Eleanor of Aquitaine

In an age when men were considered to be superior to women, Eleanor of Aquitaine proved that conclusion wrong by becoming one the greatest queens ever known in history, first as the Queen of France and later as the Queen of England. But many queens during the medieval ages were not able to accomplish what Eleanor did in her lifetime. How did Eleanor become such a powerful queen during the period in which she lived.

Eleanor was the eldest of three offspring of William X, the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers (also one of the first Troubadours poets) and Eleanor Chatelleraul de Rochefourcaulb. As a child, Eleanor was educated in subjects girls were not supposed to learn. For example, she learned how to read and was educated in Latin, and she learned to ride a horse at a very young age. Her only brother died as a child, thus making Eleanor their father's heir. When Eleanor was 15 years old, William died and Eleanor became the Duchess of Aquitaine. She married Louis VII, the future king of France , a few months later.

Once Louis became the King of France, he needed a son for his heir. Unfortunately, Eleanor only gave birth to two daughters. Marie was born before the second Crusade, and Alisa was born after the Crusade. When Louis decided the “take the Cross” and join the second Crusade, Eleanor contributed military forces for that cause. She also decided to follow Louis and brought three hundred of the closest ladies with her. They were even fashionably dressed in battle attire, but none of them actually fought. The Church frowned upon her idea of joining the Crusade and at a time when no women if any status would challenge the Church or would even think about joining a battle on any kind, Eleanor showed the world how powerful and rich she was by bringing not only a few on her ladies with her but three hundred of them, and neither her husband or the Church was unable to stop her.

During the Crusade, Louis and Eleanor met up with her uncle Raymond, who happened to be very handsome and better looking than Louis. Louis then began to notice Eleanor was growing closer to Raymond and decided to take Eleanor away so that the relationship would not develop into a love affair. Louis then decided to travel to Jerusalem and capture the Holy Land . Raymond disagreed with Louis and wanted to re-capture Edessa . Eleanor sided with Raymond. She refused to leave with Louis and threatened to divorce Louis who then took her by force. The trip to Jerusalem was a failure. After returning to France , Eleanor found a way to divorce Louis by announcing to the Church that her marriage to Louis could not be legal in the eyes of God since they were cousins. The marriage was annulled in 1152. Following medieval custom, all of Eleanor's property was then returned to her.

Eleanor did not allow her failed marriage with Louis to hold her back. She always had her eyes on the future, shown by the way she was able to escape a bad marriage. Six weeks later she married Henry, the future King of England. Shortly after their marriage Eleanor gave birth to Henry, their first heir, but he died later. With Henry, she had the total of eight children: William, Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan, and John. Eleanor would often serve as Regent whenever Henry would travel to other countries. By serving as Regent, Eleanor showned the world that she was very knowledgeable in politics.

Even with all the different events going on in her life, Eleanor was still able to play an active role as the Duchess of Aquitaine. When her marriage to Henry began to fall apart, Eleanor kept busy by contributing to the rules of “courtly love.” She also spent most of her time finding powerful men to marry her daughters. Matilda married Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria ; Eleanor married Alfonso VIII, King of Sicily, and later married Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. Eleanor also played an active role in the lives of her sons. When Eleanor's favorite son, Richard the Lion-Heart, decided to revolt against his father, Eleanor was his biggest supporter and provided military support. The rebellion failed and Eleanor was captured in France and was brought back to England. At Henry's orders, Eleanor was placed at Winchester and later Sarum. Wherever she went, Eleanor was kept under constant watch after the role she played in the rebellion against her husband, the king.

Richard became the next King of England when Henry died. One of the first things Richard did as king was to release his mother from Sarum. Even during her exile, Eleanor continued to play an active role in politics. When Richard decided to participate in the Crusade, Eleanor ruled England for him until he returned to England . When Richard was kidnapped during the Crusade, Eleanor raised his ransom money through taxation. Before Richard was able to provide an heir, he died from a mortal wound in 1199. After his death a big crisis arouse over who should be the next king, John, or Eleanor's grandson, Arthur of Brittany. Eleanor helped defeat Arthur to help John to become the new King of England. Eleanor then started to take a less active political role and retired to Fontevrault Abbey. She died around 1204 at the age of 82 and was buried next to Richard's tomb.

During her life, Eleanor married two kings, participates in the second Crusade, played an active role in both the French and British governments, and contributed to the rules of courtly love. Eleanor further saw that her daughters were married to men of high power, and helped two of her sons become King of England, thus assuring her place in history as the greatest queen that ever lived. Eleanor encouraged poeple of Aquitaine to get an education, at the time when people did not usaually care if they could read or not. The reason why Eleanor was and still important is because women of her era were not known to play such an important political roles and many queens who also ruled during the medieval time would not have influenced both the French and British courts. In fact, there was not a lot of information about the others queens of England and France.