Eleanor of Aquitaine
1122 – 1204
Queen of France and England, she served both countries dutifullyby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
There she sat. Queen of England and former Queen of France, she remained locked inside buildings for fifteen years. Her crime? Trying to overthrow her husband’s rule with the help of her loyal sons. Fifteen long years stuck in a dungeon. She was not used to living locked up in a tower. Queen Eleanor, the ruler of two wealthy estates called Aquitaine and Poitiers, lived for eighty-two years. For fifteen of those years she was known as Eleanor, daughter of William X, the duke of Aquitaine and the Count of Poitiers. Upon her father’s death she inherited these lands; that same year she married her first husband. After another fifteen years she divorced and married again soon afterwards. It was in her second marriage that she found herself imprisoned for yet another fifteen-year period.
At only fifteen years of age Eleanor became a wealthy heiress of her father’s estates. Already clever and beautiful, when Eleanor inherited these lands she became an even greater prize to have. Not yet sixteen years old, she married Louis VII, the soon-to-be King of France. Four rather uneventful years passed and then came the Second Crusade.
Eleanor, courageous young lady that she was, insisted on going with her husband to fight in the Crusade. Offering thousands of fighters to help in the Second Crusade, Eleanor made sure that she would go too, along with three hundred of her ladies in waiting. These women dressed in armor and carried weapons, but never fought. Dragging hundreds of women along on a crusade was not an easy matter—especially when one was smart, stubborn, and a warrior at heart. Eleanor, of course, was this one woman—the Queen of France. She argued with Louis over where they should travel and whom they should fight. This fiery young woman threatened to divorce Louis when he refused to do what she wanted in the matters of the Crusade. Maybe if they had done what Eleanor suggested for a war plan, they might have won the Crusade, but they returned home defeated. When the time came for the next crusade, women were forbidden to go, perhaps because of their previous experience with women on a crusade. Over the fifteen years that Eleanor remained married to King Louis VII of France, she had two daughters.
Only six weeks after she her divorce from King Louis VII, she married Henry II. Henry was only nineteen when he married the thirty-year-old Eleanor. Two years after their marriage, in the year 1154, Henry II became King of England, and Eleanor became Queen for the second time in her life. Eleanor gave Henry eight children; two of her sons—Richard the Lionhearted and John Lackland—became Kings of England after their father. Unfortunately King Henry did not always remain faithful to his wife. During these times when Henry had a mistress, Eleanor created her own court in Poitiers. This court became well known for its artistic qualities, troubadours and poets, and the idea of courtly love, the code of ladies and their lovers. In 1173 Eleanor rebelled against King Henry II with the help of her sons. This plan failed and resulted in the order of her imprisonment for fifteen years.
However long and terrible this time might have been for Eleanor, she did not allow it to break her spirit. King Henry II died in 1189, and her favorite son, now King Richard, set her free and placed her as the head of the government. She did not let this position go to waste. With her new power she traveled all over England and released prisoners who had violated the hunting game rules that her late husband had enforced. During this time she also arranged the marriages of her children and grandchildren, traveling each time to pick up one of the wives or husbands in question. Finally able to enjoy peace, Eleanor of Aquitaine lived in Fontevrault Abbey. Throughout her life Eleanor lived the life of an heiress, a Queen, a prisoner, and a merciful liberator—and she managed to use her intellect to live through them all.
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