Eleanor of Aquitane

According to the BBC, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most “powerful women of the Middle Ages,” as she inherited the title of duchess of Aquitaine at only fifteen years old after her brother and father died in 1137.  Eleanor was born in 1122 and was the daughter of William the Duke of Aquitaine. Eleanor received an excellent education. She had been taught to read and speak Latin. She was also taught literature and music. Eleanor was also taught outside sports such as hunting, riding, and hawking.

In the same year of 1137, Eleanor married Louis VII. After Eleanor’s marriage to Louis VII, she became the Queen of France. Eleanor and Louis VII ended up having two daughters together and no sons which later contributed to the end of their marriage.   Around 1147, Eleanor and Louis VII left to go lead the Second Crusade in Constantinople and Jerusalem. During the Second Crusade, Louis VII was not the leader everyone thought he was. Louis VII was a weak leader who was not able to make logical and informed decisions or maintain troop discipline and morale. Thus, the Second Crusade ended up being a failure. Since Eleanor was an independent and well educated woman, she was “instrumental” in the development of trade agreements with Constantinople and ports of trade in the Holy Lands.

After the Second Crusade, Eleanor and Louis VII separated from each other in 1152. Shortly after her separation from Louis VII, Eleanor married Henry of Anjou who became the King of England in 1154. Together they had five sons and three daughters. Eleanor played an active role in running Henry’s empire by travelling between their lands in England and France and managing them. Around 1173, Eleanor alongside her sons started a revolt against Henry II her husband. During the revolt which failed, Eleanor was arrested and imprisoned until 1189 when Henry II died and was succeeded by their eldest son Richard.

After the release of her imprisonment, Eleanor “played a greater political role than ever before” by organizing Richard’s coronation as king and then later by managing the kingdom while Richard was away fighting in the Third Crusade. After Richard’s reign in 1199, John his brother claimed the throne. Even though John was King, Eleanor played a significant role in maintaining the kingdom. However, in 1204 Eleanor died at the monastery at Fontevrault, Anjou.

Eleanor became a woman who cared for her kingdom. She took action in a society and culture that was mainly male dominated. Without Eleanor’s help both Richard and John would not have been as successful as they were as kings. Not only did she do a lot of behind the scenes work as the queen she also a great patron of poetry. Two dominant poetic movements that she supported greatly were the courtly love tradition which was conveyed through the romantic songs of the troubadours and the legends of Brittany which came from Celtic traditions.

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