What Sayest Thou?
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a woman of endless facets – and endless fascination.
Her life presents a mesmerizing scenario. The heiress to the wealthy duchy of Aquitaine, she married the King of France. She rode with him on Crusade (and caused a scandal in Antioch). She was divorced by the King of France.
Two months later, she married the heir to the throne of England, a young man ten years her junior. When he became King of England, Eleanor gained her second crown. She also gained a second family. She had two children, both daughters, with the King of France. She had eight children with the King of England. Five of them were boys, four of whom survived, three of whom were crowned as king of England.
She incited her sons to rebel against their father the King, who then kept her in custody for 15 years. Released when her son Richard inherited the throne, she was now given honor, respect and authority. She held England for Richard while he was absent on his own crusade. When he was captured and a ransom demanded, she not only gathered the ransom but personally delivered it to Mainz. On Richard’s death, she ensured that it was her son John who succeeded to his throne.
Yet, who really was this woman? The chronicles are silent as to her thoughts, her feelings, her motivations.
Was Eleanor a feminist icon – a beacon of independence. setting an example of how a woman can achieve and wield power?
Or was she a medieval diva – a woman who reveled in the perks of a life she had inherited, known today because she happened to live through dramatic circumstances and, on occasion, behaved outrageously?
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