Eleanor of Aquitaine

eleanor_of_aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine,

wife of King Henry II

1122-1204

Born:

ca. 1122 (although perhaps as late as 1124), daughter of William X, Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine & Gascon and Aenor Chatellereault, in Aquitaine, France

Married:

  1. 25 July 1137 Louis VII of France at the Cathedral of St Andre, Bordeaux, France (divorced 1152)
  2. 18 May 1152 Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy and later King Henry II of England, at Poitiers, France

Crowned:

  1. as Queen of France 25 December 1137
  2. as Queen of England 19 December 1154 at Westminster Abbey, London

Died:

31 March (or 1 April) 1204 at Fontevrault Abbey, France

Buried:

Fontevrault Abbey, France

leanor inherited Aquitaine at the age of 15, shortly thereafter marrying the 17-year-old French dauphin. One month later, Louis VII became king of France, and Eleanor its queen.

Eleanor was clever, headstrong, charming, sophisticated, worldly, adventurous (she accompanied Louis on crusade) and unhappily married. When, after fifteen years, she had produced only two princesses, Louis divorced her for the good of France. Within two months, she married the energetic 10-years-younger Henry of Normandy. In 1154, Henry became king of England. Eleanor again was queen.

Eleanor spent the next dozen years traveling between Henry’s lands in England and France, and bearing Henry’s children — eight in all. Estranged after the birth of youngest son John, Eleanor returned to Aquitaine. In 1173, she encouraged her older sons to rebel against their father. Henry scotched the rebellion and reconciled (uneasily) with his boys but he kept Eleanor in confinement some fifteen years, with only occasional “paroles.”

When son Richard succeeded Henry, he immediately released Eleanor and entrusted her with considerable authority during his absence on crusade. In 1190 Eleanor journeyed across the Pyrenees to escort Richard’s bride Berengaria of Navarre to meet him in Sicily. (Eleanor crossed the Pyrenees again ten years later, to select granddaughter Blanche as bride for the French heir.)

When Richard was imprisoned on his return from crusade, Eleanor worked tirelessly to keep the English throne away from his brother John and to raise Richard’s ransom, personally journeying to Germany to effect his release.

After Richard’s death in 1199, Eleanor actively supported her son John over her grandson Arthur of Brittany in his bid for the throne. One of John’s few heroic deeds was his 1202 rescue of his mother, besieged by French forces at Mirebeau. Eleanor then retired to the French abbey of Fontevrault where she died in 1204.

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