Today is the 90th birthday of the socialite, interior designer, and Capote Swan Lee Radziwill. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
NAME: Lee Radziwill
AKA: Caroline Lee Bouvier
DATE OF BIRTH: 3-Mar-1933
PLACE OF BIRTH: Southampton, NY
DATE OF DEATH: 15-Feb-2019
PLACE OF DEATH: Manhattan, NY
CAUSE OF DEATH: unspecified
FATHER: John Vernou Bouvier III
MOTHER: Janet Norton Lee
SISTER: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Slept with: Aristotle Onassis (prior to his marrying Jacqueline)
Husband: Michael Canfield (m. Apr-1953, div. 1958)
Husband: Stanislaw Radziwill (Polish prince, b. 1914, m. 19-Mar-1959, div. 1974, d. 1976, one son, one daughter)
Son: Antoni Radziwill (television executive, b. 4-Aug-1959, d. 10-Aug-1999 cancer)
Daughter: Anna Christina Radziwill (b. 18-Aug-1960)
Husband: Herbert Ross (film director, m. 1989, div. 1999)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Caroline Lee Radziwiłł, usually known as Princess Lee Radziwill, was an American socialite, public-relations executive, and interior decorator.
Caroline Lee Bouvier was born at Doctors Hospital in New York City to stockbroker John Vernou Bouvier III and his wife, socialite Janet Norton Lee. She attended The Chapin School, New York City, Potomac School in Washington, D.C., Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, and pursued undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College. In her birth announcement, and from her earliest years, she was known by her middle name “Lee” rather than Caroline.
In the 1960s, Radziwill attempted to forge a career as an actress. Her acting attempt was unsuccessful, if highly publicized. She starred in the 1967 production of The Philadelphia Story as the spoiled Main Line heiress Tracy Lord. The play was staged at the Ivanhoe Theatre in Chicago, and Radziwill’s performance was widely panned. A year later, she appeared in a television adaptation of the 1944 film Laura, which was badly received.
A London townhouse and a manor, Turville Grange (which she shared with her second husband) that she owned had both been decorated by Italian stage designer Lorenzo Mongiardino; they were greatly admired and frequently photographed by Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst. She worked briefly as an interior decorator in a style influenced by her association with Mongiardino. Her clientele were the wealthy; she once decorated a house “for people who would not be there more than three days a year”. She frequented celebrity company, including travelling with The Rolling Stones during their 1972 tour of North America, which she attended alongside the writer Truman Capote.
Radziwill was named to the Vanity Fair International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1996. Her Paris and Manhattan apartments were featured in the April 2009 issue of Elle Décor magazine. She was interviewed by director Sofia Coppola in February 2013 about her life as part of Radziwill’s cover story for T: The New York Times Style Magazine as well as about Coppola’s film The Bling Ring and the loss of privacy. She was listed as one of the 50 best-dressed people over 50 by The Guardian in March 2013.
In 1972, Radziwill hired documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles to work on a film about the Bouvier family. At the outset, the brothers filmed two eccentric and reclusive members of the extended family, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (“Little Edie”), who were Radziwill’s aunt and cousin, respectively. The Beales lived in a rambling, decaying home in East Hampton, New York, and were supported by other members of the family.
Radziwill’s original film project was not completed, and Radziwill kept the footage that had been shot of the Beales. However, the Maysles brothers were fascinated by the strange life the two women led, and after raising funds for film and equipment on their own they returned and filmed 70 more hours of footage with Big Edie and Little Edie. The resulting film, titled Grey Gardens (1976) after the name of the Beales’ home, is widely considered a masterpiece of the documentary genre. It was later adapted as a 2006 musical of the same name, in which the characters Lee and Jackie Bouvier appear as visiting children in retrospect. An HBO television movie based upon the documentary and surrounding story of the Beales’ lives, also called Grey Gardens, appeared in 2009.
Radziwill was married three times. Her first marriage, in April 1953, was to Michael Temple Canfield, a publishing executive. They divorced in 1958, and the marriage was annulled by the Catholic Church in November 1962. Her second marriage, on March 19, 1959, was to the Polish aristocrat Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł, who divorced his second wife, the former Grace Maria Kolin, and received a Roman Catholic annulment of his first marriage to re-marry. (His second marriage had never been acknowledged by the Roman Catholic Church, so no annulment was necessary.)
Upon her marriage she became Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline Radziwiłł. They had two children, Anthony (1959–1999) and Christina (b. 1960). Their marriage ended in divorce in 1974.
In 1976, The New York Times reported Peter Tufo was a “frequent escort”.
On September 23, 1988, Radziwill married for a third time, becoming the second wife of American film director and choreographer Herbert Ross. Their divorce was finalized shortly before his death, and she returned to using Radziwill, the transliteration of her children’s name, Radziwiłł.
Radziwill died on February 15, 2019, aged 85, in her apartment (160 East 72nd Street, Upper East Side) in New York City.