“Do you know what the secret to happily-ever-after is?” Janet Bouvier Auchincloss would ask her daughters Jackie and Lee during their tea time. “Money and Power,” she would say. It was a lesson neither would ever forget. They followed in their mother’s footsteps after her marriages to the philandering socialite “Black Jack” Bouvier and the fabulously rich Standard Oil heir Hugh D. Auchincloss.
Jacqueline Bouvier would marry John F. Kennedy and the story of their marriage is legendary, as is the story of her second marriage to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Less well known is the story of her love affair with a world renowned architect and a British peer. Her sister, Lee, had liaisons with one and possibly both of Jackie’s husbands, in addition to her own three marriages―to an illegitimate royal, a Polish prince and a Hollywood director.
If the Bouvier women personified beauty, style and fashion, it was their lust for money and status that drove them to seek out powerful men, no matter what the cost to themselves or to those they stepped on in their ruthless climb to the top. Based on hundreds of new interviews with friends and family of the Bouviers, among them their own half-brother, as well as letters and journals, J. Randy Taraborrelli paints an extraordinary psychological portrait of two famous sisters and their ferociously ambitious mother.
Lee Radziwill had a dubious claim to royalty through her marriage to Polish Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł but it was her sister who would become American Royalty as the wife of President John F. Kennedy. For good measure, this book also includes their mother Janet. As someone who is not American, I knew very little of any of the women. Author J. Randy Taraborrelli has also written about Ethel Skakel and Joan Bennet who also married into the Kennedy family and so you can certainly tell that he has done his research. I enjoyed reading about the relationship between the two sisters especially and one cannot help but feel sorry for Lee, who always seemed a bit overshadowed. Perhaps her insistence on being called “Princess” came from a need to compete with her sister, the First Lady. Nevertheless, the sisters had a good relationship though I could not help but feel that their lives seemed empty somehow. However, the author makes it an interesting story and you have to keep reading.
Lee is the only one of the three women still alive but the book ends rather suddenly around 1999. Where are Lee’s last 20 years?