Predecessor: William X
Spouse: Louis VII, king of the Franks, then Henry II, king of England
Reign: 1137 – 1204
Summary: Few monarchs are remembered with such fondness as Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and England. The duchy she inherited at the age of fifteen was the largest in France and was incredibly wealthy. Eleanor was the eldest child of Duke William X of Aquitaine and she had the best education available for a young duchess. She spoke and read Latin fluently and was well versed in music and the classics. She was trained to ride horses, hawk, and hunt just as any prince. She became an intelligent woman and was very strong willed, talents she would need ruling a duchy. In 1130, her brother died and she became the heir presumptive, her two other brothers being declared illegitimate. William X died on Good Friday 1137. Eleanor became a young regnant duchess and the most eligible heiress in Christendom.
Almost as soon as she was made duchess, King Louis VI of France offered his son to her. In July 1137, Prince Louis of France and Eleanor were wedded and a week later, Louis became King Louis VII as his father died on 1 August. Eleanor was now queen consort of France. Eleanor did not like her young husband much despite Louis using everything in his ability to woo the young duchess. War soon broke out in France and Louis was at the head of it due to intrigues he set in motion regarding the County of Champagne and the Archbishopric of Bourges. The war ended in 1144 but Louis was deeply disturbed from the deaths he caused and sought a crusade to the Holy Land as a means of escape. Eleanor insisted on coming along and tradition states that Eleanor led a contingent of women dressed as Amazons to the battle. Eleanor and Louis fought over strategy and blamed each other for defeats during their time in the Holy Land. Eleanor's uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, was the prince of Antioch and Louis viewed much of her strategy as strengthening the Poitiers lands in the Middle East. Yet Louis failed utterly in his campaign goals and the surviving army limped home. By the time of their return in France, Louis and Eleanor were clearly estranged. They mutually sought an annulment which was granted in 1152 and Eleanor was allowed to retain her lands in Aquitaine, though Louis received custody of their two daughters.
Eleanor already knew who her next husband had to be: Henry, duke of Normandy, count of Anjou, and heir to England. She married him only two months after her annulment. He became king of England in 1154. In her second marriage, she ceased caring about the infidelities of her husband. Henry had multiple bastard children and Eleanor raised them alongside their eight legitimate children. In Aquitaine, Henry attempted to assert his authority, but the locals would not accept any but the duchess's decrees. By 1166, Henry and Eleanor were estranged as well. Eleanor finally moved her personal possessions to England in 1167 but by that Christmas, Henry and Eleanor were living separated from one another. She moved back to Poitiers in 1168. Eleanor established the fabled "Court of Love" in Poitiers, developing the cult of chivalry to entirely new levels, focusing on the ballads of King Arthur and other chivalric tales. Whether this ever truly existed is unknown. In 1173, Eleanor's eldest son, Henry, came to Poitiers and recruited two younger brothers in a rebellion against their father, Henry II of England. Eleanor was implicated in the plot and was captured in 1174. She was imprisoned for sixteen years at various castles in England. In 1183, Prince Henry died of dysentery in another rebellion against his father. Eleanor was temporarily released later that year to go to Normandy and assert her claim to her lands. She was still under constant guard until 1189, when Henry died. Richard I immediately released his mother upon hearing of his father's death. Eleanor began ruling England in Richard's name while he was away in Germany and the Holy Land. Eleanor later personally travelled to Germany to ransom the release of her son. In 1199, Eleanor acted as a bride shopper in Castile, choosing a wife for King Philip II of France's son Louis. On her return trip, she became ill and passed off her escort duties to another. When war broke out in 1201 between France and England, Eleanor declared for England and attempted to stop her grandson, Arthur, from taking control of Poitiers. John came to her rescue and captured Arthur. Eleanor, quite old, retired to a nunnery. She died in 1204 and was buried beside Henry II and Richard I. At the time of her death, she had outlived all her ten children except King John of England and Queen Eleanor of Castile.
Date of Death: 1 April 1204
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