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Carole Radziwill Gives an Unprecedented Look at Her Relationship with Late Mother-in-Law Lee Radziwill

The Real Housewives of New York City alum Carole Radziwill opens up about life with Lee Radziwill like never before.


Following her touching tribute to Lee Radziwill in the wake of her passing on February 15, Carole Radziwill opened up about her relationship with her mother-in-law like never before in a new essay for The Daily Mail.

Carole shared that she first met Lee 30 years ago for lunch at her home in East Hampton when she was dating her son, Anthony Radziwill. "It was the start of a relationship that evolved, sometimes stuttered, and eventually settled into a genuine friendship," Carole wrote. "But that first day set the stage for how I came to know her – warm, but strong-willed; interesting and also curious."

The Real Housewives of New York City alum remembered Lee throwing her and Anthony "an unforgettable wedding" when they tied the knot in 1994, as well as all the meals, vacations, and holidays they shared together as a family. "She was a complex mother-in-law," Carole recalled. "She loathed boredom and didn't suffer fools. She was exacting in her opinions, both good and bad. She adored her son but also knew her place in our lives. She led her own fascinating life, and didn't often meddle in ours."

Carole wrote that she was with Lee when they found out Anthony had been diagnosed with cancer. "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," she shared. "When it became clear he wasn't going to survive, we became uneasy allies."

Carole remembered that she and Lee "clung to each other in grief" after Anthony passed away in 1999. "Neither of us knew how to navigate it," she wrote, adding that Lee eventually moved to Paris while Carole stayed in New York.

But even though Anthony was gone, and no matter how much time they had spent apart, Carole said that Lee 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," Carole wrote. "What we had most in common was heartbreak, the thing we wanted to escape."

After Carole attended Lee's 75th birthday party in Paris, they started spending more time together as her mother-in-law frequented New York more often. Carole said it felt like they were "just two women, friends with history" in these moments.

The last time Carole spoke with Lee was two weeks before her death. "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 wrote. "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."

During their last dinner together, Carole said she showed Lee photos of herself on Instagram. "She didn't quite grasp the impact she has had or why people would post random snapshots of food and sunsets. She was flattered but not surprised. She knew she would be remembered," Carole wrote. "We both remarked how we barely knew each other when I was married. 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. If she was ever for one moment a shadow, she was equally the sun."

Lee passed away on Friday, February 15 of natural causes at her home in Manhattan. She was 85. 

Carole honored Lee by posting a vintage black-and-white photo of her mother-in-law on February 17 on Instagram. "She was loved. Rest in Peace, Lee," Carole shared in the post before thanking fans for their "kind words [and] comments" during this difficult time.

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