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13 Most Famous Sister Rivalries in History

Sisters always share a deep bond—and sometimes, they share an even deeper rivalry.

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Feuding sisters

Families fight–that’s just what they do. Usually, when a family has a rift within it, it’s kept within the home and dealt with internally. That is, of course, only when the family isn’t famous. For those in the public eye, every little problem is broadcast to the world.

While all families have a few skeletons in the closet (and sometimes you only learn unbelievable family secrets after someone dies), famous families seem to have more than their fair share. For these famous female siblings, their dirty laundry was flaunted for the whole world. No one can drive you crazy like family!

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Anne and Mary Boleyn

Both Mary Boleyn and her younger sister, Anne, had affairs with King Henry VIII, but only one married him. That sister wasn’t Mary—she was married off to one of the King’s friends in 1521. That left Anne, and well, lucky her…it wasn’t long before Henry grew tired of her and her inability to produce a living male heir. Henry set his sights on his next wife and had Anne imprisoned on trumped-up charges. In 1536, he had her beheaded, the likely reason she is one of the royal ghosts that still haunt Britain to this day.

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Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth

Before Anne, Henry VIII had been married to Catherine of Aragon, who’d borne him a daughter named Mary. Henry divorced Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn, but we know how that turned out (see above). Anne did give Henry a daughter, Elizabeth, before she died. Mary eventually became Queen in 1553. Fearing Elizabeth was more popular than she, Mary had Elizabeth imprisoned and banished; however, Elizabeth was the victor overall when Mary died childless in 1558, leaving Elizabeth to ascend the throne and become one of the most famous Queens in all of history.
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Venus and Serena Williams

It’s only natural Venus and Serena would be famous for their sisterly rivalry, which has been played out in some 30 professional tennis matches since 1998, most recently in 2018. Serena leads Venus in terms of wins and number of weeks ranked as the number one female tennis player in the world. But there are no hard feelings from Venus apparently; the Williams sisters leave their rivalry on the clay (or grass). Rivalry aside, don’t miss these famous siblings who changed the course of history.

Jacqueline Bouvier and sister LeeEverett Collection/Shutterstock

Lee Radziwell and Jackie Kennedy

The two daughters of Janet and Jack Bouvier were beautiful, wealthy, and though very loving as sisters, were highly competitive with one another, especially when it came to rich men. Although Lee eventually became a princess (having married a Polish prince), she couldn’t possibly “win” once Jackie married John F. Kennedy in 1953, in the union that created “Camelot”.

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Catherine and Pippa Middleton

Like the Bouvier sisters, the Middleton sisters have always been loving but rivalrous. When Catherine married Prince William, it was clear that she’d “won.” Or was it? On the day of the wedding, while the new Duchess of Cambridge was undeniably a truly lovely bride, her sister, Pippa caught more attention for her gorgeous figure in her fitted, white bridesmaid’s dress. If this makes you think of your sister, try these family quotes that hit too close to home.

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Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland

Olivia and Joan, born in 1916 and 1917, respectively, both became major Hollywood stars, and stories of their professional rivalry followed them throughout their lives. Theirs wasn’t just a professional rivalry, however; Olivia had resented Joan from birth, and their fights sometimes became physical (Joan claimed Olivia broke her collarbone in 1933). Joan died in 2013 while Olivia is still alive, now 103—but their rivalry will live on forever.

Dear Abby and Ann LandersJohn Gaps/AP/Shutterstock

Dear Abby and Ann Landers

Pauline and Esther Friedman had a “ferocious” rivalry, according to a 1958 LIFE profile, that fueled their individual successes as advice columnists. While many consider Pauline’s “Dear Abby” the iconic advice column, it was Esther’s “Ask Ann Landers” that paved the way for it (and all other advice columns to follow) starting in 1955. The two went head-to-head almost immediately, and their rivalry continued throughout the remainder of their lives. In fact, it continues even after their deaths through their respective families. Much like this feud, the past is never over. Take a look at these vintage family photos to get a glimpse of what life looked like 100 years ago.

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Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor

Eva Gabor was famous for portraying the pampered socialite married to a farmer on television’s Green Acres. Both of her older sisters, Zsa Zsa and Magda, were in the entertainment industry too, but it was the rivalry between Zsa Zsa and Eva that was most famous. In 1990, the Los Angeles Times even went so far as to playfully tally up their “wins”: Eva was skinnier. Zsa Zsa had more marriages. Eva sold wigs. Zsa Zsa sold costume jewelry and skin cream. Ultimately, even though Eva was the more successful actress, ironically, people often confused the two Gabor sisters.

The-Andrews-SistersRoman Freulich/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Andrews Sisters

No one can compete with the Andrews Sisters trio in terms of their being the best-selling female vocal group of all time. But boy, did they compete with one another. Their fighting included a period of two years when Maxene and LaVerne wouldn’t speak to Patty. After LaVerne died, Maxene and Patty continued to sing together, but they never really stopped feuding. The AV Club reports that when asked about the sisters’ feud, Patty’s reply was that there’d only ever been one disagreement. “It started in 1937 and it’s still going!” Sister know every little thing about each other—even their laugh, which is how this one woman found her sister in a crowd after years apart.

Bronte Family A Family Portrait of Charlotte Emily Bramwell and AnneHistoria/Shutterstock

The Brontë sisters

There were three Brontë sisters, but many know only about Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. The lesser-known Anne may have been a better storyteller, but something derailed her career, and some believe it was Charlotte. “Charlotte had always underestimated and patronized” Anne according to Penguin Publishing Group, and Charlotte may have taken the idea for Jane Eyre from Anne’s Agnes Grey. Not that Anne was entirely blameless; it’s been said she used her book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, to critique both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Clearly, these three understood that there’s no one who can get under your skin quite like a sister.

Jessica and Ashlee SimpsonMatt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Jessica and Ashlee Simpson

Jessica and her younger sister, Ashlee, competed intensely for record sales during the early aughts, but according to VH1 at least, they’ve had “equal success” with hits including “Irresistible” and “Pieces of Me,” respectively. Both have been hotly criticized (Jessica for being an airhead, and Ashlee for plastic surgery), but “they survived scrutiny and have powered on.

Cleopatra Vii Queen of Egypt Historia/Shutterstock

Cleopatra and her sister, Arsinoe

“It can’t be easy having a sister who is much more famous and successful than you,” writes the Dangerous Women Project of how it must have been for Arsinoe, the younger sister of Cleopatra. Yeah, that Cleopatra, the one who seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and ultimately committed suicide by snake bite. Before all that went down, however, Cleopatra and Arsinoe had been bitter political rivals with Cleopatra ultimately ordering the 20-year old Arsinoe’s murder.

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Beyoncé and Solange Knowles

There was a short time during their childhood when the two Grammy-winning sisters weren’t getting along, revealed their mother Tina Knowles in a 2018 Facebook chat with Maria Shriver, as reported by the Independent. The relationship was fraught because Solange is five years younger and Beyonce was on her way to being a superstar from a young age. “She [Beyoncé] couldn’t stand her for a minute. You know, they were little, [Solange] was all in her stuff, trying to hang around her and her friends and Beyoncé was really irritated…” So Knowles brought the two to therapy, despite criticism from her own family. “My family was like, ‘you’re going to make them crazy because they’re too young for you to take them,’ but I wanted Beyoncé to be sensitive to the fact that Solange had to deal with being a little bit in her shadow.” By all accounts, Tina’s early invention worked and the two siblings are each other’s biggest supporters to this day. Celebrate the bond between you and your sis with these best movies about sisters.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.