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With the passing of Billy Graham this week there remains only one person who tops the list of the most admired people of the second half of the 20th century – and that is Queen Elizabeth II. The other person who excelled in this rarified air was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Even in the 21st century, Jackie is ranked in the top five of the most influential First Ladies. And now there is a new book out for Jackie fans in which to sink their teeth.
J. Randy Taraborrelli’s book entitled Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill is juicy consumption for sure. Taraborrelli makes several intriguing claims about the life and times of Jackie, her mother, and sister.
PTSD and Suicide?
Among Taraborrelli’s assertions – which he contends are backed up by recently unearthed letters – is that as a new widow Mrs. Kennedy considered taking her own life:
“Both Lee and Janet were extremely concerned about Jackie because she was suffering from such PTSD,” he explained. “Jackie began to drink, take pills, and she began to talk about suicide. And she began to talk about it a lot. And she began to consult with a priest named Father McSorley about whether or not she would see Jack on the other side if she killed herself.”
Taraborrelli went on to say that people close to Mrs. Kennedy were alarmed at the time. Her sister Lee, in particular, tried to come to the rescue but it’s unclear as to whether she was able to make a difference as the former First Lady endured the grieving process. 1963 was no picnic for Mrs. Kennedy. Not only did she lose her husband, but a newborn son named Patrick as well. Thus, it does not come as a shock that she would consider such things, but this is newfound information.
Still, the relationship between Jackie and her sister is described as up and down throughout the years. There was the situation of Jackie marrying Lee’s old beau Aristotle Onassis, the challenge of dealing with an ailing parent and of course the mother of all conflicts – money. Taraborrelli asserts that their relationship was damaged after Janet Auchincloss gave Lee $750,000. The lump sum gift to the younger sister resulted in bad blood that caused a rift between the two for years. In the end, Jackie and Lee somehow found a way to patch things up and Mrs. Radziwill was a comfort to her sister when Jackie fell ill in 1994.
Caroline Lee Radziwill is a force in her own right. At age 84, she pretty much flies under the radar screen these days. But this wasn’t always so. Mrs. Radziwill had many careers and several husbands as well as high profile friends like Truman Capote. She served as a Giorgio Armani public relations executive and even dabbled on the stage as an actress for a brief stint.
Elder Abuse Alleged
The other rather new and curious portion of Taraborrelli’s book centers around information relating to the final years of Janet Auchincloss who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He found handwritten letters from Jackie that demonstrate her concern for her mother during this time. Whether true or not, the letters seem to indicate that Mrs. Kennedy believed her mother’s third husband, Bingham Morris, was mishandling his wife and her illness.
Jackie Kennedy has long been considered by many as one of the most intriguing women in the world. And while it’s clear she was a fashion icon, a proud mother and a grieving widow, this new portrait of her brings to life the private suffering that all of us endure at one time or another – some more than others. And it demonstrates that whether you are a famous legend or just a regular Joe, true greatness often lies in being able to overcome the difficulties that life throws at you.