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Eleanor of Aquitaine

Queen of France, Queen of England


Engraving based on Eleanor of Aquitaine's tomb

Engraving based on Eleanor of Aquitaine's tomb

Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine, tomb at Fontevraud

Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine, tomb at Fontevraud

Touriste at wikipedia.org, released into the public domain

Eleanor of Aquitaine Facts:

Dates: 1122 - 1204 (twelfth century)

Occupation: ruler in her own right of Aquitaine, queen consort in France then England; queen mother in England

Eleanor of Aquitaine is known for: serving as Queen of England, Queen of France, and Duchess of Aquitaine; also known for conflicts with her husbands, Louis VII of France and Henry II of England; credited with holding a "court of love" in Poitiers

Also known as: Éléonore d'Aquitaine, Aliénor d'Aquitaine, Eleanor of Guyenne, Al-Aenor

Eleanor of Aquitaine Biography:

Eleanor of Aquitaine, born in 1122, inherited the duchy of Aquitaine in April, 1137, from her father, William X of Aquitaine. Her mother was Aenor of Chatellerault, and she was named Al-Aenor or Eleanor after her mother.

Marriage to Louis VII

In July 1137, just a few months after the death of her father, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis, heir to the throne of France. He became the King of France when his father died less than a month later.

During the course of her marriage to Louis, Eleanor of Aquitaine bore him two daughters, Marie and Alix. Eleanor, with an entourage of women, accompanied Louis and his army on the Second Crusade.

Rumors and legends abound as to the cause, but it's clear that on the voyage to the Second Crusade, Louis and Eleanor drew apart. Their marriage failing -- perhaps largely because there was no male heir -- even the Pope's intervention couldn't heal the rift. He granted an annulment in March, 1152, on the grounds of consanguinity.

Marriage to Henry

In May, 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Fitz-Empress, duke of Normandy through his mother and count of Anjou through his father, and heir to the throne of England as settlement of the conflicting claims of his mother Empress Matilda (Empress Maud), daughter of Henry I of England, and her cousin, Stephen, who had seized the throne of England at Henry I's death. In 1154, Stephen died, making Henry II king of England, and Eleanor of Aquitaine his queen.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II had three daughters and five sons. Both sons who survived Henry became kings of England after him: Richard I (the Lionhearted) and John (known as Lackland).

Rebellion and Confinement

In 1173, Henry's sons rebelled against Henry, and Eleanor of Aquitaine supported her sons. Legend says that she did this in part as revenge for Henry's adultery. Henry put down the rebellion and confined Eleanor from 1173 to 1183.

Back to Action

From 1185, Eleanor became more active in the ruling of Aquitaine. Henry II died in 1189 and Richard, thought to be Eleanor's favorite among her sons, became king. From 1189-1204 Eleanor of Aquitaine also was active as a ruler in Poitou and Glascony. At the age of almost 70, Eleanor traveled over the Pyrenees to escort Berengaria of Navarre to Cyprus to be married to Richard.

When her son John joined forces with the King of France in rising against his brother King Richard, Eleanor backed Richard and helped bolster his rule when he was on crusade. In 1199 she supported John's claim to the throne against her grandson Arthur of Brittany (Geoffrey's son). Eleanor was 80 years old when she helped hold out against Arthur's forces until John could arrive to defeat Arthur and his supporters. In 1204, John lost Normandy, but Eleanor's European holdings remained secure.

Death of Eleanor

Eleanor of Aquitaine died on April 1, 1204, at the abbey of Fontevrault, where she had visited many times and which she supported. She was buried in Fontevrault.

Courts of Love?

While legends persist that Eleanor presided over "courts of love" at Poitiers during her marriage to Henry II, there are no solid historical facts to back up such legends.

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