- Later life
- Later years
- Death and legacy
Eleanor of Aquitaine is considered by many to have been the most powerful and enlightened woman of her age, if not the entire medieval epoch. She was born in 1122 on Bordeaux in the country of Aquitaine,(1) having for a father the future duke of Aquitaine, William X, and her mother Aenor of Chatellerault.(2) In Aquitaine women had liberties rarely found elsewhere in Europe and they mixed freely with men.(3) Her personality, as she grew older, owed a lot to this atmosphere of civility.(4) The first man to exhort an enormous impression upon her was her grandfather, William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, known as the Troubadour (Guilhem loTrobador). \\"He was a man of extraordinary complexity, alternately idealistic and cynical, ruthless but impractical . . . Nevertheless contemporaries undoubtedly respected him as a mighty prince and a brave knight.\\" (5) Her father, William X, was just as complex and colorful as his father, however known also for aggressiveness. He quarreled often with the church and his vassals. (6) As for her mother, little is known besides her name. She died when Eleanor was eight years old. (7) As a ruler, William X administered his lands and controlled his vassals from the back of his horse, constantly traveling and during many of those travels Eleanor accompanied him.
Her formal education included Latin as well as Provencal, the language of Aquitaine. On Good Friday 1137, in the city of Compostella while on pilgrimage, Duke William X passed away. After his death she had no choice but to turn to Louis VI, king of France. Soon after she was engaged to his only surviving son, Louis le Jeune. (8) On July 25, 1137 the couple was married in Bordeaux. At fifteen years old, Eleanor (according to contemporary sources) was a \\"beauty, tall, with a great figure that she kept well into old age.\\" (9) She probably had blond hair and blue eyes, which at this time were considered marks of extraordinary good looks. After their wedding, on August 8, both Eleanor and Louis were consecrated duke and duchess of Aquitaine. News reached them during the betrothal banquet that Louis' father, king Louis VI had died a week earlier. (10) On December 25, 1137 Eleanor was crowned queen of France. The young couple seemed genuinely in love. She worked hard to make her court the most splendid in the west. She moved to Paris, an unimpressive city at this time with its still standing Roman ruins. The city was in the early stages of a gothic revival that would establish her as one of the most celebrated capitals in western Christendom. To the devout city Eleanor introduced customs from Aquitaine such as its language, respect for women, and fashion. The couple traveled together holding court in the cities and towns of the duchy. They learned from each other. She gained respect for Aristotelian logic, and enjoyed her husband's dissertations which he arranged in the palace gardens. He shared some of her pleasures such as hunting and tournaments, as well as her love for poetry. (11) \\"Masterful and fiercely energetic, Eleanor soon established almost complete control over her husband.\\" (12) After seven years of marriage Eleanor had yet to conceive, having had an earlier miscarriage. Around 1144 she finally gave birth to a girl named Marie who one day would become the countess of Champagne. (13) During those first seven years there were wars of conquests for Louis VII as well as problems with the most powerful cleric in the kingdom, Bernard of Clairvaux, who became Eleanor's most dangerous enemy. By this time her relationship with Louis showed signs of strain, especially when rumors surfaced about her and a famous troubadour from Aquitaine that had spent time in the royal court. She enjoyed flirting and loved romantic poems and all these accusations were probably unfounded. She also had failed to give the king a male heir. Despite these strains they still seemed to have been in love. (14) Unknown to them, events in the Middle East would take them on a journey that forever changed their lives. On December 24, 1144 Edessa fell to the Saracens and pope Eugenius III preached support for a second crusade. After some convincing speeches and heavy taxes to pay for the enterprise, the kings of Germany and France were ready for the march to the Holy Land. Even the pope crossed the Alps into France to bless the crusading force. On June 11, 1147 Louis and Eleanor, together with an army, left Saint-Denis and trekked through Bavaria, Hungary and into the Balkans. (15) Eleanor and her companions, servants and troubadours, proved too much of a distraction for the troops, and raised eyebrows with some of the chroniclers and clerics. (16) By October 4 they reached the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. The French crusaders were dazzled at the riches in food, fashions, precious metals, and art of the Byzantines. Eleanor immediately developed a taste for Byzantine clothing and probably bought back to France some of the eastern fashions. (17) In late October the French army marched into the hinterlands of Byzantium. Bad weather and effective attacks by the Turks decimated the crusaders. The remnants of the army- guided by the experienced Knights Templars- reached Attalia by early January. From there Louis hired ships hoping to make it to the Holy Land. He took with him only his immediate guards and family, leaving the rest of the army to manage by themselves as best as they could passage to the Holy Land. (18) After three weeks at sea while enduring heavy storms, the royal entourage arrived in Antioch where they were welcomed by the prince and his court. The Antochian capital proved to be as dazzling to the French as Constantinople. Eleanor enjoyed her ten days in Antioch immensely, especially the prince, her long lost uncle Raymond of Poitiers. (19) Louis was angered by his wife's affections for her uncle. Raymond and Louis also disagreed on how to go about the crusade, Raymond wanted to attack Aleppo and perhaps recapture Edessa. In the meantime Louis wanted to go on to Jerusalem. Eleanor favored her uncle's plan and angrily opposed her husband. She went as far as to propose a divorce. (20) On the night of his departure, royal troops broke into the queen's quarters and carried her to the port. On advice from the regent in Paris, Louis decided to deal with Eleanor back in France. The rift between the couple would not be mended. (21) In Jerusalem, Louis joined an ill-fated attack on Damascus where the Crusaders suffered heavy losses. (22) Soon after Easter 1149, the royal couple left the holy land sailing in separate ships. The Byzantines, who were at war with Sicily, captured Eleanor's ship. The Sicilian navy re-captured her ship and she went to Palermo to recuperate. The extraordinary luxury of the Sicilian court left a lasting impression on the queen. (23) After returning to Paris, Eleanor gave birth to a second child, also a girl (named Alix), in the summer of 1150. Her marriage to Louis was growing more stressed, despite interventions by the pope Eugenius and the abbot Suger, regent of France during the absence of the royal couple. (24) On August 1151, Geoffrey Plantaganet and his son, Henry, arrived in Paris where, after some negotiations, Henry paid homage for the duchy of Normandy. Eleanor was attracted to Henry and some kind of surreptitious arrangement with Henry must have been reached. (25) On March 21, 1152 the marriage of Louis and Eleanor was pronounced null and void on grounds that they were cousins (third cousins). The real reasons were the absence of a male heir; their incompatibilities and finally the enormous influence St. Bernard held on king Louis and his desire to remove Eleanor from the king's side. (26) Accepting a marriage proposal from Duke Henry of Normandy made the previous summer; Eleanor re-married May 18, 1152, hardly eight weeks after the dissolution of her first marriage. (27) Henry had inherited Maine, Anjou and Touraine and his chance of taking England were very good. He was eighteen years old and Eleanor twenty-nine. Their marriage seemed to have been a happy one. He was in love with Eleanor and gave her all the children she wanted. (28) On January 1153 Henry sailed for England. Sometime during August Eleanor gave birth to her first son, named William in honor of her father and grandfather. Around Christmas of the same year Henry was proclaimed heir to the English throne after waging successful campaigns and gaining support from many English lords. (29) A year later, on December 19, 1154 Henry and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of England by the archbishop of Canterbury. (30) Henry II governed England on horseback, just like her father William X did in Normandy during his reign.
Eleanor frequently administered justice in his absence, \\"arbitrating in disputes over land and feudal dues, and presiding over law courts. She also kept a careful watch over certain tax receipts. Throughout she showed herself clear-headed and firm, indeed dictatorial.\\" (31) For thirteen years Eleanor kept busy bearing children, five sons: (William died at the age of three), Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John plus three daughters: Matilda, Eleanor and Joanna. Her children would one day show the world where they came from as two of her daughters became queens and three of the sons kings. (32) While Henry II ruled England and his possessions on the continent through constant conflict with king Louis and restless Welsh princes and Brittany lords, Eleanor stood by his side, often ruling as regent on his absences. When Henry named Thomas Becket archbishop of Canterbury, a growing feud intensified between the secular and the clerics and Eleanor tried her best to mediate both sides. For Eleanor's ambition, the worse news came from France when it was learned that Louis' third wife finally gave him a male heir on August 22, 1165, the future king Phillip II Augustus, who one day would destroy the Angevin Empire of Henry II. (33) Two years later, on December 24, 1167 Eleanor gave birth to the future king John; it was her last childbirth. Her childbearing years were over and her marriage to Henry began to decline. (34) Part of the downturn centered on Henry's sexual lust and especially his long affair with Rosemond Clifford. The following year Eleanor left England for Pontiou where she stayed happily for five years before returning to England. Rebel barons ambushed the queen and her protector, Patrick- Earl of Salisbury. The Earl was stabbed in the back and his nephew William came to his rescue. William was eventually subdued and Eleanor ransomed him. William became Marshall of England and the greatest knight of his age. (35) Her court at Poitiou became a center for tournaments and culture, visited by most of the established and highly respected troubadours and poets of the time including Chretien de Troyes, famous for the Arthurian literatures. (36) While in Poitou Eleanor began to secretly plot against Henry making sure that the lords of Aquitaine and Poitou's first loyalty was to her and not to the king. (37) For his part, Henry's actions did not garner him too many friends. On December 29, 1170 the most horrific crime against Christiandom was committed in the name of Henry II when four of his magnates (not knights as some believed) hacked Thomas Becket to death in the cathedral of Canterbury. Henry was not excommunicated but went through many humiliations and his power (to the delight of Eleanor) destabilized. (38) For several years she had been secretly planning a revolt against Henry. His kingdom harbored the most rebellious and unruly lords of any ruler in Western Europe and all she needed were trustworthy allies. By 1173 she had the three trustworthiest allies she could find, her three oldest sons. (39) The revolt took place in 1173 and was led by Henry's eldest son also named Henry. Eleanor would benefit by getting back Aquitaine, which she intended to rule with her son Richard. Henry II suspected nothing of the revolt. On February 1173 father and son met as the young Henry demanded England, Normandy or Anjou for himself. Henry II began to suspect a conspiracy but his suspiciousness did not rise until the young Henry escaped one night towards England with the idea to raise it. At the last moment he turned around and instead headed for Paris to seek refuge in king Louis' court. The plot was doomed. (40) With the help of king Louis young Henry raised an army and throughout 1173 Henry II faced rebellion in all his possessions except Normandy. However, one by one he put down all of them and by the autumn of 1174 he had defeated the grand alliance and a peace conference took place at Gisors. Eleanor took refuge with her uncle, but when Henry II laid siege to the castle she escaped to Paris dressed as a nobleman. Shortly before reaching safety a group of Henry's knights intercepted her entourage and captured her. She spent a few months imprisoned in one of the towers of Henry's castle at Chinon in Touraine. (41) Henry's fury at Eleanor's treason knew no bounds. She spent the next fifteen years his prisoner, mostly in his castle at Winchester. Only briefly was she allowed to travel to Aquitaine where she gave her duchy to her son Richard. (42) On September 1180 her first husband, Louis VII, died of a stroke and his young son, Phillip II Augustus, was proclaimed king of France. (43)
Three years later, on June 1183, her son Henry and heir to the throne of England contracted dysentery and died. (44) On his deathbed, young Henry pleaded to his father for Eleanor's release. Her total freedom was not granted, but slowly she was allowed more and more access to the outside world, including a visit to Windsor to celebrate Christmas with king Henry and their sons, Richard and John. (45) In 1186 another son passed away: Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. A few months later his wife gave birth to a son whom she named Arthur. (46) In June 1189, after an exhausting war against his son Richard and the king of France Henry II fell ill and died, fulfilling Eleanor's revenge. (47) Her imprisonment thus ended. While Richard was away in the continent Eleanor, under his blessing and against the royal justiciar, took control of the English realm enacting several laws including one that standardized the price of silver throughout the land. (48)
On September 3 1189 Richard was crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey in the presence of his adoring mother. (49) She was now sixty-seven, a very old woman for her times, but one who kept well. The following year Richard left for the Middle East on his joint crusade with king Phillip II stopping in Sicily and then Cyprus. In Sicily he reunited with his mother who had travel first to France, then Navarre were she made a deal with its king, Sancho the Wise, to have his daughter marry Richard. From there, Eleanor and her future daughter-in-law traveled over the Alps reaching Richard just before his departure. A few days later she returned home, stopping briefly in Rome during the coronation of the new pope, an old friend. She secured the Archbishopry of York for her son Geoffrey Plantaganet (thus removing him from the throne), obtained a legateship for the Archbishop of Rouen (to use it against the Chief Chancellor of England) and funds for her trips. (50) With Richard gone to the crusades, Eleanor took over the reign. Not an easy task considering that William Longchamp, the chancellor, was creating many enemies among the magnates, John was campaigning all over England as Richard's successor claiming that Richard will never return and finally Phillip, king of France, who returned early from the crusades on the excuse of being ill and who immediately began laying siege to Richard's lands in the continent. John gathered all the magnates for a council and William Longchamp was removed from office. Phillip invited John to France, with the intention of preparing him for the throne by offering him all the Plantaganet lands in the continent as well as his half sister for a wife. Eleanor re-gathered all the magnates for several councils and with their support successfully prevented John from leaving England and Phillip from besieging the lands of a man engaged in the crusades. (51) On his way to England from the crusades, Richard was captured by the Austrians and sent to the German Emperor to be bargained for ransom. Eleanor once again took control of the realm and ruled through the new justiciar, Walter of Contances. (52) She surrounded herself with able advisors such as Hubert Walter, who later became justiciar, and the archdeacon of Bath, Peter of Blois. (53)
She tried unsuccessfully to get the pope to intervene, but the eighty-year old pope, Celestine III, was too timid to respond. Phillip II ceased the opportunity to take Gisors and the Vexin from Richard. John finally crossed the channel and tried to arouse the rest of the Plantaganet lands to his banner. He failed. He then allied himself with Phillip. (54) Eleanor united barons and commoners and all seaports facing Flanders were defended. When John's mercenaries landed they were easily overwhelmed. John managed to escape and with some Welsh mercenaries took Windsor. The castle was immediately laid siege. Meanwhile a ransom for Richard's release was announced, 100,000 marks. Eleanor and her deputies raised taxes and emptied church coffers in an effort to come to the amount. (55) Originally, far less money was raised and several more levies were issued. Upon hearing that Richard could be set free soon, John slipped out of Windsor and arrived at Phillip's court. He tried to incite revolt, but Eleanor proved to be more powerful and better liked. His lands were confiscated and even Normandy refused to align itself with John. (56) By December, the ransom money was finally collected and immediately turned into silver.
Eleanor, after Mirebaur, retired to Poitou, which held against Phillip II. The king hesitated on invading, since not only was she not at war with him, but she was his vassal. John did nothing to help her. She returned to the nunnery of Fontevrault and on March 31, or April 1, 1204 passed away wearing the habit of the nuns. (72) Eleanor of Aquitaine was without a doubt the most colorful woman of her time, infatuated with power, always scheming to either achieve more of it or to maintain what she had. She loved the arts and thanks to her visits to the Middle East introduced some of its fashions to France and England. She was queen of England and France and ruled as regent several times with perhaps better success than her male counterparts. Her offspring became queens, kings, emperors and archbishops. As the nuns of Fontevrault so eloquently praised: \\"She enhanced the grandeur of her birth by the honesty of her life, the purity of her morals, the flower of her virtues; and in the conduct of her blameless life, she surpassed almost all the queens of the world.\\" (73)
Notes: 1.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine- The Queen Mother\\" by Desmond Seward. Dorset Press. New York. 1978. pg 13 2.Ibid. pg 13 3.Ibid. pg 15 4. She called herself Alia-Anor. (\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" by Amy Kelly. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Mass. 1950. pg. 6) 5. \\"Eleanor of Aquitaine\\" pg.16 6.Ibid. pg 17 7.Ibid. pg 18 8.Ibid. pgs 19-21 9.Ibid. pg. 21 10.Ibid. pgs 21-22 11.Ibid. pgs 27-29 12.Ibid. pg 30 13.Ibid. pgs 35-36 14.Ibid. pg. 37 15. \\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" by Amy Kelly. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Mass. 1950. pg. 37 16.Ibid. pages 38-39 17. \\"Eleanor of Aquitaine\\" pg. 45 18.Ibid. pgs 47-48 19.Ibid. pg. 49 20.Ibid. pg. 51 21.Ibid. pg. 52 22.Ibid. pg. 52 23.Ibid. pg. 53 24.Ibid. pg. 58 25. \\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" pg. 77 26.Ibid. pages 79-80 27.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine\\" pg. 65 28.Ibid. pages. 69-70 29.Ibid. pages. 72-73 30.Ibid. pg. 79 31.Ibid. pg. 85 32.Ibid. pg. 90 33.Ibid. pg. 103 34.Ibid. pg. 107 35.Ibid. pg. 110 36.Ibid. pg. 110 37.Ibid. pg. 114 38.Ibid. pg. 120 39.Ibid. pg. 122 40.Ibid. pgs. 129-130 41.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" pages. 182-185 42.Ibid. pg. 139 43.Ibid. pg. 140 44.Ibid. pg. 141 45.Ibid. pg. 142 46.Ibid. pg. 144 47.Ibid. pg. 147 48.Ibid. pg. 152 49.Ibid. pg. 152 50.Ibid. pgs. 155-161 51.Ibid. pgs. 165-168 52.Ibid. pg. 171 53.Ibid. pg. 171 53.Ibid. pg. 173 54.Ibid. pages 174-176 55. \\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" pg 305 56.Ibid. pg. 311 57.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine\\" pg 178 58.Ibid. pgs. 180-183 59.Ibid. pg. 189 60.Ibid. pg. 190 61.Ibid. pg. 197 62.Ibid. pg. 204 63.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" pages 336-337 64.Ibid. pages. 342-344 65.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine\\" pg 222 66.Ibid. pg. 223 67.Ibid. pg. 224 68.Ibid. pg. 233 69.Ibid. pg. 234 70.Ibid. pgs. 243-246 71.Ibid. pg. 253 72.Ibid. pg. 254 73.\\"Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings\\" pg 387
Eleanor of Aquitaine, also called Eleanor of Guyenne, French Éléonore or Aliénor, d’Aquitaine or de Guyenne, (born c. 1122—died April 1, 1204, Fontevrault, Anjou, France), queen consort of both Louis VII of France (1137–52) and Henry II of England (1152–1204) and mother of Richard I (the Lionheart) and John of England.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (b. 1122, Aquitaine, France; d. 1204, Anjou, France) Eleanor of Aquitaine served as queen of both France and England in the twelfth century, making her one of the most powerful women of the time.
- Early Life & Rise to Power
- Queen of France & The Second Crusade
- Queen of England & Patroness of Arts
- Revolt & Imprisonment
- Regent of England
Eleanor was born in 1122 CE to William X, Duke of Aquitaine (l. 1099-1137 CE) and Aenor de Chatellerault (l. 1103-1130 CE). Her name (Alienor) means “the other Aenor”, and she may be the first woman to carry this name and so the first “Eleanor”. Her grandfather was the famous troubadour and warrior William IX (l. 1071-1127 CE) whose works influenced the development of later Provencal romantic poetry. William X, though lacking the poetic skills of his father, inherited his love for literature. He encouraged Eleanor and her younger sister Petronilla in education and cultural refinement. As a young girl, Eleanor was fluent in Latin and adept at all the sports of kings such as hunting and hawking. Her mother saw to her education in domestic affairs such as spinning, weaving, and keeping household accounts. In 1130 CE, her mother and younger brother Aigret died, and her father died seven years later of dysentery while on pilgrimage in April 1137 CE. William X understood completely the ki...
Louis VII was never meant to be king. He had been groomed for the clergy from a young age but the deathof his older brother Philip, the heir apparent, in 1131 CE altered the plan. Louis was heir to the throne but lacked the training and experience which went into grooming a future monarch. Further, he had led a sheltered life, having spent most of his time in monasteries, and had little experience in travel. Eleanor, on the other hand, had frequently traveled with her father throughout Aquitaine and had most likely heard the tales of her grandfather's adventures in the Crusade of 1101 CE. Eleanor was flamboyant, worldly, and not at all shy in expressing her desires; Louis was quiet, submissive, and seemingly in awe of his wife. When Louis accepted the charge to lead the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, Eleanor made clear she would be going as well. Louis' goal in funding and leading the expedition was to do penance for the massacre of the citizens of the town of Vitry in his war wit...
Eleanor married Henry, then Duke of Normandy, only weeks after the annulment. Henry became king of England in 1154 CE and Eleanor his queen, but she was not able to dominate Henry as easily as she had Louis. Their marriage was a series of battles as Eleanor tried to control her husband and he resisted through countless affairs. Henry's famous temper and impulsive nature did nothing to help the relationship, and his transparency regarding his affair with the noblewoman Rosamund Clifford seemed designed to humiliate his queen. Eleanor did not help the situation by surrounding herself with poets and artists and ignoring Henry's tantrums as often as possible. She may have also had an affair with Bernard de Ventadour (lived at court 1152-1155 CE). Generally speaking, Eleanor endured her marriage in typical fashion by channeling her energies elsewhere and raising her children, through whom she knew she could eventually wield greater power and influence than Henry through advantageous matc...
In 1173 CE, Eleanor and Henry's oldest son, Henry the Young King (1155-1183 CE), rebelled against his father. The revolt, incited by nobles who stirred up young Henry's resentment toward his father, lasted eighteen months and cost many lives before it was finally crushed. A young Sir William Marshal(l. 1146-1219 CE), the greatest knight of the period, was involved on the side of Henry the Young King, Richard the Lionheart, and Geoffrey Plantagenet. Marshall had been young Henry's tutor in arms and was devoted to the queen and her sons, so his involvement supports the claim made by some historians and scholars that it was Eleanor who instigated the revolt. Whether she did or not, she openly supported her sons and, after the revolt was put down in 1174 CE, Henry had Eleanor abducted in France and imprisoned in England. For the next 16 years, Eleanor would be moved between Henry's various strongholds until his death in 1189 CE. By this time, Henry the Young King had died of dysentery a...
Although nominally the regent, Eleanor signed herself, and had others address her, as “Eleanor, by the grace of God, Queen of England” (Kelly, 288). She ably picked up her political maneuverings as though she had not been confined for the past 16 years. Kelly writes: She understood that the crusades in a far-off land for a nebulous cause were a waste of her energies and channeled her efforts into regaining the kingdom's balance which had been lost following Henry II's death and Richard I's departure for the Holy Land. The kingdom had been facing difficulties for decades, though, due largely to her late husband's acrimonious relationship with her first husband, Louis VII. Louis had died in 1180 CE, and his son by his second marriage, Philip II (known as Philip Augustus, r. 1180-1223 CE), was king. Philip had also gone on the Third Crusade and fought alongside Richard at Acre, but the two had quarreled over a number of issues, including land rights, and parted on poor terms. Philip re...
John then succeeded to the throne and, in May 1200 CE, concluded a peace treaty with Philip Augustus which had to be sealed through marriage between the French house of Capet and the English house of Plantagenet. Eleanor traveled to Castille, where her daughter Eleanor reigned, and brought back her granddaughter Blanche of Castille to marry Philip's son, Louis VIII (also known as Louis the Lion, l. 1187-1226 CE). This last act done, Eleanor retired to Fontevraud Abbey. She died there, of natural causes, in 1204 CE. The peace she had helped broker between England and France through Blanche's wedding had already been broken by the time of her death, and John's early reign is characterized by a series of diplomatic mistakes Eleanor would never have made which encouraged the conflict between France and England. These conflicts finally led to the full-scale engagement of the Anglo-French War (1213-1214 CE) in which John's forces were defeated by those of Philip II. England lost most of i...
- Joshua J. Mark
- A Quick Overview
- Read More: on The Trail of Gothic Cathedrals
- The Role She Played
- After Her Marriage
- Quest For Power
The eldest daughter of William, Duke of Aquitaine, Eleanor was married to Louis VII, King of France. During the Second Crusade, her relationship with her husband soured, and in 1152, they officially divorced. Shortly afterward, she married Henry of Anjou, who in two years would become King Of England. The royal couple had 8 children, five sons, and three daughters. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine remained heavily involved in the ruling of King Henry II's vast empire in France and England.
In 1173, Henry's sons started a revolt against their father with Eleanor siding with her sons. Henry stifled the revolt and, as punishment for her involvement, confined her. Henry II died in 1189, and Richard II, the Lionhearted, became king. Another of her sons, John, rose against Richard along with the King of France. Eleanor supported Richard. Later, when her grandson tried to claim the throne, she supported John. She died in 1204 at the age of 82. This restless queen swept across the 12th century, changing the face of Europe.
Endowed with intelligence, creative energy and a remarkably long life. Eleanor of Aquitaine played a major role in the 12th century, an impressive achievement given that medieval women were considered nothing more than chattel. Assets of brains and enterprise served her well in the chaos of the time; unrelenting hostilities between Plantagenets and Capets, crusades and struggle between church and state. They equipped her to advance civility in a ruthless era by promoting the songs of troubadours and the ideals of courtly love. Even in a century of imposing personalities—the likes of Thomas Becket, Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abélard—Eleanor took center stage. As the queen consort of King Louis VII of France and of King Henry II of England, and as the mother of King Richard I and King John, she held the spotlight, wielding power over the most important men of her time. She was the daughter and heir of the imperious William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers, who possessed...
Following the dissolution of her marriage, Eleanor regained possession of Aquitaine and Poitou. This wealth combined with her loveliness attracted suitors well before the annulment was final, one of whom was Henry of Anjou (a domain bordering Poitou), soon to be known as Plantagenet. Most historians agree that Eleanor and Geoffrey of Anjou, Henry’s father, were sexually intimate before she met Henry. Schama notes, “It was rumored that Geoffrey of Anjou had personally verified Eleanor’s appetite for passion before recommending her to his son.” Be this as it may, 30-year-old Eleanor and 18-year-old Henry felt passionately attracted to one another. Henry’s unsurpassed physical courage and keen political acumen resonated with Eleanor’s ambition for power. Schama writes, “Barely eight weeks after Eleanor’s divorce in May 1152, Henry stood at the altar beside this considerably older woman whom all contemporary accounts describe as a dark-eyed beauty, disconcertingly articulate, strong-min...
The rebellion failed and King Henry II held the throne intact, and for her role in the drama, Eleanor was confined under guard at various castles throughout Henry’s kingdom. When her imprisonment ended with her husband’s death in 1189, Eleanor, undaunted at age 67, returned with a vengeance to public life. Schama points out that she greeted the death of Henry with dry eyes, and continues, “With Richard—a character formed by her own educated passions—finally seated on the throne, she could assert herself again in the business of state.” Her opportunity came on the heels of King Richard’s coronation, an event she stage-crafted with the fullest measure of pageantry. The Third Crusade was underway and crusading fervor had enveloped England. Yet Eleanor viewed the rescue of the Holy Land from the Turks as a distraction from the business at hand; the real concern, she believed, was not Saladin but the preservation of the House of Plantagenet, particularly in England. Against his mother’s...
Eleanor de Aquitaine. French and English Monarch. Duchess and heiress of Aquitaine and Gascogne, Countess of Poitou. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited the duchy of Aquitaine from her father in 1137. In the same year, on July 25., she married Louis of France. The couple was very different., Louis had been raised at a monastery and was very ...
- 1123, Poitiers, Departement de la Vienne, Poitou-Charentes, France
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- 1 Apr 1204 (aged 80–81), Poitiers, Departement de la Vienne, Poitou-Charentes, France
- She was put under house arrest. After her sons tried unsuccessfully to revolt against Henry in 1173, Eleanor was captured while attempting to escape to France.
- She outlived all of her husbands (and children) Eleanor spent her last years as a nun at Fontevraud Abbey in France and died in her eighties on 31 March 1204.
- Her appearance remains a mystery. It’s not hard to find contemporary accounts of Eleanor’s good looks. The French medieval poet Bernard de Ventadour declared her "gracious, lovely, the embodiment of charm," while Matthew Paris remarked on her "admirable beauty."
- Her first marriage was doomed to fail. The royal marriage didn’t last much longer, its tensions furthered by the fact that Eleanor had yet to give birth to a male heir.
Jul 21, 2021 · Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the most intriguing and beguiling women that history has yielded. Her pedigree as a ‘lady’ is indisputable – at the age of 15, when she inherited the extensive Duchy of Aquitaine, she became the most eligible bride in the western world.