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Lee Radziwill and the Cinderella Trap

Photo: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Lee Radziwill knew she would always be “the sister of” — that no mention of her, no matter what she’d accomplished — could ever appear without acknowledging her far more famous and dazzling sister. And now, even in death, Radziwill again takes a back seat to Jackie Kennedy, as virtually every tribute to her seems to view Lee’s life solely through the prism of that sisterly relationship. “She will forever be remembered for her style and relation to her older sister,” wrote USA Today. “She achieved only pale reflections of the spotlight on her sister,” the New York Times opined. Vanity Fair magazine, trying valiantly to give her her due, called Lee “an icon” — but added “in her own right,” that tell-tale phrase that always means its own opposite.

Lee remained locked all her life in the struggle for “her own right.” Even back in 1976, when her great friend (later, enemy) Truman Capote, tried to praise Radziwill, he could only do so via a withering remark about her sister: “She’s all the things people give Jackie credit for,” he told People, “All the looks, style, taste — Jackie never had them at all, and yet it was Lee who lived in the shadow.”


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