A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Eleanor of Aquitaine was not just an ordinary woman of the 12th century Europe. She was charismatic, well-educated, and with an outstanding personality, which largely shaped the course of European history for more than 300 years.
She was Queen consort of France (1137-1152) and England (1154-1189) and Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right. She is remembered as "mother of kings" and "queen of kings".
Eleanor Of Aquitaine (1122 -1204)
Eleanor was born around 1122 and died in 1204. She was buried next to her son, King Richard the Lionheart, and husband, King of England, Henry II (Plantagenet) in the Fontevraud Abbey.
The Middle Ages was a period of time clearly dominated by men, but Eleanor – with her outstanding and extraordinary achievements - was a remarkable exception to them. She was respected and admired. For 82 years, this woman had a powerful influence on French and English politics, although in reality Eleanor’s range of dominance was much larger and it covered almost all of Western Europe.
Who Was Eleanor Of Aquitaine?
From the preserved official accounts we learn that Eleanor of Aquitaine married two kings (France and England) and her two sons King Richard the Lionheart and John( ‘John Lackland’) sat on the throne of England. Additionally, she also initiated the dynasty that ruled England for more than three centuries.
But contemporary sources speak about certain ‘facts’ or ‘rumors’, which are not particularly flattering and even hostile. There were many rumors about Eleanor’s morality; she was accused of an intimate relationship with her uncle, murder of her husband's mistress, and even suspected of using dark forces.
In an 1840 painting by Jean Baptiste Mauzaisse, young Louis VII, Eleanor’s first husband, takes the banner of St. Denis in 1147. The original hangs at Versailles. Eleanor is kneeling at the Prie Dieu.
This woman lived a very long time, ago and it is very difficult to reconstruct her real life but it is still possible to gather some real facts about her and not only gossips. It is confirmed that she was from a family who highly valued education so Eleanor learned arithmetic, Latin, history, and the constellations, and was skilled in household management, embroidery, sewing, spinning, and weaving. She also could sing, dance, play chess and the harp, and was very competent in riding, hawking, and hunting.
Eleanor of Aquitaine had two husbands in her life.
"I thought I married a king, not a monk," she said once about her first husband, Louis VII, King of the Franks.
The Crusader Queen Joined The Second Crusade That Ended In A Fiasco
When Eleanor was 19, she offered the Church the aid of her fighting vassals. The Church was very happy with her proposal until the Church father learned she as accompanied by 300 of her ladies. Women had nothing to do on a battlefield, but Eleanor declared she and her ladies would help tend the wounded. Eleanor appointed herself as the leader of her soldiers and departed with her husband. All the women were dressed in armor and carried lances, but they did not participate in the fighting. The Crusader queen Eleanor of Aquitaine was so impressive that she was compared to the mythical queen of the Amazons.
Nevertheless, the Second Crusade ended in a total fiasco. Not long after that, in 1152 the marriage between Louis VII, King of the Franks, and Eleanor of Aquitaine was officially annulled in 1152 after no male heir was produced.
Eleanor Married King Of England Henry II Plantagenet
About six weeks after the divorce, there was a marriage with the count of Anjou, Henry - the later king of England Henry II Plantagenet. This marriage was much more successful and eight children (five sons and three daughters) came into the world. Two of them became future kings - Richard the Lionheart and John without Earth. However, there were also scandals because Henry II decided to associate with a beautiful woman, Rosamund Clifford.
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His decision forced Eleanor to leave him. She left England and returned to Aquitaine, where she took over the government and in the meantime, her sons (without any hope to gain real power) started an open rebellion against their father Henry II. They quarreled much due to Henry's habit of ostensibly dividing his possessions among his sons while in fact reserving real power for himself.
Eleanor Of Aquitaine Spent 15 Years In Prison
The rebellion was useless, and Henry suppressed it easily. In 1173, he decided to imprison his wife for 15 years for supporting her sons’ rebellion. On Henry’s death in 1189, Richard the Lionheart sat on the throne and one of his first acts as king was to send William Marshal to England with orders to release Eleanor from prison. Marshal found upon his arrival that her custodians had already released the queen.
Tomb effigies of Eleanor and Henry II at Fontevraud Abbey. Credit: Wikipedia
Richard the Lionheart has always been portrayed as England’s hero-king, but he did not speak English and he was certainly not interested in ruling England. During his 10-year reign, he spent only six months in England. It’s a good thing that his mother Eleanor was so eager to rule a country.
When Richard set off on the third crusade, the mother exercised authority on his behalf. It is very likely that it was the fulfillment of her ambitions. During the conflict with Leopold V, she supported her son continuously, negotiating the conditions of release and contributing to the efficient collection of the ransom.
Eleanor died at the age of 82 and rested in the Fontevraud Abbey, France. She survived most of her children.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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