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

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 was born in 1122.  The exact date and place were not recorded; she was a daughter and not expected to matter enough for such details to be remembered.

Her father, ruler of Aquitaine, was William (Guillaume), tenth duke of Aquitaine and eighth count of Poitou. Eleanor was named Al-Aenor or Eleanor after her mother, Aenor of Châtellerault.  William's father and Aenor's mother had been lovers, and while they were both married to others, they saw that their children were married.

Eleanor had two siblings. Eleanor's younger sister was Petronilla. They had a brother, also William (Guillaume), who died in childhood, apparently shortly before Aenor died.  Eleanor's father was reportedly looking for another wife to bear a male heir when he suddenly died in 1137.  

Eleanor, with no male heir, thus inherited the duchy of Aquitaine in April, 1137.

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. Henry was the duke of Normandy through his mother, the Empress Matilda, and count of Anjou through his father. He was also the 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).

Eleanor and Henry sometimes traveled together, and sometimes Henry left Eleanor as regent for him in England when he traveled alone.

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.

Legacy

Eleanor had many descendants, some via her two daughters of her first marriage and many via her children of her second marriage.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Eleanor of Aquitaine." ThoughtCo, Mar. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/eleanor-of-aquitaine-3529622. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, March 11). Eleanor of Aquitaine. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eleanor-of-aquitaine-3529622 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Eleanor of Aquitaine." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eleanor-of-aquitaine-3529622 (accessed December 16, 2017).