Sunday, December 30, 2012

April Queen

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in 1122 and died in 1204 and became the most powerful woman in Europe. 1137 was an eventful year as at the age of 15 Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine, married the son of Louis VI of France and then became Queen Consort of France when her husband was crowned Louis VII. When Louis decided to take part in the Second Crusade to Constantinople and Jerusalem 1147, Eleanor decided to go as well on the three year expedition. In 1152 Eleanor and Louis were divorced. During their marriage they had two daughters but Louis needed an heir. Two months later Eleanor married Henry of Anjou and between them they ruled territories making up half of western France from Normandy in the north to Aquitaine in the south. In 1854 Henry became king of England as Henry II and Eleanor therefore became Queen Consort of England. Eleanor and Henry had five sons and three daughters, including Richard who was king from 1189-1199 and John who was king from 1199-1216. Eleanor was not content to lead a quiet life but took an active interest in the governance of their territories. She also supported her sons when they rebelled against their father resulting in her imprisonment in a number of castles from 1174 by Henry, including Old Sarum. She remained a prisoner until the death of Henry in 1189. When Richard became king Eleanor regained her position of power both in England in her French territories, particularly when Richard joined the Third Crusade and while he a prisoner of the Germans. When John became king in 1199 Eleanor's interests were focused on Aquitaine and her final years were spent as a member of the community at Fontevraud Abbey.

Douglas Boyd has made a detailed study of the life of Eleanor and the world in which she lived including the constant political power struggles between countries and between members of families,  the role of the church in the affairs of countries throughout Europe plus the alliances formed by strategic marriages of the children of rulers of countries and territories. She was obviously a very strong and remarkable woman.

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