The Top 10: Family Arguments | John Rentoul

The Top 10: Family Arguments | John Rentoul
Why I have never really understood the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’

Andrew Kitching suggested this as a follow-up to the Top 10 greatest political errors of all time, which included Harold’s decision to rush his exhausted troops from winning the Battle of Stamford Bridge, to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings, 1066. Harold had just defeated his brother Tostig. However, the Godwinson brothers had already featured as a footnote to the Top 10 embarrassing siblings, and so were ruled out of order, along with John Amery, Ed Miliband, Piers Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Fortunately, there are many more.

1. Cain and Abel. Obviously. A dispute that resulted in the death of a quarter of the world’s population at the time. Nominated by John Peters, Ted Morris, Lawrence Freedman, Paul Wingrove, Alex Massie and Niels Orlando Skaerbaek.

2. Adolf (“Adi”) and Rudolf Dassler, brothers who ran the Dassler Brothers Sports Shoe Factory until they fell out. Adolf set up Adidas and Rudolf set up Puma on the other side of the river. John Peters, Ian Harris, David Twizell, Sean Rogers, Dan Jackson, Steven Gray and Sam Freedman.

3. A S Byatt and Margaret Drabble. “Normal sibling rivalry” (Byatt), “terribly overstated by gossip columnists” (Drabble). Thanks to John Peters, Charlotte Morgan, Cosmo Graham and Hywel Evans.

4. Britney and James Spears. Nominated by ModSocDem, Itzik and Ali Hughes.

5. Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen. Father was expelled by party led by daughter. Suggested by Patrick O’Flynn, Nick Clayton, Miranda Green and Allan Holloway.

6. Liz and Mary Cheney. Daughters of the vice president who fell out over Mary’s same-sex marriage. Thanks to Robert Shrimsley.

7. Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Fontaine, the younger sister, said: “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first [she did], she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.” Nominated by David J Mellor, An Owl Called Sage, Peter Hardy, Kathryn Walker, Exexpat19, Sheila Bailey, Allan Holloway and Mitchell Stirling.

8. Donald and Mary Trump. Mary, niece and author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Thanks to Peter Hardy and Martyn Griffin.

9. Henry VIII and his wife, Henry VIII and his next wife, Henry VIII and his subsequent wife, and so on. Thanks to Josh Blacker.

10. Queen Caroline, wife of George II, said of her son Frederick, Prince of Wales (father of George III): “My dear first born is the greatest ass, the greatest liar, the greatest canaille, and the greatest beast in the whole world, and I most heartily wish he was out of it.” Thanks to Andy McSmith.

Lots of good nominations this week, including “Every game of Monopoly ever”, from Chris Hodder, and the First World War, from John Oxley, Dan Frank, Paul Smyth, British Electoral Politics and Richard Williams.

Next week: Words for nothing.

Coming soon: Actors who changed careers as a result of playing a part, such as Virginia McKenna, who set up the Born Free Foundation after playing the part of Joy Adamson in the film.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to


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