It was October 10, 1974 when Tina Livanos was found dead in a hotel suite in Paris. It was the end of a life that was the stuff of legend, as the beautiful aristocratic woman had married two of Greece’s wealthiest shipping magnates: Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos.
Her death was attributed to excessive use of barbiturates. In the next room, her husband Niarchos was sleeping, unaware of the tragedy.
Tina Livanos, one of the most beautiful and desired Greek women of the 20th century
Daughter of the patriarch of a Greek shipping empire, Stavros Livanos, Tina was born in 1929 and grew up as a beautiful “princess” living in both London and New York. She studied in the best colleges, spent vacations in the most cosmopolitan resorts around the world and interacted with princes and kings, as well as famous actors and international celebrities from a young age.
Gifted with stunning looks, Livanos attracted attention everywhere she went. Two of the men who were mesmerized by her beauty were shipping tycoons Onassis and Niarchos.
According to Onassis’ biographer Peter Evans, Onassis was jealous of Niarchos because of his elegance, his aristocratic air, and his seemingly effortless cosmopolitan finesse. Even in the most expensive suit, Onassis looked like a poor man trying to impress, Evans wrote. At the same time, Niarchos epitomized the chic aura of the ultrawealthy.
Niarchos was the first of the men to approach Stavros Livanos for Tina’s hand in marriage; she was only 14 at the time. The father advised him to be patient because he had another daughter, Eugenia, who had to marry first because she was three years older.
Onassis came in second in asking to marry Tina. Livanos gave the same answer he had given to Niarchos. But Onassis was more persistent. He was very motivated to beat his rival and marry the young socialite.
Courting lasted three years, as Onassis was infatuated with the young girl. It took many expensive gifts, countless days sailing on his yacht and barbecues to woo her over. Finally, in 1946, when Tina was only 17, Stavros Livanos gave Onassis his blessing. The shipping tycoon was 40 at the time.
Tina Livanos was married off to Onassis at age 17
The lavish wedding took place in New York in 1946, with shipowner Andreas Embirikos as best man. It was the social event of the year for the rich and famous.
The marriage also marked the beginning of an epic rivalry between the two wealthiest and most prominent Greeks of the time, Onassis and Niarchos. Niarchos’ answer to Onassis’ wedding was unexpected and added a new dimension to the hatred between the two men: A year later he married the equally sought-after, but less beautiful, Eugenia Livanos — Tina’s older sister.
The two men, who were now related by marriage, became embroiled in a bitter rivalry. Onassis’s yacht “Christina” was a floating palace; Niarchos then built the “Creole.” Onassis created his own paradise on a private island named Skorpios; Niarchos followed suit, doing the same with Spetsopoula.
On April 30, 1948, Tina Livanos had a baby boy in a New York clinic, who was then named Alexandros. Two years later, on December 11, 1950, Livanos also carried to term a girl, to be named Christina.
Yet Onassis’ lifelong obsession with beautiful women was not over with Tina. The couple became detached over time and reportedly, the only time they spent together was for the benefit of others, at the lavish parties they threw.
Livanos knew that her husband was sleeping with other women — and even knew who they were. However, when she did the same and began an affair with the young Brazilian millionaire and playboy Reinaldo Herrera, Onassis was furious.
A complicated marriage
Seemingly in retaliation to Livanos’ infidelity, Onassis fell in love, publicly — with one of the most famous Greek women at the time, the opera singer Maria Callas.
In the summer of 1959, Onassis invited Callas and her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini on a cruise on the luxurious “Christina.” In the beginning, everything went well, and Livanos enjoyed Callas’ company. Over the course of the cruise, however, it is believed that Livanos began to suspect that there were strong feelings between Onassis and Callas.
By the end of the cruise, Onassis could no longer hide his love for Callas, which made his wife leave the ship in a hurry.
In 1959, Livanos filed for divorce in the Supreme Court of New York, citing adultery — the only cause of divorce that was recognized in those days in New York — and asked for custody of Alexandros and Christina.
The 30-year-old woman accused her husband of having committed adultery with a woman named J.R. on land and sea, in the US, France, Monte Carlo, Greece and Turkey. She never publicly spoke of Callas and her rumored relationship with Onassis.
A year later, Livanos and Onassis were officially divorced, with no mention of adultery in the official divorce papers.
Death under mysterious circumstances
On May 4, 1970, Niarchos made headlines in newspapers around the world. His wife, Evgenia, 44, was found dead on their private island Spetsopoula under mysterious circumstances. The coroner found signs of struggle and bruises on her body. There was much speculation around her death, with some wondering if Evgenia had been murdered.
However, the official cause of death was excessive use of barbiturates.
The Livanos family stood by Niarchos’ side, and maintained that Eugenia had died of excessive use of barbiturates and that the bruising occurred when Niarchos attempted to revive her. This seemed a plausible explanation as the bruises were minor and likely could not have lead to death.
In 1961, Tina Livanos married the titled Englishman John Spencer-Churchill, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, with whom she stayed married for ten years, divorcing in 1971.
Only months later, Livanos did the unexpected, shocking everyone in Greece and internationally. The former Mrs. Onassis married her sister’s widow — and her former husband’s arch rival — Stavros Niarchos.
The wedding occurred with the Livanos family having given their blessing, publicly showing that they absolved Niarchos of any responsibility in Evgenia’s death. For Niarchos himself, the marriage was the fulfillment of a decades-long wish and a response to Onassis.
However, Livanos’ first husband and her son Alexandros openly opposed her choice.
Unfortunately, less than two years later the unlikely marriage was overshadowed by a great tragedy. In March of 1973, Livanos and Onassis’ only son, Alexandros, was killed in a plane crash in Athens. From that moment on, biographers describe the parents Tina Livanos and Aristotle Onassis, as two living dead people.
After this point, tragedy followed the family everywhere. The next year, on October 10, 1974, Tina Livanos incredibly met the same unfortunate fate as her sister. Livanos was found dead in a hotel in Paris, with the cause of death being a barbiturate overdose.
Onassis himself sadly passed away a year later, with many close to him claiming that he had never been able to recover from the sudden death of his beloved son.