Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Stained glass window depicting Eleanor of Aquitaine in the cathedral at Poitiers. Photo by Danielclauzier; made available through the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

This profile of Eleanor of Aquitaine is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

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Eleanor was also known as:

Eleanor of Guyenne, Éléonore d'Aquitaine and Aliénor d'Aquitaine

Eleanor was noted for:

Being one of the most powerful women of High Medieval Europe. As Countess of Poitou, Queen of France and later Queen of England, she influenced politics, sponsored the Courtly Love movement, and even went on Crusade.

Occupations

Crusader
Queen
Woman of Note

Places of Residence and Influence:

France
England

Important Dates:

Born: c. 1122
Died: April 1, 1204

About Eleanor of Aquitaine:

As the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers, Eleanor inherited a domain larger than that of the king. At age 15 she married the future Louis VII of France, still a teen himself, and a month later the adolescent couple became King and Queen upon the death of King Louis VI.

As Queen, Eleanor was famous for her beauty and wit. During their 15-year marriage she bore Louis two daughters and exercised considerable influence over her mild husband. In 1147 she coaxed him into undertaking a Crusade, and she accompanied him to the Holy Land, where she easily stole the limelight and was rumored to have carried on an affair with her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers.

A few years after their return from the Second Crusade, the marriage of the royal couple was annulled and Eleanor regained control of her extensive lands in Aquitaine and Poitiers.

Two months later, at the age of 30, she wed 18-year-old Henry Plantaganet, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and grandson of King Henry I of England. In 1154 Henry became King Henry II of England. Eleanor's French holdings helped make Henry's lands in France greater than that of the French king.

The Plantaganets had a stormy relationship that resulted in eight children, two of whom (Richard and John) would later become kings of England.

Eleanor was an active participant in the affairs of state in both England and France and was particularly involved in administrating Aquitaine and Poitiers. During a period of estrangement from her husband, she spent some time turning Poitiers into a center of culture, and had a hand in influencing the literary movement of Courtly Love.

In 1173, Eleanor supported her sons Henry and Richard in a revolt against their father, which failed; she was captured seeking protection from her ex-husband and imprisoned until King Henry's death in 1189. When Richard took the crown, Eleanor played a significant role in keeping England intact while the king spent years Crusading. During John's reign she had considerable success guarding his interests on the continent.

Queen Eleanor died in the monastery at Fontevrault, Anjou, in April of 1204. She was 82 years old.
 

More Eleanor of Aquitaine Resources

Portrait of Eleanor
Love Blossoms: The Origins of Courtly Love
Eleanor in Print
Eleanor on the Web
Your Guide's Review of

Profile of Eleanor at About Women's History


Eleanor of Aquitaine on Film
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The Lion in Winter
Henry II (Peter O'Toole) must choose which of his three surviving sons will succeed him, and a vicious verbal battle ensues between himself and his strong-willed queen. Katharine Hepburn won a well-deserved Oscar® for her portrayal of Eleanor.


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