Blogging from A to Z · History Thursday · It's History

It’s History: E is for Eleanor of Aquitaine

Today I’d like to introduce you all to my homegirl, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

For those of you who are unaware, Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of my heroes. Here are the deets:

Her love life:
Eleanor of Aquitaine lived in Europe from c.1122-1204. At this time, most women were powerless. However, Eleanor was born into the French nobility, so as a noblewoman she would’ve had some degree of power. However, when her father, the Duke of Aquitaine died, leaving her Duchess of Aquitaine and owner of numerous other lands at the age of 15, she had to get married in order to keep herself from being kidnapped and forced to marry against her will. So she married Louis, son of the King of France. The King of France soon died, and Louis became King Louis VII. And since Eleanor was married to the guy, he sort of just took over her lands from her and combined them with the piddly amount of land the King of France owned.

After a series of unfortunate events including a disastrous attempt to retake the Holy Land known as the Second Crusade, Eleanor sort of decided she was over the whole being married to a wet blanket thing (she allegedly said, “I thought I married a man, but instead I married a monk,” or something to that effect – I wish I could hunt down the source for that), and she and Louis pleaded that they were cousins who were too closely related to be married, and their marriage was annulled on the basis of consanguinity. So that was done, Eleanor got her lands back, and then she rushed straight into the arms of Louis’s rival, the soon-to-be King Henry II of England.

I thoroughly covered the soap opera that was that marriage in a previous post, so I’ll just give you the short version: Henry was a womanizer, their four sons rebelled with Eleanor’s help, Henry ended up imprisoning Eleanor for the rest of his life to keep her from causing trouble, and yet, strangely, their marriage was infinitely happier than Eleanor’s first marriage had ever been.

Some other things she did besides have a love life worthy of a soap opera:
Went along on the Second Crusade. Eleanor recruited for the campaign, and insisted on going as the leader of the soldiers from her duchy of Aquitaine. Mostly, though, the Crusade went poorly – from arguments with her husband, Louis, to being accused of incest with her uncle, Raymond, the King of Antioch.
Supported a revolt against her second husband. Her oldest son, Henry the Younger, really, really just wanted his father, King Henry II, to just die already. So he led a revolt in 1173-4, which Eleanor supported. And then she was imprisoned for her trouble.
Negotiated the release of Richard the Lionheart. Her son, Richard the Lionheart, was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria during the Third Crusade. Eleanor raised the ransom money and negotiated his release.

I could go on all day, for Eleanor of Aquitaine was fierce. This is only a brief introduction, but there are numerous books about her that you can read to learn more. (Or, you can give good old Wikipedia a try.)

Until our next installment!

Currently Listening To: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
Currently Reading: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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7 thoughts on “It’s History: E is for Eleanor of Aquitaine

  1. I did not know anything about this homegirl Eleanor of yours, but it appears she's led a fascinating life. Thanks for sharing her story!

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