Who Was Lee Radziwill?

a person with a large smile
Who Was Lee Radziwill? getty images

Born into a world that strictly adhered to the status quo, Lee Radziwill was a rare chameleon who had the ability to thrive amongst people of all sorts. She toured with the Rolling Stones, spent weekends in Montauk with Andy Warhol, jet-setted with Giorgio Armani, and even married a prince. She had a quick stint as an actress and worked briefly as an interior designer. What is a Swan, you ask? Lee. Bouvier. Radziwill.

Truman Capote met Lee in 1962, and they'd become great friends and even collaborators (he wrote Laura for her; it did not go particularly well). Still, this didn't stop the pals from falling out when Capote published "La Côte Basque, 1965," which mentioned Radziwill—who's played by Calista Flockhart in the new series Feud: Capote vs. the Swans—and her sister, Jackie Kennedy, by name.

Here is everything you need to know about the late Lee Radziwill.

Her Pedigree

Born Caroline Lee Bouvier, Radziwill was the daughter of stockbroker John Venou "Black Jack" Bouvier III, whose ancestors made their money from crafting fine furniture, firewood distribution, and real estate. Her mother was socialite Janet Norton Lee, and her older sister was the future Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Radziwill was considered the leading debutante of her era, and a full-page photograph of her gown was featured in the "debutante" section of Life magazine appeared in the December 1950 issue.

lee radziwill photo by jim smealron galella collection via getty images
Lee Radziwill was born into a socially prominent New York family. Jim Smeal

Her first marriage was in April 1953 to publishing executive Michael Temple Canfield. The two divorced in 1958, and Radziwill married Polish aristocrat Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill. After the marriage, Radziwill stylized her name to Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline Lee Radziwill and was referred to as Princess Radziwill in the American press. They had two children together but divorced in 1974. Radziwill's final marriage was to American movie director Herbert Ross (responsible for Footloose).

Radziwill passed away on February 15, 2019 in her Upper East Side apartment.

Her Style

giorgio armani and lee radziwill during giorgio armani, avenue montaigne store opening at 18 avenue montaigne armani store in paris, france photo by lorenzo santiniwireimage
Giorgio Armani and Lee Radziwill had a close relationship. She was a muse to him, and worked as his special events director.Lorenzo Santini

Radziwill was inducted into Vanity Fair's International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1996, but perhaps Giorgio Armani best summarized her style. "She is strong-willed and feminine in a non-stereotypical manner," Armani told T&C in 2019. "And she expresses her personal style through reducing, not adding. She stays true to herself. She's beyond passing trends." Radizwill's first Armani ensemble was a large black-and-white striped top with pointed shoulders, and a long black velvet skirt. In fact, she was eventually appointed as the director of special events for Armani. "I have one-of-a-kind memories of these events,"Armani said. "I almost had the impression I was not working, because of the understanding between us. She mastered them, lightened any tension, created a magical harmony."

Another career for the multitalented princess? A stint as an interior decorator, often collaborating with the notable Italian architect Renzo Mongiardino. Her homes in New York, Paris, London, and Buckinghamshire, England are a study in layered interiors and a plethora of textiles.

Her Relationship with Truman Capote

original caption 641967 lee radziwill l and truman capote pose for the camera at the emmy awards capote won his emmy in the category of outstanding individual achievements for a christmas memory
Lee Radziwill with Truman Capote at the Emmy Awards. The two were close friends and Radziwill was one of the Swans who defended him when "La Côte Basque, 1965," was published. Bettmann

Radziwill first encountered Truman Capote over lunch in 1962. At the time, she was married to a prince and her sister, Jacquline Kennedy, was the First Lady of the United States. Apparently, Radziwill confessed her jealousy of her sister and after the lunch, Capote wrote to his friend, the photographer Cecil Beaton: "Had lunch one day with a new friend Prince Lee (My God, how jealous she is of Jackie: I never knew); understand her marriage is all but finito."

Despite the gossip, Capote remained in Radziwill's orbit. Capote was even one of her early confidants when her sister agreed to marry Lee's former lover, Aristotle Onassis. "How could she do this to me," Lee said to Capote over the phone according to Laurence Leamer, the author of Capote's Women. "How could she! How could this happen!" In 1967, Capote, determined to make Radziwill a star, cast her in productions of The Philadelphia Story and an adaption of the 1944 noir Laura. Radziwill's debut on television in 1968 was met with negative reviews from critics.

However, Capote still sang Radziwill's praises. Once in 1976, Capote told People that "She's a remarkable girl. She's all the things people give Jackie credit for. All the looks, style, taste—Jackie never had them at all, and yet it was Lee who lived in the shadow of this super-something person."

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