They were both stylish, beautiful, and drawn to the same men.
Born to dazzle, they were the most famous sisters in the world, the Bouvier girls—Jacqueline and Caroline Lee. Jackie was studious, dark-haired, athletic, and reserved. Lee—three and a half years younger—was light-haired, chubby, mischievous, adventurous. As young girls, they called each other “Jacks” and “Pekes.” “When I was seven and we lived in New York, I ran away,” Lee, now 83 and still stunning, once told Gloria Steinem. “I took my dog and started out across the Brooklyn Bridge…. I didn’t get very far…. It’s rather difficult to run away in your mother’s high heels.”
Raised in a 12-room duplex apartment at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan, the sisters summered at the family estate, Lasata, on Further Lane in East Hampton. They adored their father, John Vernou Bouvier III, known as “Black Jack” for both his perpetual deep tan and his roguish reputation.
The lack of clutter, the choices of things to put on the wall
But there could be only one “best.” Lee loved her older sister, but she found it difficult to live up to Jackie’s accomplishments, such as winning equestrian prizes and earning top grades at Miss Porter’s School for girls, in Farmington, Connecticut. Jackie would grow up to be universally regarded as one of the most beautiful and stylish women in the world, but among those who knew both sisters, Lee was seen as being equally—if not even more—beautiful and stylish, with a keener eye for fashion, color, and design.
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After a bitter divorce, when Jackie and Lee were 10 and 7 years old, Janet married the unprepossessing but wealthy investment banker Hugh D. Auchincloss. As she had been trained to do by her wealthy, social-climbing father, James Thomas Aloysius Lee, Janet married smartly—at least she did the second time around. Whereas Bouvier’s money had been depleted by a series of bad investments, Auchincloss’s fortune was nourished by Standard Oil.
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Suddenly thrust into a family with four step-siblings (Auchincloss had a son, Hugh, from his first marriage, to Maya de Chrapovitsky, and a son and daughter, Thomas and Nina, from his second marriage, to Nina Gore, who had a son of her own, Gore Vidal), Jackie and Lee were no longer the center of Janet’s fierce attentions.
The late Gore Vidal once described his stepfather as “a magnum of chloroform,” but “Uncle Hughdie,” as Jackie and Lee called him, proved to be a steady husband to Janet and father to the girls. Lee in particular was enchanted by Hammersmith Farm: “To arrive there, as a child … was just a fairy tale,” she once reminisced to The New York Times. “It was good for my imagination.”