Eleanor of Aquitaine – Powerful/Enthralling Personalities
Eleanor of Aquitaine was considered to be the most powerful as well as enthralling personalities of feudal Europe. She was a major figure in the middle ages as well as a prominent personality in women’s history.
She was the eldest daughter of William, Duke of Aquitaine and had married Louis VII, King of France at the age of 15 bringing with the union, her enormous possessions from the River Loire to the Pyrenees. At 19, she knelt in the cathedral of Vezelay before the celebrated Abbe Bernard of Clairvaux and offered him thousands of her vassals for the Second Crusade.
Queen Eleanor had appeared at Vezelay in the attire of an Amazon galloping through the crowd on a white horse, advising them to join the crusades. Though it is said that the church may have been delighted in receiving her thousand fighting vassals, they were not happy when they learned that Eleanor had along with 300 of her ladies planned to help and tend to the wounded. Her presence together with the ladies and wagons of female servants was disapproved by commentators throughout her adventure. Dressed in armour and carrying lances, the women did not fight.
Eleanor’s Announcement - Marriage Invalid
When they reached the city of Antioch, Eleanor was in deep renewed friendship with Raymond her uncle who had been appointed prince of the city. Raymond was only a few years older than Eleanor and was handsome and far more interesting than her husband, Louis.
Eleanor supported his views when he had decided that the best strategic objective of the Crusade was to recapture Edessa and protect the Western presence in the Holy Land. Louis however was more engrossed in reaching Jerusalem which seemed a less sound goal and demanded Eleanor to follow him to Jerusalem.
Eleanor furious, announced to all that their marriage did not seem to be valid in the eyes of God since they were related through some family links to the extent which was prohibited by the Church. Nonetheless Louis compelled Eleanor to honour her marriage vows and ride with him. The expedition resulted in failure and a defeated Louis and Eleanor returned to France in separate ships.
1152 – Officially Divorced – Married Henry of Anjou
During the Second Crusade, her relationship with her husband worsened and in 1152, they were officially divorced. Thereafter she married Henry of Anjou and over the next thirteen years, the royal couple had eight children, five sons and three daughters. Queen Eleanor was very much occupied in the ruling of King Henry II’s huge empire in France and England.
However Henry and Eleanor finally separated and Henry had her imprisoned in 1173 for supporting her son who had revolted against Henry and was not released till 7 July 1189 when Henry died. Their son ascended the English throne as Richard I. Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade when on his return he was captured and held a prisoner.
Eleanor lived well into the reigns of her son John, who was the youngest.By the time of her death she had outlived all her children except for King John and Queen Eleanor of Castile.Bestowed with intelligence, creative energy together with remarkably long life, she played a major role in the 12th century, an inspiring achievement since medieval women had been considered as nothing more than chattel.
As the queen partner of King Louis VII of France and of King Henry II of England and as the mother of King Richard I and King John, she was in the limelight exercising power over the most important men of her time.