Lee Radziwill in Her Own Words — From Her Relationship with Jackie O. to Her Love for Extravagance
Although she lived a life that was full of luxury and glamour, the late socialite was not afraid to speak her mind
Lee Radziwill is leaving behind a legacy full of charisma and wit, which was captured in her most memorable quotes over the years.
Throughout her more than eight decades, Radziwill — the daughter of Janet Norton Lee and John Vernou “Black Jack” Bouvier — became a famous figure globally as she developed a passion for art and fashion.
Although she lived a polished life that was full of luxury and glamour, the mother of two — she shared Anna Christina and the late Anthony Radziwill with ex-husband Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill — wasn’t afraid to be candid in her rare interviews.
Here’s a look back at some of her most memorable quotes about life, love and times many could only dream of.
On her relationship with sister older sister Jackie and whether they were rivals: “It’s just the most ludicrous talk in the world that we’re rivals,” she explained to PEOPLE when she starred on the cover of the Nov. 1, 1976 issue. “We’re exceptionally close and always have been. We’re together very often. In fact, endlessly.”
On whether she lived in her sister’s shadow: “I’m nobody’s kid sister,” she told PEOPLE. “I think it’s time to make up a new story or go to bed.”
On whether she was always aware of her beauty: “From the word go … But no one else was, then,” she told the New York Times in 2013. “My mother endlessly told me I was too fat, that I wasn’t a patch on my sister. It wasn’t much fun growing up with her and her almost irrational social climbing in that huge house of my dull stepfather Hughdie Auchincloss in Washington. I longed to be back in East Hampton, running along the beaches, through the dunes and the miles of potato fields my father’s family had owned.”
On aging: “I used to think that everyone should die at 70 … but my closest friends, like Rudolf and Andy [Warhol] and to an extent [Truman] Capote, let alone most of my close family … didn’t even reach that age,” Radziwill told the Times. “There is something to be said for being older, and memories… I’ve seen some extraordinary funerals in my life, Jack’s of course. That had a different kind of sadness, a bleak, brutal, tragic end to hopes for a greater future and the buoyant few years of his presidency.”
On her greatest weakness: “I have an absurd kind of extravagance,” she told PEOPLE. “If I see an orchid that’s fantastically expensive, I’ll buy it. It’s worth it, for no other reason than it gives me pleasure.”
On the first impression John F. Kennedy made: “I remember the first time Jackie asked Jack to [childhood home] Merrywood, to pick her up for some dinner. You couldn’t mention the word ‘Democrat’ in my stepfather’s house or even presence — nor in my father’s for that matter — and I felt Jack was in for a rough ride. But he was a senator, so he already had a kind of authority as well as a dazzling personality. He won them over pretty quickly,” Radziwill recalled to the Times.
On life after JFK’s election: “My life could certainly have been different. Not so much because Jackie married a Kennedy, but because he became president,” Radziwill told the Times. “If he’d lost the election, I’d have probably spent most of my life in England with Stash [her third husband Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill], whom I adored, as did anyone who knew him, and our children, Anthony and Tina.”
On her childhood memories: “My childhood taught me nothing … zero. I never saw a play with my mother until I was 14 and then it was Hansel and Gretel. My father, naturally, spoiled me when I was allowed to see him flying to New York from Washington, alone, in those terrifying planes. He’d take me to Danny Kaye movies and rent a dog for me to walk in the park on Sunday — a different dog every Sunday — and then to have butterscotch sundaes with almonds at Schrafft’s. My mother simply had me, sticking me with a series of horrible governesses,” Radziwill recalled to the Times.
On first husband Michael Canfield: “I was very young when we met, and he was so good-looking and clever. I wanted so badly to get away from my mother, and he seemed to offer everything … looks, privilege, friends, fun… I was deliriously happy for a while, moving to London, our house in Chester Square … but … he drank seriously. He was very fragile. One day I couldn’t open the front door, he was slumped, out cold, inside. He tried to stop, but nothing worked for any time. He said I was so in tune with life and he wasn’t any longer. And besides, I had met Stash,” Radziwill told the Times.
On second husband Prince Stanislas “Stash” Radziwill: “Being married to Stash was certainly the happiest part of my life, so he must have been the love of my life: there were other infatuations, other loves even, but never the joy or knowledge of life and living that I experienced with Stash… He was dynamic, irrational, cruel I suppose, but fascinating,” Radziwill told the Times.
On third husband Herbert Ross and his obsession with his ex: “Herbert had been married to the ballerina Nora Kaye until she died, and unbeknownst to me, was still obsessed by her. It was ‘Nora said this, Nora did it like that, Nora liked brown and orange.’ … If anybody even breathed her name, Herbert would burst into tears. I had to clench my fists every time and was deeply hurt as I thought I had created a wonderful life for him. Thank God we never really settled in Los Angeles. My New York was difficult for Herbert, so we parted. … Now, no more on husbands!” she told the Times.
On JFK’s assassination: “[I remember it] as if yesterday. It was in the evening, in London. Stash came running up the stairs, his voice and face in shock. I started crying . . . uncontrollably. For hours. Finally, he said, ‘Lee, you have to get ahold of yourself,’ and I stopped, suddenly. It was the last time I have ever cried. I’ve never cried since, never. Anthony’s death [of cancer in 1999] was equally soul destroying, but with an illness, it’s so distressing . . . coupled with his bravery throughout it. I could only cry inner tears. When he died, I was already cried out,” she told the Times.
On regrets: “I think everyone has regrets, and people who say they haven’t are either liars … or narcissists. There have been many things in my life to have regrets about, in the sense I wish I could have changed them, or somehow made them not happen. What I don’t have is envy. I’m perfectly content at this time of my life. I’ve done so many fascinating things and the greatest joy is that I continue to do interesting things and meet fascinating people,” she told the Times.
On attending the renowned Miss Porter’s School: “I always hated school, but I really hated Miss Porter’s. Very ra-ra-ra, their teams must win. … I will never forget, I was terrible at sports. And I was always the last to be chosen for a team, which was so embarrassing and made me feel pathetic,” Radziwill told Sofia Coppola in a video for the Times in 2013.
On attempting to adopt an orphan as a child: “I was left alone at this enormous house of my mother and stepfather in McLean, Virginia,” Radziwill, who was “about 11” at the time, told Coppola. “I was just so alone… I decided I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I looked up in the Yellow Classified Pages ‘orphans, orphanages.’ So I took my pathetic allowance, called a taxi from the Yellow Pages nearest to our house. And so the taxi came, we went to the orphanage, I asked them to please wait and walked in and said to the mother superior at the desk: ‘My name is such and such and I’ve come to adopt an orphan and I have a lovely place where she would be terribly happy. Horses and dogs and walks and she would really love it.’ And she looked at me absolutely stunned and said, ‘I’m so sorry, my dear, but you’re just too young for us to allow you to adopt a child.’ When my mother came back around a week later, I just got such hell for this: ‘How you could upset me? How you could torture me the way you have? We were so worried about you?’ I couldn’t figure out quite why that was as they were in Chile on a motorboat.”
On ex-boyfriend photographer Peter Beard, whom she met one summer in Greece: “He was superb looking and had a body of a Greek god… He just gave me so many more interests and so much more curiosity about possibilities,” Radziwill told Coppola.
On whether she sees herself as strong: “Yes I do. And I see myself as vulnerable.”
On what kept her going: “I wouldn’t want to live if I wasn’t curious, yeah. I wouldn’t want to live. … ‘Without memory, there’s no life.’ And that’s the way I’d feel. Soon,” she told the famed director.