10 of the Most Intense Sister Rivalries in History
by Matthew Gilligan
We all know it: siblings like to argue, fight, and resent each other.
And this is nothing new, people! It’s just the way some family members are programmed. And you better believe that it happens to famous people, too.
Here are ten of the most dramatic sister rivalries in history. Have a look.
1. Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland
Joan and Olivia both had successful careers and were fiercely competitive in the world of Hollywood. Olivia was born in 1916 and Joan in 1917 and the two both became famous movie stars.
But their sibling rivalry started when they were children, apparently because Olivia resented Joan since birth, and lasted throughout their lives. Their conflicts also turned physical sometimes and Joan said that Olivia broke her collarbone in a fight in 1933.
The rivalry lasted their whole lives. Joan passed away in 2013 and Olivia passed away in 2020.
Hey, Hollywood is a tough place…and I guess being sisters doesn’t make it any easier.
2. Dear Abby and Ann Landers
Pauline and Esther Friedman are two sisters who each had their own syndicated advice column. Pauline’s Dear Abby column is iconic, but Esther’s Ask Ann Landers column actually debuted first, in 1955.
And that set the stage for an epic sibling rivalry…
The two apparently had a very volatile relationship that lasted their entire lives and had a rivalry for the ages of their competing advice columns. Esther passed away in 2002 and Pauline passed away in 2013 but their feuding legacy lives on through their families who are still fighting with each other.
3. The Brontë sisters
Many literary fans are familiar with the works of Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre) and Emily (Wuthering Heights) but are often surprised to learn there were actually three sisters in the family.
The third sister was Anne and some say she might have been the best storyteller of the bunch…but there are also rumors that her sister Charlotte was responsible for derailing her career.
To be fair, we should point out that Anne criticized the work of both of her sisters in her book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so it’s pretty clear that there was no love lost in this family.
4. Jessica and Ashlee Simpson
These singer sisters are undoubtedly close, but they’ve also maintained a professional rivalry over the years. At the height of their singing careers in the early 2000s, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson competed for record sales and both did pretty well at the end of the day.
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5. Beyoncé and Solange Knowles
While Beyoncé is more well-known, she and her younger sister Solange have engaged in a bit of a rivalry throughout their years under the spotlight.
Beyoncé is five years older than Solange and was well on her way to becoming famous at a young age and this led to some friction. Their mother Tina Knowles said, “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…”
Their mother made them go to therapy to work things out and to make Beyoncé recognize what it was like for her little sister to have to live in her shadow.
These days, the two are each other’s biggest fans. Awwwww!
6. Anne and Mary Boleyn
Here’s a scandalous sister rivalry from history!
Anne and Mary both had relationships with King Henry VIII…but it was Anne who ended up marrying the King and Mary actually married one of the King’s friends in 1521.
That probably made family gatherings a whole lot of fun!
But Anne got a raw deal out of the situation because the King grew tired of her, had her imprisoned, and eventually had her beheaded in 1536. Yikes…
7. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth
King Henry VIII sure got around, huh?
Okay, try to keep up: before he married Anne, the King was married to Catherine of Aragon, the mother of their daughter, Mary. After Henry married Anne, she gave birth to their daughter, Elizabeth.
Mary became Queen in 1553, but she was always paranoid about her younger sister’s popularity. She even had Elizabeth banished and imprisoned. However, Mary died in 1558 without an heir.
And this meant Elizabeth became Queen, after all.
8. Venus and Serena Williams
The Williams sisters are tennis legends, no doubt about it.
And, since they’ve both been at the top of their games for so many years, the two have faced each other on the court in 31 professional matches since 1998, with Serena winning 19 of those contests.
Despite the fierce history of competition with each other, the two sisters leave it all on the court. That’s a good thing!
9. Lee Radziwill and Jackie Kennedy
Anyone familiar with American history has undoubtedly heard of Jackie Kennedy, wife of President John F. Kennedy.
Jackie O had a sister named Lee and the two had a legendary rivalry that spanned decades. The sisters were beautiful and wealthy and competed fiercely with each other when it came to rich and powerful men.
Lee married a Polish prince in 1959, but Jackie eventually prevailed after her husband became President of the United States.
Take that, sis!
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10. Catherine and Pippa Middleton
Here’s another example of two wealthy sisters who compete with each other but also have a loving relationship.
As we all know, Catherine Middleton married Prince William and is now part of the British royal family. Her sister Pippa is a socialite who received a whole lot of attention from the press when she showed up at her sister’s royal wedding in 2011 looking gorgeous and turned heads.
Pippa is married to James Matthews, a former race car driver and the heir to Glen Affric, a large piece of land in the Scottish Highlands.
It sounds like they’re both doing just fine, don’t you think?