Jackie Kennedy shocked a nation in October 1968 when she added “Onassis” to her famous name.
Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate 23 years his bride’s senior, seemed a sudden addition to Jackie’s life, but he and the former first lady had been seeing each other for years. However, it wasn’t just America’s jaw that dropped in response to the wedding. According to Steven M. Gillon’s new book, America’s Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr., Jackie’s children Caroline and John (then 10 and 7, respectively) found out about the nuptials the day before they flew to Onassis’s Greek island, Skorpios, for the ceremony.
Though Caroline was a bit wary of the new man in her life, John warmed up to his stepfather immediately. “Ari doted on John like he was his favorite puppy,” said Tina Radziwill, John’s cousin. Decades later, John recalled Skorpios as being “a magical place.”
The magic between Aristotle and Jackie, however, soon proved fleeting.
By all accounts, their marriage was more of a business relationship than a romance. Their pre-nup specified that they would sleep in separate bedrooms and Jackie would have no obligation to bear the billionaire any children. They would spend summers and Catholic holidays together and in return Onassis would provide his wife with a $10,000 monthly allowance, $7,000 for medical and aesthetic costs (hair, makeup), $10,000 for clothing, and $5,000 per month for John and Caroline.
By the end of 1972, things had turned ugly between Jackie and Ari. Gillon wrote that Jackie “regularly overspent her monthly allowance and then pleaded for more money.” In retaliation, Onassis would leak stories to the press about said spending habits. But the most egregious shot was fired that November when Aristotle “arranged for photographers to take photos of [Jackie] sunbathing nude on Skorpios — photos that made their way into Larry Flynt’s pornographic magazine Hustler.”
Things worsened in 1973 when Onassis’s son, Alexander, died in a plane crash. His daughter, Christina, blamed the accident on Jackie and the “Kennedy Curse,” telling her father, “now the curse is part of our family, and before long, she will kill us all.” Eventually, Aristotle began to agree, and decided to both revise his will and set a divorce in motion.
Before he could finalize the divorce, Onassis died of bronchial pneumonia in 1975. Jackie contested the changed terms of the will (she was set to receive $200,000 a year, but wanted “no less than $20 million”). After two years of negotiations, Christina agreed to give her $26 million if she’d “renounce further claims.”
Jackie never remarried.