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Friday, 26 December 2014

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1121-1204)  was the oldest of three children of William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and his wife, Aenor de Châtellerault, the daughter of Aimery I, Viscount of Châtellerault, and Dangerose de l' Isle Bouchard.

Eleanor's father ensured that she had the best possible education She came to learn arithmetic, the constellations, and history as well as domestic skills such as household management and the needle arts of embroidery, needlepoint, sewing, spinning, and weaving.

Beautiful, graceful, dark eyed and colourful, Eleanor's succession to the duchy of Aquitaine in 1137 made her the most eligible bride in Europe. Three months after she became duchess, she married King Louis VII of France, son of her guardian, King Louis VI.

Louis and Eleanor were married on July 25, 1137 in the Cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux by the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

At left, a 14th-century representation of the wedding of Louis and Eleanor; at right, Louis leaving on Crusade.

Eleanor gave Louis as a wedding present a rock crystal vase currently on display at the Louvre. This vase is the only object connected with Eleanor of Aquitaine that still survives.

Eleanor was, according to the London Sunday Times index linked survey,the richest woman of the Millennium

At Poitiers, Eleanor presided over a court of love, whose members ruled on matters of courtship, and drew up a code for lovers.

Eleanor complained about the pious Louis’s lack of interest in lovemaking saying that he was “more of a monk than a man."

Eleanor did produce Louis two daughters, but the marriage was later annulled, as there were no male children.

Louis and Eleanor met on March 11, 1152 at the royal castle of Beaugency to dissolve the marriage.

Eleanor quickly sent envoys to Henry, Duke of Normandy and future king of England, asking him to come at once to marry her. On May 18, eight weeks after her annulment, Eleanor married Henry at Bordeaux Cathedral, shortly before his accession to the throne.

Eleanor brought the province of Aquitaine to England when she married Henry II. It stayed under English control for 300 years.

Having patronized the development of courtly poetry in Poitiers, Eleanor continued her love for love songs in England.

The obverse of Eleanor's seal.

Henry and Eleanor had five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. William died in 1156,  Henry in 1183, Geoffrey in 1186, Richard became Richard I and John, King John.

From 1167, Henry and Eleanor drifted apart mainly due to this time Henry's unfaithfulness with a series of mistresses  and the queen's influence began to create much family strife.

Henry's attempts to wrest control of her lands from Eleanor (and from her heir Richard) led to confrontations between the king on the one side and his wife and legitimate sons on the other.

Eleanor supported a revolt by her children against their father's rule in 1173. This revolt was unsuccessful, and King Henry II was so furious that he confined her to Winchester, whilst the king spent time with his mistresses.

An avid equestrian; as a septuagenarian, Eleanor rode across the Pyrenees to fetch a wife for her son John.

A contemporary German Poet wrote the following about Eleanor:
Were all the world all mine
From the sea to the Rhine
I'd give all away
If the English Queen
Would be mine for a day.

Eleanor of Aquitaine died on April 1, 1204 and was entombed in Fontevraud Abbey next to her husband Henry and her son Richard.

Tomb effigies of Eleanor and Henry II at Fontevraud Abbey. By ElanorGamgee - Fontevraud, Wikipedia Commons

By the time of Eleanor's death she had outlived all of her children except for King John of England and Queen Eleanor of Castile.

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