Carole Radziwill Offers Intimate Details Into Her Relationship With Lee Radziwill

A significant amount of mystery surrounded the relationship between Real Housewives of New York City alum Carole Radziwill and her mother-in-law Lee.

Radziwill married Lee Radziwill’s son, Anthony in 1994 but he tragically died five years later after battling cancer throughout the couple’s entire marriage. Lee Radziwill had both royal and Kennedy connections. She was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ sister and married Prince Stanislaw Albrecht Radziwill.

When Radziwill joined the cast of RHONYC, fans often wondered how the family matriarch would react. Also, others speculated whether the women’s in-law relationship endured long after Anthony passed away. Radziwill offered a glimpse into her bond with her mother-in-law, plus gave a heartbreaking account of the last time she tried to see her.

Lee Radziwill and Carole Radziwill /Getty Images

Lee defined style

Radziwill’s essay sheds light on what it was like to meet the iconic princess while dating Anthony. “But that first day set the stage for how I came to know her – warm, but strong-willed; interesting and also curious,” Radziwill wrote. “She had a razor-sharp wit and intellect. She was both formidable and playful. She invented style, she invented giving no f**ks, she demanded authenticity and lived unapologetically.”

“Fashion designers struggled to keep up with her because she didn’t set trends, she defined style. If life imitates art – art imitated Lee. Truman Capote called her a swan, who had all the taste and style her older sister was credited with, yet spent a lifetime living in Jackie’s shadow. But that was what the narrative got wrong.”

Radizwill wrote that her mother-in-law threw them an unforgettable wedding and ultimately allowed the couple to nest without intrusion.

Their relationship shifted as Anthony’s illness progressed

Upon learning Anthony had cancer, Radziwill recalled how her mother-in-law reacted. “She changed into a bright-colored sweater and walked into his room like she did each time after that, right up to the end – armed with her smile, a good story, and unfailing cheer. On the hardest days, she never faltered, publicly.”

Over time Anthony’s illness progressed, which impacted the women’s relationship. “As his cancer progressed, our relationship shifted; she understood as his wife I was in charge and I understood as his mother she was going through unimaginable pain. When it became clear he wasn’t going to survive, we became uneasy allies.”

The women “clung to each other in grief” upon Anthony’s passing, Radziwill recounted. She remained in New York while Lee moved to Paris.

But Carole remained Lee’s daughter-in-law

Even 20 years after Anthony’s passing, Radziwill says her mother-in-law always introduced her as her daughter-in-law. “Even after long absences, when it felt undeserved, she never wavered. Anthony and I didn’t have children, so there was little in the way of family ties to keep us linked.”

“What we had most in common was heartbreak, the thing we wanted to escape. But Lee, like me, was not overly sentimental, and this served both of us well. I flew to Paris for her 75th birthday party – dinner at La Voltaire with a group of her close friends. She was radiant and then, as always, we picked up as though we’d just spoken last week.”

Ultimately, Lee returned to New York

After years living in Paris, Lee returned to New York. The women continued to have dinners, often at Lee’s apartment. “Always the same — a small card table in front of the fireplace with a silk scarf for a tablecloth. Set perfectly, minimally, for two.”

“Talk was always easy even if we hadn’t seen each other in months,” Radziwill wrote. “Lee was an insatiable reader, she knew all the latest art exhibits, plays, and books.” 

Carole has this heartbreak

Radziwill recounts the last time she talked to Lee. “I last spoke to her two weeks before she died. I hadn’t seen her in months and I was happy to make a dinner plan. ‘When can you come?’ She asked. I suggested the following night, but she had a friend coming over.” 

“She suggested another one, I was out of town. I had a business trip scheduled that would push it back further, but it was cancelled last-minute. I could see her on the weekend. She passed away Friday night.”

Radziwill is left with this memory. “She was magnificent, original, and most of all loved by so many. The fascinating woman I met all those years ago was in her 80s now, and frail, but she had the same cheekbones, the same chiseled beauty, same eager curiosity and fluid ease with any subject you could dream up. It occurred to me, she was never in anyone’s shadow.”

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