Sibling rivalries have existed throughout recorded history, beginning with Cain and Abel in the bible. I haven’t been exempt myself, and if you have a sibling, you probably haven’t either. Siblings can be the best of friends, and also, the worst of enemies.
When I was a teenager, one of my three sisters threw a butcher knife at my head during a fight.
She missed, then I slammed her head in a kitchen cabinet as punishment. The next day, we were the best of friends again, in a way that only sisters can be. We loved each other, fought hard, then loved each other fiercely again.
As I was writing The Last to See Her, I knew the two sisters, Meg and Gen, would have a similar complex relationship: loving, yet competitive, and always dynamic. To truly nail it, I drew from my own relationships with my sisters, but also from siblings throughout the ages. In my research, I stumbled upon fascinating sibling rivalries that spanned decades. I have to say, after reading some of these stories, my sisters and I seem tame with a simple thrown knife… I mean, after all, we’re all still standing today.
One example of sibling rivalries from modern history was that of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and her sister, Lee Radziwill. Everyone knows of Jackie O, and her glamorous personage, but I wasn’t very familiar with Lee. It turns out, they were lifelong rivals. Jackie was always her father’s favorite (he even named her after himself), while Lee was their mother’s. When they were older, they competed for the most powerful husband, with Jackie marrying a president, and Lee marrying a prince. However, it didn’t stop there. It’s rumored that Lee actually slept with JFK while he was married to Jackie. Jackie got the last laugh, though. Later in life, Lee dated Aristotle Onassis…. but Jackie married him. Check. Mate.
If you’ve seen Gone with the Wind, you are familiar with Olivia de Haviland, who played Melanie Hamilton. She and her sister, Joan Fontaine had a lifelong fierce rivalry. Olivia once broke Joan’s collarbone, and at just nine years old, Joan plotted to kill her sister by punching her square in the forehead. She didn’t, of course. They competed for fame, each coming into their own spotlight, and once, Joan famously told People magazine, “Olivia has always said I was first at everything—I got married first, got an Academy Award first, had a child first. If I die [first], she’ll be furious, because again I’ll have got there first!” Olivia did outlive Joan, but by every account, Olivia didn’t speak ill of her sister post mortem, although she did continue referring to her sister as “Dragon Lady,” until her own death at age 104.
There are no sibling rivalries fiercer than those within Cleopatra’s family. Most people are quite aware of the ancient Egyptian practice of marrying within families to protect the purity of the bloodline. They kept the crown within the family, and this very thing spilled quite a lot of blood. Cleopatra had a direct hand in the murder of three of her siblings.
Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes’ children were at each other’s throats from day one. Ptolemy was widely considered a weak ruler, and he was kept in power by making bribes to Rome. When the Egyptian people tired of a weak ruler, he was forced to flee, leaving his wife and eldest daughter Bernice in charge. Bernice killed her mother (who was also her sister) in order to rule alone. Ptolemy eventually returned and beheaded his daughter, retaking the throne.
After he died and Cleopatra ascended to power with her brother/husband, she teamed up with Caesar to have her brother killed. She was later forced to marry another younger brother, in order to protect her son. She ultimately had this last brother poisoned, which left only a sister, Arsinoe. After Arsinoe was dragged through the streets of Rome in chains, Cleopatra eventually had her killed to prevent her from making a move for the throne. Obviously, political coups and family murders were as much Ptolemaic traditions as incestuous marriage.
We can’t discuss infamous sibling rivalries without mentioning the Boleyn sisters, Anne and Mary. We all know that Anne was one of the wives of Henry the VIII and she faced a rather unfortunate end when she was beheaded. Years prior to her reign, however, her own sister was a mistress of the King, having been sent by her power-seeking father and uncle to secure the ear of the king for their own interests. She failed in marrying him, and Anne was eventually sent and married the king. So while Anne became queen, Mary kept her head. I think the winner here is clear.
There’s an old adage, well-behaved women rarely make history. While my face will never be minted on a coin, my sisters and I have a great relationship, and none of us were willing to sacrifice each other for political gain or power. In the end, I’m okay with that.
Courtney Evan Tate is the nom de plume (and darker side) of New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Courtney Cole. She spend her days dreaming up new characters and storylines and surprising plot twists and writing them beneath Florida’s rustling palm trees. Visit her at www.courtneycolewrites.com.
When a woman seemingly disappears without a trace late at night in New York City, suspicion falls on her unfaithful husband and secretive sister. Who was the last to see her? And which of these liars is telling the truth?
When Genevieve, a writer struggling as she finalizes her divorce from her cheating husband, gets an invite from her sister Meg to take a trip to New York City and celebrate her newly single life, she jumps at the chance. Meg and Gen think this will be a fun sisters’ getaway, full of fruity drinks, good-natured debauchery, and maybe a cute guy or two.
But things quickly go awry in The Big City almost immediately once a tipsy Gen throws her wedding ring off the hotel balcony. Then, Gen decides to take a late-night walk and disappears into the city night… into thin air.
Eventually she is officially declared a missing person and suspicion falls heavily on Meg, the last person to see her. And Meg hasn’t been the loving sister she’s been pretending to be.
Between Meg’s secrets and the mysterious insurance policy that goes into effect just when Gen vanishes, could it be that Meg is the one who actually committed the crime? Can it be proven? And if she didn’t, who really is the guilty party?