Laurence Leamer’s new book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal is out now and this excerpt in Vanity Fair details how jealous one sister, a “Princess” was of the other, who happened to be the First Lady.
“In 1962, Truman Capote sat down with Lee Radziwill…
Lee had never talked with Truman like this before, and she had every reason to be suspicious. Her older sister, Jackie, was the overwhelmingly popular First Lady, an iconic figure who was changing the way Americans thought about dress, décor, and culture. If Jackie had been lunching with them, there would probably have been a crowd in the street and a frisson of excitement inside this privileged sanctuary.
Lee had a gilded lifestyle. She was married to Stanislaw Radziwill, a Polish prince who had left his native land, and she lived in two grand homes in England—and later a major apartment in Manhattan too. With her sister in the White House, she had to be careful how she acted, what she said, and to whom she said it. She must have known that Truman was an infamous gossip.“
Lee told Truman the most painful secret of her life at that lunch: she was wildly jealous of Jackie. After the lunch Truman (of course, ever the gossip) wrote to his friend Cecil Beaton,
“’Had lunch one day with a new friend Princess Lee (My God, how jealous she is of Jackie: I never knew); understand her marriage is all but finito.’
Stas had given up his title when he fled Poland, but as Lee moved around New York City and Washington, D.C., she was known as “Princess Radziwill.” Even The New York Times bought into it…. referred to her as a princess again and again, and in that way, it was a pure delight.
Lee’s brother-in-law was now president of the United States and her sister was First Lady, so Lee needed to keep up appearances with that title, even though she was still often left behind. At a dinner party at Buckingham Palace, Prince Philip said to Lee,
“‘You’re just like me—you have to walk three steps behind.’
Lee’s marriage to Stas had been like Fourth of July fireworks, flashes in the night and then nothing but darkness. Painfully, it had turned out that Stas was not the prince charming of Lee’s childhood dreams, but rather an aging, quirky man who took far more than he gave. Although Lee still bore his name, she had moved on and found a new lover, Aristotle Onassis –a man with animal vitality and a great fortune.
When Aristotle wanted a woman, he showered her with his attention… and he wanted Lee.”
The obscenely wealthy shipping magnate had a long-term relationship with Maria Callas, the opera singer but that didn’t stop Lee from going off on Onassis’s 325-foot yacht, the Christina.
Jackie, meanwhile, was having a terrible time getting over the death of her newborn son Patrick, who had died in August 1963. That October, in a genuinely benevolent gesture to her bereaved sister, Lee asked Ari to invite the First Lady to join them on the Christina.
But as soon as Jackie walked up the gangplank,
Lee knew she had made a horrendous mistake…”