|Eleanor marrying the future Louis VII|
Heiress to, and then ruler in her own right of Aquitaine & Poitou, she married twice -- firstly to the French King Louis VII and then to Henry II of England. She participated in the 2nd Crusade [1145 - 49]. Two of her sons became kings of England: Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland. She also acted as regent for Richard while he was on the 3rd Crusade [1187 -92]. Her husband, Henry II placed her under house arrest for about 15 years for participating in her sons' [failed] rebellion against him.
Chroniclers of the time, even those who disapproved highly of her behaviour, decribe her as a very beautiful woman: tall, fair and blue eyed. Even in old age she continues to be described as such. She certainly was far too assertive for the men of the church:- Bernard of Clairvaux scolded her for her interference in matters of state. Born in either 1122 or 1124 she outlived all but her youngest son John and a daughter, dying in 1204 at 82, a very great age for the time.
By modern standars she had an eventful life; by those of the medieval period it was extraordinary. By rights, at the time, all that a women possessed became the property of her husband upon marriage. Effectively this meant that in Eleanor's case her domains of Aquitaine and Poitou were her husband's to rule. In practice, during her mariage to Henry II she ruled/administered her domains most of the time; although he did stick his oar in from time to time--mostly with infelicitous results. Aquitaine looked to Eleanor not Henry. These domains were vast and extremely attractive possessions. It is hardly surprizing therefore, that at 15 having recently inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine and become Countess of Poitou she was married to the future King Louis VII of France.
|1154: grey= English, pink= Royal French|
Eleanor had two daughters by Louis VII but the marriage wasn't a success. During the 2nd Crusade she very publicly disagreed with Louis regarding military strategy and sided with her uncle Raymond of Antioch who wanted to attack Aleppo. Louis imprisoned her for this opposition and headed off towards Jerusalem. She disagreed with Louis a second time about his intention to sack Damascus and was again imprisoned. The assault on Damascus was a failure and by the time the royal couple left Outremer to sail back to Rome and then travel on to Paris, Eleanor and her husband were on separate boats.
|Eleanor and Henry side by side, Fontevraud|
Once in Poitiers she wrote to Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy asking him to come and marry her. It certainly wasn't customary for a woman to summon a prospective husband! They were married 8 weeks after her annulment; he was about 9 years her junior.
In 1154 Henry of Anjou became Henry II, King of England and Eleanor a queen for the second time. The marriage was probably stormy; Eleanor was strong willed and Henry II had the notorious Agevin temper which could, in extreme fits, leave him rolling on the floor foaming at the mouth in rage. However she bore him 8 children; the last John, in 1166.
|Abbey church at Fontevraud|
The 'Young King' had died of dysentry in 1183 during a second rebellion against his father. This left the second son, Richard to ascend the English throne on Henry II's death. He immediately gave orders for his mother's confinement to be lifted and Eleanor then went on to play a significant role during his reign, 1189 -1199.
|tiny Isabelle next to brother-in-law Richard|
An eventful life by anyone's standards! Alison Wier's, Eleanor of Aquitaine, a Life (1999) is an excellent read if you wish to find out more.
Not far from Chinon Fontevraud, now restored and a cultural centre, is a wonderful place to visit.