvier was a notorious drunk and womanizer. Lee and Jackie learned how to turn a blind eye to men’s infidelities and substance abuse and they learned how to attract wealthy, powerful men. Lee and Jackie were famously close, but of course they were also competitive with one another, and they “shared” some men throughout the course of their lives. But here’s something I didn’t know: Jackie left her sister NOTHING in her will.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her younger sister Lee Radziwill were two of the most famous sisters in the world — and also two of the most private. Lee’s death on February 15 at age 85 marks the end of an era — and renews curiosity in their complicated relationship.
“It was never sort of black and white. There were always shades of grey, and when you try to paint that relationship with a wide brushstroke it never works because there were times when they were very close,” Jackie, Janet and Lee author J. Randy Taraborrelli tells PEOPLE.
“Then, on the other hand, it sounds pejorative, but it’s definitely true that Jackie could have set Lee up in a great way financially, and she never did,” Taraborrelli adds, referencing Lee’s financial difficulties later in life. “So when Lee needed money for this and for that, Jackie would give it to her or lend it to her, but it fell short of the huge gift that sort of would have set her up for life. Jackie never gave Lee the kind of financial freedom that would have set her up for life, and that’s sort of a function of their relationship. She left her nothing in her will.“
Although Jackie granted Lee’s children, Anthony and Tina, each $500,000, Jackie, who died in May 1994, two years after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, wrote in her will that she made no provisions for her younger sister, “For whom I have great affection because I have already done so during my lifetime.”
Speaking of Jackie’s decision, Taraborrelli previously told PEOPLE that she had to have been aware of what she was doing to “make that decision and make it so publicly.”
“Of all people Jackie knew that anything she put in writing was going to end up in the public domain eventually,” he shared.
Jackie actually wasn’t flat-out rich when JFK was killed – she was basically living on an allowance from the Kennedy family. When she married Aristotle Onassis, of course he showered her with money and gifts and they lived a very ritzy life. But they grew to despise each other after the death of Ari’s son Alexander Onassis (Ari blamed Jackie, basically accusing her of being some kind of Angel of Death who brought tragedy wherever she went). When Ari passed on, Jackie could have fought Christina Onassis about the division of assets, but Christina made Jackie an offer: a bulk cash settlement to walk away from their family. Jackie took it, moved to New York and invested the money wisely. She had millions of dollars when she passed away. She could have spread the wealth around between her children and her sister and Lee’s children. She chose not to. That’s cold as ice.
Photos courtesy of Getty.