30 famous feuds throughout history
The Hatfields and the McCoys may be history's most famous archenemies, but they have company—and lots of it. Jealousy, anger, and vindictiveness are all integral parts of the darker side of human nature. Family feuds and bitter rivalries have plagued societies since the dawn of time, providing fodder for ancient historians, medieval chroniclers, and gossip columnists alike. No realm of human activity has been spared: Politics, the arts, entertainment, and academia have all spawned bitter disputes spanning decades, and in some cases, centuries.
Stacker combed through the history books, newspaper archives, and the internet to compile this list of 30 famous feuds from around the globe, ranging from verbal sparrings to vengeful bloodbaths. All conflicts included in this list are at least a decade old.
Click through the list to discover which dueling divas hashed it out on set, what famous wine label turned brotherly love into sour grapes, and how two famous world-class athletic brands came to be.
War of the Roses
This royal family feud pitted the House of York against the House of Lancaster in pursuit of the English crown. The conflict was marked by several bloody wars between 1455 and 1485, and the imprisonment and murder of two young princes—nephews of the nefarious Richard III. Peace was finally restored when Lancastrian Henry VII married Elizabeth of York.
Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots
Thanks to the 2018 film “Mary Queen of Scots," starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, the bitter feud between Elizabeth I and her French cousin is back in the public eye four centuries later. Elizabeth, the protestant offspring of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was denounced as an illegitimate claimant to the English throne by Catholics who preferred Mary. In real life, the two queens never met. They did, however, corresponded with one another for several decades. Elizabeth finally brought the conflict to an end by signing Mary's death warrant in 1587.
The Ako Vendetta is one of the most famous feuds in Japanese history—and one of the bloodiest. In 1701, Shogun Asano Naganori attacked his former teacher, the acerbic Kira Yoshihisa, by slashing him in the face. Asano was arrested and, as punishment for his crime, forced to commit ritualistic suicide—also known as “seppuku" or “harakiri." Avenging Asano's death, 47 of his loyal samurai captured and beheaded Kira. The samurai surrendered to officials and were forced to take their own lives in the same manner as their master.
Hamilton and Burr
The rivalry between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton—once a footnote in American history—has taken center stage thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda's Tony award-winning musical, “Hamilton." The beef between the two men stemmed from Burr's failed presidential and New York gubernatorial runs, both stymied by Hamilton and his influence over the Federalist party. Burr reached the end of his tether when Hamilton declared him to be “despicable," challenging his nemesis to a duel. They met at sunrise in New Jersey on July 11, 1804, to settle the score. Hamilton fired at the sky, was struck by Burr's bullet, and died several days later.
Campbells and MacDonalds
Cattle rustling was not something to be taken lightly in 17th-century Scotland. The Campbells and the MacDonalds had been at it for years, and bad blood boiled between the two clans. When the MacDonalds refused to sign an oath of loyalty to King William and Queen Mary, the Campbells were enlisted to help punish the wayward clan. A group of soldiers, which also included members of the Campbell family, traveled to MacDonald territory in Glencoe and, in keeping with tradition, requested food and lodging. The Macdonalds obliged but were later massacred in their sleep by their house guests.
Byron and Keats
Both poetic differences and class conflicts contributed to the clash between entitled English aristocrat Lord Byron and working-class John Keats. Byron's poetry adhered to classical tradition and was a hit with contemporaries, while Keat's lush verse was greeted with little fanfare from critics. The snobbish Byron had little time for Keats while Keats harbored intellectual disdain for Byron.
Charles Darwin and Richard Owen
Charles Darwin is known for the Theory of Evolution, but some historians believe the more obscure Richard Owen deserves at least some credit. A fellow 19th-century scientist, Owen is best known for coining the term “dinosauria" in 1841 and is known to have worked on some of the specimens obtained during Darwin's Beagle expedition. When Darwin published his theory, the eccentric Owen didn't take it in stride. Enraged that Darwin did not acknowledge him for his ideas, Owen wrote reviews under a false name disparaging Darwin. A back and forth between the two ensued in the Sunday newspapers.
Gladstone and Disraeli
Esteemed English statesmen William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli both served multiple terms as British Prime Minister, yet the two had little else in common. The two men detested one another and espoused notably different political views—Gladstone rising to power as a liberal Whig and Disraeli as a conservative Tory. Both served under Queen Victoria, with the monarch preferring the dashing Disraeli to the humorless Gladstone.
Hatfields and McCoys
America's most famous feuding families, the Hatfields and the McCoys, enjoyed a tenuous relationship at best when a dispute over a hog in 1878 exploded tensions into an epic vendetta. The two clans warred along the Kentucky and West Virginia border for decades, culminating in the 1888 New Year's Day ambush that left several members of the McCoy family dead. By the early 20th century, the feud had largely subsided but, thanks to extensive press coverage, remains ingrained in the public imagination.
Edison and Tesla
The rivalry between Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park," was as basic as AC versus DC—the electrical currents each inventor championed. Tesla briefly worked for Edison and alerted his employer to the limitations of direct current as opposed to alternating current. Edison disparaged Tesla's ideas, and Tesla ended up quitting and selling several of his patents to Westinghouse. Edison, fearful of Westinghouse's success, continued to belittle Tesla's work. In 2016, Edison and Tesla were recognized for their extraordinary contributions to the field of physics with a posthumous Nobel Prize.2018 All rights reserved.