Fortunately on my A-Z on The Plantagenet’s we conveniently start with A for Aquitaine, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The most influential women and one that is synonymous with the Plantagenet dynasty. She was born the daughter of William X, duke of Aquitaine; the exact date of her birth is unknown although believed to be circa 1122. During this period female records such as registering births were not considered an importance and a lot of Eleanor’s early life is based on speculation. It has been suggested that her doting father provided her with an education that covered history and arithmetic that would equal an educated of a nobleman so that she would not be a submissive queen but one that would influence and rule.
Eleanor only brother died in 1130 leaving her as heir presumptive of one of the largest domains in France. She succeeded to the duchy of Aquitaine in 1137, and the same year married Louis VII of France.
She travelled with Louis on the second crusade, in 1147 to 1149, and it was here that her marriage broke down and in 1152 the marriage was annulled.
She then married Henry Plantagenet the duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou. In 1154 Henry became King of England. Now under Plantagenet leadership were England, Normandy and the West of France. The marriage between the two was a fiery one, both were every headstrong, and with Henry’s infidelities made the relationship a strained one. She bore Henry five sons and three daughters. There was strife within the family when in 1173 she supported her sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and Geoffrey when they rebelled against King Henry. Henry defeated the rebellion and Eleanor was imprisoned for sixteen years until Henry’s death in 1189.
Richard I now became King of England and the relationship between Richard and Eleanor had always been a close and special one. In Richard’s absence from the country whilst on the Third Crusade, Eleanor ruled England as regent.
Eleanor was an able and intelligent queen was received approval and popularity from her citizens. On Richards’s death in 1199 she supported John’s claim to the throne against his nephew Arthur, duke of Brittany.
If you would like to find out more about Eleanor of Aquitaine I strongly recommend the books of Elizabeth Chadwick. One of my favourite authors for historical fiction.