The prolific celebrity biographer returns to Camelot, this time to examine some of the women involved in the glamorous proceedings.
Taraborrelli (Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story, 2015, etc.) tells the story of Janet Lee Bouvier, mother to Jackie and Lee, a woman whose life’s work was the acquisition of money and power. Indeed, Janet never let either of her daughters marry without understanding the suitor’s finances and connections. After divorcing John Bouvier, Janet married Hugh Auchincloss, a Standard Oil heir with two magnificent estates, one in McLean, Virginia, and the other in Newport, Rhode Island. Once married to Auchincloss, Janet wanted more children, and she was able to bear two more. This is much more the story of Lee and Jackie and their lifelong competition with and devotion to each other. Janet fostered and fed their competition, praising Jackie and criticizing Lee. Even in their games, Jackie was the princess and Lee the handmaiden; everything seemed to come to Jackie easily, while Lee struggled. Throughout their lives, Janet told the girls what to do and how. She even caused the end of Lee’s first marriage. Her greatest failure was Aristotle Onassis. Lee was ready to leave her husband, Prince Radziwill, for Onassis but was convinced it would be fatal for John F. Kennedy’s re-election, and she backed off. Even after Kennedy was killed, Lee hoped, but then Jackie moved in. Lee stepped aside gracefully, but Janet was furious. Throughout their lives, especially Lee’s, Janet vetted every attachment, with demands for settlements and monthly allowances (in the tens of thousands) before marriage. Jackie learned from the master, securing $3 million from Onassis along with at least $30,000 a month. Ultimately, this is a narrative about money and the seemingly unlimited power that goes with it. It’s a sad story, but anyone desperately questing for wealth could learn from it.
The aura of Camelot lives on in a book for Kennedy completists and those who enjoy tales of the rich and powerful.