Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor was born around 1122 into the Duchy of Aquitaine, one of the largest and richest provinces of France. She was the daughter of William X of Aquitaine and Aenor of Chatellerault.

From her birth her father gave her the best of everything. She received an extensive education, learning arithmetic, philosophy, history and astrology. She was able to read and speak Latin and became accomplished at everything she did.

When her mother and younger brother died in 1130, Eleanor became heir presumptive to her father’s domains.

Following her father’s death in 1137, Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine, but due to her age she was in danger of kidnap. She was placed under the guardianship of King Louis VI of France. The king himself was gravely ill and Eleanor was shortly after married to the French heir Louis on 25 July 1137 at the Cathedral of Saint-Andre in Bordeaux.

Following the death of King Louis VI of France, on 25 December4 1137 Louis VII and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of France.

Early on in the marriage Louis adored Eleanor and was highly influenced by her.

War broke out in 1142 with Count Theobald shortly after the marriage of Eleanor’s sister. This war lasted two years and culminated in the occupation of Champagne. An assault was made by Louis on the town of Vitry. More than 1000 people in the town sought refuge in the church, but the church was burned down and all died. Louis felt guilty over the deaths and suffered nightmares as a result.

Louis decided to go on crusade to the Holy Land to atone for his sins, and following the birth of her daughter Marie in 1145, Eleanor and Louis travelled to the Holy Land in 1147.

The crusade achieved very little, but on their return, the marriage of Louis and Eleanor was in trouble.

Eleanor gave birth to a second daughter, Alix in 1151, but by now her marriage was beyond repair and Louis and Eleanor became estranged.

The marriage was annulled in March 1152 and custody of Eleanor’s two daughters was given to Louis. Eleanor however did have all her lands returned to her.

Eleanor was to remarry less than two months later to Henry, Duke of Normandy, who then became King Henry II of England on 25 October 1154. Eleanor was crowned Queen of England on 19 December 1154.

Eleanor’s marriage to Henry was not to be a happy one, they were both strong willed people and the marriage was a stormy one, although they still produced 8 children, the last, a son John in 1166.

In 1167 Eleanor moved with her possessions to Argentan, France and then onto her own city of Poitiers in 1168. She was now estranged from Henry, but still a ruler in her own right in the province of Aquitaine.

In March 1173 Eleanor, with her son’s Henry, Richard and Geoffrey rebelled against her husband.

In preparation, her sons travelled to Paris. When Eleanor travelled to join them, she was arrested and imprisoned in France.

In 1174 she was moved to England and kept in imprisonment until 1189.

Her son Henry the Younger died in 1183, but before his death he pleaded with his father to show mercy to his mother, but no good came of this.

Henry II died on 6 July 1189, his son and heir Richard I took the throne. One of his first orders was to release his mother from prison.

Eleanor travelled and continued to be involved in politics into her old age. She helped her youngest son John confirm his right to the English throne as heir to Richard, over her own grandson, Arthur of Brittany.

Eleanor first became ill in 1200, but was to die in 1204. She is buried at the Abbey of Fontevault.

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