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Brutal Obituary For Lee Radziwill, Jackie Onassis' Younger Sister

Lee Radziwill -- born Caroline Lee Bouvier -- died last Friday night age 85, and the New York Times' obituary for her is the brutal stuff of nightmares.

In painstaking detail, the obit recalls anecdotes about Radziwill's professional failures and dedicates at least half its word count to her older sister, the legendary Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Lee Radziwill (left) and Jackie Kennedy Onassis during "Company" Opening Night on Broadway at The Alvin Theater in New York City, New York, United States. Photo: Getty.

Radziwill -- a style icon, socialite, former princess and Georgio Armani PR guru -- is described by the NY Times'  Robert D. McFadden as a woman who "struggled as an actor, decorator and writer to share her sister's aura of success".

The first half of the obituary is dedicated to the most profound moments of Jackie's life: the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, her marriage to shipping tycoon Ari Onassis, and how Radziwell played a supporting role throughout.

A photo of Lee Radziwill, right, with her husband Prince Stanislaw Radziwill behind her, celebrating Christmas with the Kennedys. Photo: JFK Library.

There's a bit of fluff about how Jackie might have had an affair with Robert Kennedy, and a lasting impression that Jackie 'stole' Onassis from her sister.

When we finally get to Radziwell's accomplishments -- or, to read this obituary, lack thereof -- it's to describe in excruciating detail her failed turn as an actor (quoting verbatim her bad reviews); her brief spell as an interior designer; and her failure to complete several memoirs.

"She made several attempts for professional recognition, but achieved only pale reflections of the spotlight of her sister," McFadden writes.

The obituary was received with a mix of horror and fascination online.

"This is a horrific, petty and insensitive obituary," presenter Soledad O'Brien said on Twitter.

Journalist Kate Knibbs described it as an "extended savage burn", while the New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum described it as "Tahani's worst nightmare", referring to a character on NBC's The Good Place and her infinitely more successful sister.

"The worst thing about it is that it's not even pure vitriol, it's just drip after drip of undermining analysis," Nussbaum said on Twitter.

Lee Radziwell at London's Savoy Hotel in 1967. Photo: Getty.

Other obits remembered Radziwell as a style icon, an American princess, a PR executive for Georgio Armani, a socialite, a "fashion visionary", a woman with renowned taste in interior design, and yes, the younger sister to a woman Americans adore.

"It's the most ludicrous talk in the world that we're rivals," she told People in 1976.

"We're exceptionally close and always have been."

The tabloid fascination of a rift between the sisters was endless throughout their lives -- and clearly, in death.

The sisters together. Photo: Getty.

"I certainly understand people's fascination," she told NT Times Style Magazine in 2013.

"After all, as the young wife of the youngest elected president, she was fascinating ... [but] perhaps the most depressing part was that whatever I did, or tried to do, got disproportionate coverage purely because of Jackie being my sister. But you learn to deal with the scrutiny, even the lies, as long as it’s not malicious."

Radizwill's daughter-in-law, Real Housewives of New York's Carole Radziwill, offered kinder, simpler tribute to her: "She was loved."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au