Plantagenet II - King of England - 1133 - 1189 &
Eleanor of Acquitane - Duchess of Acquitane - abt 1121-1204
William VIII (X) Duke of Aquitaine - Count of Poitou - 1099-1137 & Eleonore de Chatellerault - abt 1103-1130
Raimond Berenger I (IV) de Barcelona (abt)1113-1162) & Petronilla
de Aragon - (1135-1172) (She was cousin
of Elanor of Acquitane)
Ramiro II Aragon (Arragon) (1095-1147) & Agnes (Maud) of Aquitaine - (1100-)
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most
powerful and fascinating personalities of feudal Europe. At age 15 she
married Louis VII, King of France, bringing into the union her vast possessions
from the River Loire to the Pyrenees. Only a few years later, at age 19,
she knelt in the cathedral of Vézelay before the celebrated Abbé
Bernard of Clairvaux offering him thousands of her vassals for the Second
Crusade. It was said that Queen Eleanor appeared at Vézelay dressed
like an Amazon galloping through the crowds on a white horse, urging them
to join the crusades.
While the church may have been pleased to receive her thousand fighting vassals, they were less happy when they learned that Eleanor, attended by 300 of her ladies, also planned to go to help "tend the wounded."
The presence of Eleanor, her ladies and wagons of female servants, was criticized by commentators throughout her adventure. Dressed in armor and carrying lances, the women never fought. And when they reached the city of Antioch, Eleanor found herself deep in a renewed friendship with Raymond, her uncle, who had been appointed prince of the city. Raymond, only a few years older than Eleanor, was far more interesting and handsome than Eleanor's husband, Louis. When Raymond decided that the best strategic objective of the Crusade would be to recapture Edessa, thus protecting the Western presence in the Holy Land, Eleanor sided with his view. Louis, however, was fixated on reaching Jerusalem, a less sound goal. Louis demanded that Eleanor follow him to Jerusalem. Eleanor, furious, announced to one and all that their marriage was not valid in the eyes of God, for they were related through some family connections to an extent prohibited by the Church. Wounded by her claim, Louis nonetheless forced Eleanor to honor her marriage vows and ride with him. The expedition did fail, and a defeated Eleanor and Louis returned to France in separate ships.
On her way home, while resting in Sicily, Eleanor was brought the news that her fair haired uncle had been killed in battle, and his head delivered to the Caliph of Baghdad. Although her marriage to Louis continued for a time, and she bore him two daughters, the relationship was over. In 1152 the marriage was annulled and her vast estates reverted to Eleanor's control. Within a year, at age thirty, she married twenty year old Henry who two years later became king of England.
In the papal bull for the next Crusade, it expressly forbade women of all sorts to join the expedition. All the Christian monarchs, including King Louis, agreed to this. But by this time Eleanor had problems of her own in her marriage to King Henry II of England.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 - 1204)
In a way Eleanor of Aquitaine's life had barely begun after she returned to France from her travels on the Second Crusade. She lived until her eighties, becoming one of the great political and wealthy powers of medieval Europe.
Eleanor was wealthy because she was heiress of the the duchy of Aquitaine, one of the greatest fiefs in Europe. Aquitaine was like a separate nation with lands extending in southwestern France from the river Loire to the Pyrenees. Here Eleanor's court was a trend setter in the medieval world, known for its sophistication and luxury. Heavily influenced by the Spanish courts of the Moors, it gave patronage to poets and encouraged the art of the troubadours, some of whom were believed to be in love with the beautiful Eleanor. One story is that in her effort to shed her rough knights of their unruly ways, she made up a mock trial in which the court ladies sat on an elevated platform and judged the knights, who read poems of homage to women and acted out proper courting techniques. The men wore fancy clothes - flowing sleeves, pointed shoes - and wore their hair long.
During their adventures on the Second Crusade, it became apparent that her marriage with dour, severe King Louis VII of France was ill matched. The marriage was annulled on a technicality, and Eleanor left her two daughters by him to be raised in the French court. Within a short time Eleanor threw herself into a new marriage, a stormy one to Henry of Anjou, an up and coming prince eleven years younger than she. Their temperaments as well as their wealth in land were well matched; her new husband became Henry II king of England in 1154.
For the next thirteen years Eleanor constantly bore Henry children, five sons and three daughters. (William, Henry, Richard I "the Lionheart", Geoffrey, John "Lackland", Mathilda, Eleanor, and Joan). Richard and John became, in turn, kings of England. Henry was given the title "the young king" by his father, although father Henry still ruled. Through tough fighting and clever alliances, and with a parcel of children, Henry and Eleanor created an impressive empire. As well, Eleanor was an independent ruler in her own right since she had inherited the huge Duchy of Aquitaine and Poitiers from her father when she was 15.
However all was not well between Henry and Eleanor. When her older sons were of age, her estrangement from her husband grew. In 1173 she led her three of her sons in a rebellion against Henry, surprising him with this act of aggression so seemingly unusual for a woman. In her eyes it was justified. After two decades of child bearing, putting up with his infidelities, vehemently disagreeing with some of his decisions, and, worst of all, having to share her independence and power, Eleanor may have hoped that her prize would have been the right to rule Aquitaine with her beloved third son Richard, and without Henry. The rebellion was put down, however, and fifty-year-old Eleanor was imprisoned by Henry in various fortified buildings for the next fifteen years.
In 1189, Henry died. On the accession of her son Richard I to kingship, Eleanor's fortunes rose again. She ruled England from 1190 to 1194 when Richard was fighting in the Holy Land, and when on his way home he was captured and held for ransom - which she raised for his release. In Richard's absence she repeatedly had to defend his possessions. Her fame as an extremely able politician with a real thirst for power grew.
Eleanor traveled constantly, even in her old age. Running from one end of Europe to another, she often risked her life in her efforts to maintain the loyalty of the English subjects, cement marriage alliances, and manage her army and estates. By this time she had many grandchildren, earning Eleanor the title of "Grandmother of Europe." Possibly one of her wisest acts was to travel to Spain to chose and collect her thirteen year old grand daughter Blanche of Castile to become the bride of Louis VIII of France, the grandson of her first husband Louis VII! Blanche eventually proved a rival to Eleanor in political influence and success as queen of France. Eleanor also, when almost seventy, rode over the Pyrenees to collect her candidate to be Richard's wife, (Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho the Wise of Navarre). She then traversed the Alps, traveling all the way down the Italian peninsula, to bring Berengaria to Sicily. Berengaria then travelled to Cyprus, where Richard married her at Limossol on May 12, 1191.
Eleanor died in 1204 at her favorite religious house, the abbey of Fontevrault, where she had retreated to find peace during various moments of the life.
Fontevrault - A religious community where older aristocratic women and ill-used wives came to recover their self-respect and find sympathy and spiritual comfort.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was born around 1122. Her grandfather, William IX, was the wealthy and powerful duke of Aquitaine. He was also a musician and poet, acknowledged as history's first troubadour.
William IX didn't just sing about love. He married for the first time while he was still in his teens, but apparently he and his wife Ermengarde didn't get along, and the marriage was annulled. His second wife was Philippa (or Maud) of Toulouse, the widowed queen of Aragon. They had two sons, William and Raymond, and five daughters. When the Troubadour tired of Philippa, she moved to the same nunnery where Ermengard lived. After Philippa's death, Ermengarde tried to force William to take her back, but the duke had other ideas. He had abducted a married woman called Dangereuse ("dangerous" in French), and she was now his mistress.
In time the Troubadour decided that his elder son, William, should marry Dangereuse's daughter Aenor. (Dangereuse's husband was Aenor's father.) The younger William didn't want to marry Aenor, but he had no choice. The marriage took place in 1121, and a year or so later Eleanor of Aquitaine was born. She was followed by a daughter, Aelith (or Petronella) and a son, William Aigret.
When Eleanor was about five years old, William the Troubadour died and her father became Duke William X. A few years later, Eleanor's mother and brother died. Now Eleanor was heir to the vast realm of Aquitaine.
Like his father, William X was a patron of the troubadours and storytellers, and growing up in his court Eleanor developed a lifelong love of music and literature. Proud of his lively, intelligent daughter, William gave her an excellent education. She travelled through Aquitaine with him, preparing for her future role of duchess. Father and daughter were close, and it must have been a harsh blow for Eleanor when William, while making a religious pilgrimage, died suddenly of food poisoning.
Eleanor was just fifteen, and her life was about to change forever. On his deathbed William had asked his men to commend Eleanor to the care of Louis the Fat, king of France. Louis was no fool. He knew just what to do with his young, very beautiful, extremely wealthy ward -- marry her off to his own son and heir. And so on August 1, 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future King Louis VII.
Queen of France
Both Eleanor and her husband were in their teens, but they had little else in common. Eleanor was high-spirited and strong-willed; Louis was a quiet, religious young man, regarded by some as a saint. No one ever mistook Eleanor of Aquitaine for a saint.
A few days after the wedding, Eleanor's father-in-law died and her husband became King Louis VII. Eleanor, who was not one to stay at home making tapestries, threw herself enthusiastically into the role of queen. To the dismay of many observers, the new king respected his wife's intelligence and consulted her frequently on matters of state. Queen Eleanor frequently visited Aquitaine, where she was well-regarded by her father's former vassals.
Eleanor's sister, Petronella, was also keeping busy. With Eleanor's encouragement, a nobleman annulled his first marriage to marry Petronella, which didn't make the family of Wife Number One very happy. War broke out, and Louis led his troops against a town called Vitry, setting it on fire. The townspeople sought refuge in a church, which burned down. More than one thousand people perished. Louis was wracked by guilt.
During the first years of her marriage Eleanor had just one child, who was stillborn. An influential miracle-working abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, told her that she was childless because God disapproved of her wicked ways. Either Eleanor temporarily mended her ways or God relented, because in 1145 she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Marie. But Eleanor wasn't ready to settle down and be a typical medieval mommy.
The Second Crusade
In 1144 the city of Edessa (located in modern-day Turkey), which had been in Christian hands for almost 50 years, was captured by Muslims. Most of its citizens were massacred or sold into slavery. Inspired by this event and the preaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Louis VII and German emperor Conrad III organized their own separate military expeditions to the Middle East. The French and Germans had little interest in cooperating with each other; still, their dual effort is known as The Second Crusade.
Eleanor had no intention of sitting quietly at home while her husband went off on his adventure. The king's advisors may have been opposed to taking Eleanor and her company of 300 women along on the Crusade, but Eleanor was also offering the services of a thousand men from Aquitaine, and the king accepted. When they reached Antioch they were greeted by Eleanor's uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, who had become ruler of the city by marrying its young princess. Raymond entertained the crusaders in grand style, paying special attention to his flirtatious niece.
Although Raymond had a reputation for being a faithful husband, Eleanor's reputation was less spotless, and gossip about their relationship soon began to fly. The rumors followed Eleanor for the rest of her life. Many years later an English chronicler wrote sneeringly, "How Eleanor, queen of France, behaved when she was across the sea in Palestine... all these things are well enough known."
Whether or not Eleanor had an affair with her uncle, she was certainly influenced by him. When Raymond pleaded for Louis's help in defending Antioch, Eleanor took his side. When Louis refused to assist Raymond, Eleanor declared that she wanted their marriage annulled. Louis, who adored his wife, was angry and hurt. He left Antioch and forced Eleanor to go with him. She never saw Raymond again. In 1149 he was killed in a battle against the Muslims. His severed head was sent to the caliph in Baghdad.
The Second Crusade was a failure, partly because of the quarreling among its leaders. Eventually Louis abandoned the cause and returned to France. Eleanor went with him -- on a separate ship. On their way home they stopped in Rome, where the pope persuaded them to go to bed together. The result of this papal intercession was a second daughter, Alix, born in 1150.
But the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII never truly recovered from Eleanor's scandalous behavior in Antioch, and in 1152 Louis granted Eleanor the annulment she desired. Eleanor was not destined to remain single for long.
Queen of England
In 1152, less than two months after the annulment of her marriage to King Louis VII of France, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, the grandson of England's King Henry I. He was 18, eleven years younger than Eleanor. Their marriage scandalized observers. Eleanor, it was rumored, had previously had an affair with Henry's father.
According to a contemporary writer, Gerald of Wales, Henry's father warned him not to touch Eleanor, "both because she was the wife of his lord and because he had known her himself." But, ignoring his father's advice, Henry "presumed to sleep adulterously with the queen of France, taking her from his own lord and marrying her himself. How could anything fortunate, I ask, emerge from these copulations?"
The first thing to emerge -- just five months after Eleanor and Henry's hasty marriage -- was a son, William. The child died a few years later. By then Henry had claimed the English throne. Eleanor, formerly queen of France, was now the queen of England.
Eleanor and Henry had seven surviving children: Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan, and John. As the children grew up, Eleanor and her husband grew apart. At first Henry conducted secret love affairs. Then he began a public relationship with a knight's daughter, Rosamond Clifford, "the Fair Rosamond." Legend has it that the jealous Queen Eleanor confronted Rosamond with a dagger in one hand and a cup of poison in the other and forced her to choose which way she would die. (Rosamond did die in 1177, but probably of natural causes.)
King Henry later became involved with his son Richard's fiancee, a French princess who also happened to be the daughter of Eleanor's first husband, Louis VII. Not surprisingly, Richard never married the girl.
In 1168 Eleanor returned to France to rule her restless subjects. Her court quickly became a center of culture. She was reunited with her eldest daughter from her first marriage, Marie, who shared her interests. But Eleanor wasn't content to spend the rest of her life patronizing troubadours and presiding over courts of love. She wanted more power than Henry was willing to give her, and she began plotting against him. Henry summoned her back to England, where she continued to scheme.
Eleanor the Eagle
In 1173, Eleanor's three eldest sons -- Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey -- rebelled against their father, Henry II, with Eleanor's support. They were forced to flee to France. Eleanor tried to follow, disguised as a man, but she was captured by Henry's forces.
King Henry kept Eleanor more or less imprisoned for 16 long years. His sons continued to war against him; in the end even his favorite son, John, turned against him. Finally, in 1189, Henry II died. Eleanor and Henry's eldest son, Henry, was already dead, so Eleanor's favorite, Richard the Lionheart, became king. Richard soon went away on a crusade, leaving his mother as regent. "He issued instructions to the princes of the realm, almost in the style of a general edict, that the queen's word should be law in all matters," wrote a contemporary chronicler, Ralph of Diceto.
She proved to be a shrewd ruler. When Richard was taken hostage, Eleanor helped to raise his ransom money. She also stood up to Richard's brother John, who plotted to seize the throne. She even managed to get Richard and John to reconcile after Richard's return to England.
Eventually Richard died and John became king. Like Richard, King John respected his mother and heeded her advice. She, in return, supported him against his enemies. Eleanor was now quite elderly by the standards of her time, but she continued to lead an active life, travelling through Europe and arranging marriages for her grandchildren. In 1202 the ailing Eleanor was trapped in a castle by the army of the French king, with whom John was at war, but John freed her.
Eleanor of Aquitaine died in 1204 at the abbey of Fontevrault, which she had long patronized. She is buried there, as are Henry II and Richard the Lionheart.
According to Ralph of Diceto (as quoted in The Plantagenet Chronicles), Eleanor's life fulfilled a prophecy "which had puzzled all by its obscurity: 'The eagle of the broken bond shall rejoice in the third nestling.' They called the queen the eagle because she stretched out her wings over two kingdoms -- France and England." The broken bond referred to Eleanor's two broken marriages, and Richard, her third son, was the third nestling, "the one who would raise his mother's name to great glory."