Who Is Rebekah Harkness, Star of Swift’s ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’?

Ah, one of the many easter eggs in Folklore.

taylor swift and rebeckkah
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Taylor Swift has just released her eighth studio album, Folklore, and we're freaking! While the rest of us were hard at work making banana bread, Swift was making a stellar 16-song album, giving us songs to sing in quarantine and plenty of Easter eggs to mildly majorly obsess over. In the "Cardigan" music video—that dropped Friday at midnight—she told fans, via comment section, that she purposely hid Easter Eggs throughout all the lyrics on Folklore. So prepare to go full Nancy Drew!

We went digging, and, Swifites, we finally cracked who "The Last Great American Dynasty" is about (no, not that Kennedy she dated): Rebekah Harkness.

rebekah harkness

Harkness in January 28, 1969.

(Image credit: New York Post Archives)

Who Is Rebekah Harkness?

Harkness had quite the life according to The New York Times. The socialite was born in 1915 to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. She went to school in South Carolina and married an advertising photographer—but it didn't work out. So then Rebekah married big-shot oil tycoon William Hale Harkness.

The Harknesses shared a HUGE Watch Hill, Rhode Island mansion, called the Holiday House, that featured eight kitchens and 21 baths. "This arrangement effectively kept her from having to see her three children on anything like a regular basis," said the Times of the arrangement. (She would marry four times in total.)

In 1961, she became the sponsor of the late Robert Joffrey's small ballet troupe, until it folded in 1975. But she was also known for a bunch of other, not so pleasant, things, like dyeing a dog green, moving hundreds of thousands of dollars from one bank to another to confuse her accountants, and joking about her daughter's suicide attempt. Harkness died of cancer in 1982.

And this is where the connection to T. Swift comes in.

Taylor Swift Owns Harkness's Former Home

So, how does this all concern Swift? She bought that former Rhode Island home—yes, the one with all those bathrooms. Swift moved into Holiday House in 2013 for $17.75 million, and it caused some drama at the time.

Some people of the small beach community were worried Swift would bring more people (read: fans) to the quiet town, according to The Times. And since Swift is so, so famous, she naturally had to put up a ton of "No Trespassing" signs on the property that local citizens weren't too keen on. Not to mention, the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, even proposed a tax at the time on second-homes worth more than a million dollars, otherwise known as the "Taylor Swift" tax. (It never actually happened, but still.)

"I wonder if Taylor Swift might like to hear the story of the time a body washed up on the beach under her Watch Hill mansion," wrote one reporter for The Day at the time of her purchase. "The product of a boating accident, not foul play." What a lovely welcome to the neighborhood!

The Proof Is in the Lyrics

In the song, Swift sings, "They picked out a home and called it 'Holiday House,' their parties were tasteful if a little loud."

Swift even mentions Rhode Island, singing:

"Rebekah gave up on the Rhode Island set forever/ Flew in all her Bitch Pack friends from the city/ Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names/ And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet."

Harkness had a ballet company! People, the clues, write themselves.

And of course, Swift was once known for her lavish parties, filled with all her A-list besties, Anyone remember her iconic Fourth of July bashes, complete with matching swimsuits, blow-up slides, and American flag cake? Sounds a bit like Harkness's parties if you ask us...

In the most telling lyrics, Swift directly compares herself to Rebekah and all the criticisms they both faced:

"There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen/ She had a marvelous time ruining everything"

Swift took to Twitter this week to explain to fans how she produced her album. Influenced by her surroundings, specific images popped into her head, which eventually led her to writing multiple songs. "I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known, or wish I hadn't," the singer penned in her tweet.

So, it all makes sense! One Easter egg down, hundreds more to go.


Taylor Swift

(Image credit: Getty Images, Axelle/Bauer-Griffin)
Bianca Rodriguez

Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.