Caroline Lee Radziwill, the younger sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, has died at her home in Manhattan on Friday. She was 85.
Her daughter told the New York Times she died peacefully of natural causes.
Radziwill was a woman who had many names and wore many hats.
She shunned her Christian name Caroline for her middle name Lee, and progressed through the surnames Bouvier, Canfield, Ross and Radziwill over the course of her three marriages.
The impeccably dressed socialite worked as an actress, a PR executive for Giorgio Armani and an interior designer. She also took on the title of princess during her 15-year marriage to her second husband Polish Prince Stanislas Radziwill, who she had a son and a daughter with.
After leaving the Prince, Radziwill married film director Herb Ross, who directed Footloose and Steel Magnolias. They divorced shortly before his death in 2001 and she reverted to the same surname as her children.
Born to a stockbroker father and socialite mother in 1933, Lee Radziwill became a high-profile member of New York society from a young age, after she began hitting parties with her sister Jackie and earning the ‘it girl’ tag in the 1960s. She was regularly seen out with celebrity friends such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol and travelled with the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour.
Often referred to as a “fashion icon”, Radziwill was a common fixture on global best-dressed lists, culminating in an entry into Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1996.
Designer Giorgio Armani spoke to WWD about her unique elegance:
“When I met her in the early 80s, I had the impression that she represented a very contemporary irony about American aristocracy, which is almost impossible to define,” he said.
“It is one that combined ease and sophistication, spontaneity and respect for the rules.”
According to many reports the glamorous Bouvier sisters struggled with sibling rivalry in their youth. This heightened when Jackie married John F. Kennedy and became one of the most famous women in the world.
Radziwill told The New York Times in 2013 she often grappled with the extra attention that came from being the First Lady’s sister.
“Well, at times it was annoying, at times funny,” she said.
“Perhaps the most depressing part was that whatever I did, or tried to do, got disproportionate coverage purely because of Jackie being my sister. But you learn to deal with the scrutiny, even the lies, as long as it’s not malicious.”
Following President Kennedy’s assassination there were numerous reports of the sisters falling out.
After Jackie Onassis died in 1994, her will left nothing to her sister “for whom I have great affection,” she wrote, “because I have already done so in my lifetime.” It left bequests to each of her sister’s children.
According to the New York Times, “the disinheritance of Radziwill was widely interpreted as another sign of strain between the sisters, whose relationship had captivated the press and public throughout their lives”.
There was no doubt America was fascinated by the wealthy Bouvier clan, and at one stage Radziwill hired filmmakers to begin work on a documentary about her family.
This morphed into the iconic film Grey Gardens, based on the life of reclusive extended family members Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (“Little Edie”).
Radziwill is survived by her daughter Anna.
Her son Anthony died of cancer in 1999.
Anthony’s wife Carole Radziwill is a regular on reality TV show Real Housewives of New York.