Gavin Betts Biography & Facts
Eleanor (c. 1122 – 1 April 1204; French: Aliénor d'Aquitaine, pronounced [aljenɔʁ dakitɛn]) was Queen of France from 1137 to 1152 as the wife of King Louis VII, Queen of England from 1154 to 1189 as the wife of King Henry II, and Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right from 1137 until her death in 1204. As the heiress of the House of Poitiers, which controlled much of southwestern France, she was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. She was patron of poets such as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure, and Bernart de Ventadorn. She was a key leading figure of the unsuccessful Second Crusade.
Eleanor was the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and Aénor de Châtellerault. She became duchess upon her father's death in April 1137, and three months later she married Louis, son of her guardian King Louis VI of France. A few weeks later, Eleanor's father-in-law died and her husband succeeded him as King Louis VII. Eleanor and Louis VII had two daughters, Marie and Alix. As queen of France, Eleanor participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade. Soon afterwards, she sought an annulment of her marriage, but her request was rejected by Pope Eugene III. Eventually, Louis agreed to an annulment, as fifteen years of marriage had not produced a son. The marriage was annulled on 21 March 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate, custody was awarded to Louis, and Eleanor's lands were restored to her.
As soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to her third cousin Henry, Duke of Normandy. The couple married on Whitsun, 18 May 1152. Henry and Eleanor became king and queen of England in 1154. They had five sons and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. Henry imprisoned her in 1173 for supporting the revolt of their eldest son, Henry the Young King, against him. She was not released until 6 July 1189, when her husband died and their third son, Richard I, ascended the throne. As queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade. She lived well into the reign of her youngest son, John.
Eleanor's year of birth is not known precisely: a late 13th-century genealogy of her family listing her as 13 years old in the spring of 1137 provides the best evidence that Eleanor was perhaps born as late as 1124. On the other hand, some chronicles mention a fidelity oath of some lords of Aquitaine on the occasion of Eleanor's fourteenth birthday in 1136. This, and her known age of 82 at her death make 1122 the most likely year of her birth. Her parents almost certainly married in 1121. Her birthplace may have been Poitiers, Bordeaux, or Nieul-sur-l'Autise, where her mother and brother died when Eleanor was 6 or 8.Eleanor (or Aliénor) was the oldest of three children of William X, Duke of Aquitaine, whose glittering ducal court was renowned in early 12th-century Europe, and his wife, Aenor de Châtellerault, the daughter of Aimery I, Viscount of Châtellerault, and Dangereuse de l'Isle Bouchard, who was William IX's longtime mistress as well as Eleanor's maternal grandmother. Her parents' marriage had been arranged by Dangereuse with her paternal grandfather William IX.
Eleanor is said to have been named for her mother Aenor and called Aliénor from the Latin Alia Aenor, which means the other Aenor. It became Eléanor in the langues d'oïl of northern France and Eleanor in English. There was, however, another prominent Eleanor before her—Eleanor of Normandy, an aunt of William the Conqueror, who lived a century earlier than Eleanor of Aquitaine. In Paris as the queen of France, she was called Helienordis, her honorific name as written in the Latin epistles.
By all accounts, Eleanor's father ensured that she had the best possible education. Eleanor came to learn arithmetic, the constellations, and history. She also learned domestic skills such as household management and the needle arts of embroidery, needlepoint, sewing, spinning, and weaving. Eleanor developed skills in conversation, dancing, games such as backgammon, checkers, and chess, playing the harp, and singing. Although her native tongue was Poitevin, she was taught to read and speak Latin, was well versed in music and literature, and schooled in riding, hawking, and hunting. Eleanor was extroverted, lively, intelligent, and strong-willed. Her four-year-old brother William Aigret and their mother died at the castle of Talmont on Aquitaine's Atlantic coast in the spring of 1130. Eleanor became the heir presumptive to her father's domains. The Duchy of Aquitaine was the largest and richest province of France. Poitou, where Eleanor spent most of her childhood, and Aquitaine together was almost one-third the size of modern France. Eleanor had only one other legitimate sibling, a younger sister named Aelith (also called Petronilla). Her half-brother Joscelin was acknowledged by William X as a son, but not as his heir. The notion that she had another half-brother, William, has been discredited. Later, during the first four years of Henry II's reign, her siblings joined Eleanor's royal household.
In 1137 Duke William X left Poitiers for Bordeaux and took his daughters with him. Upon reaching Bordeaux, he left them in the charge of the archbishop of Bordeaux, one of his few loyal vassals. The duke then set out for the Shrine of Saint James of Compostela in the company of other pilgrims. However, he died on Good Friday of that year (9 April).
Eleanor, aged 12 to 15, then became the duchess of Aquitaine, and thus the most eligible heiress in Europe. As these were the days when kidnapping an heiress was seen as a viable option for obtaining a title, William dictated a will on the very day he died that bequeathed his domains to Eleanor and appointed King Louis VI of France as her guardian. William requested of the king that he take care of both the lands and the duchess, and find her a suitable husband. However, until a husband was found, the king had the legal right to Eleanor's lands. The duke also insisted to his companions that his death be kept a secret until Louis was informed; the men were to journey from Saint James of Compostela across the Pyrenees as quickly as possible to call at Bordeaux to notify the archbishop, then to make all speed to Paris to inform the king.
The king of France, known as Louis the Fat, was also gravely ill at that time, suffering from a bout of dysentery from which he appeared unlikely to recover. Yet despite his impending death, Louis's mind remained clear. His eldest surviving son, Louis, had originally been destined for monastic life, but had become the heir apparent when the firstborn, Philip, died in a riding accident in 1131.The death of William, one of the king's most powerful vassals, made available the most desirable duchy in France. While presenting a solemn and dignified fac.... Discover the Gavin Betts popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Gavin Betts books.