Eleanor, Duchess Of Aquitaine Essay, Research Paper
In the year 1122, soon to be Duke William X of Aquitaine was informed that his bride of one year, Aenor, daughter of the Viscount Aimery, had bore him a daughter. She was christened Alia-Aenor, or Eleanor. Since Aquitaine consisted of more than a third of the entire land of France, she was a heiress of some esteem. Soon after, Aenor gave birth to another daughter, Aelith (Petronella) and then to the heir that William so desired, William Aigret. Unfortunately, when Eleanor was eight, both her mother and brother died, leaving her heiress to the whole of Aquitaine. Eleanor?s close childhood friends were her uncle Raymond, who was only eight years older than herself, and her sister. She was influenced by the great heroines in her family, like her grandmother, who sacrificed her place as a Viscountess, for love. When Eleanor was fifteen, her father went on a pilgrimage. On the way, he encountered food poisoning. He left Eleanor in the charge of King Louis the Fat, to marry her off. King Louis married her to his own son, and made her Queen of France upon his death, some days after the wedding.
Louis Capet, Eleanor?s new husband, was only sixteen when they wed. The second son, he had grown up in a monastery, preparing for a life in the service of the Lord. However, when his older brother fell off his horse and broke his neck, Louis became heir to the throne of France. Louis was a quiet, deeply religious man, eager to show off for his new, rich and beautiful wife. Eleanor dreamed of a warrior for a husband, and Louis, despite his shyness, desperately wished to fill that part. Quickly he went to war, against his vassals and anyone else that would oppose him. When Petronella was married to Count Ralph of Vermandois, his first wife?s family?who he had divorced to marry Petronella?quickly took up arms against him. Louis jumped in to protect his sister-in-law?s interests. Even so, Louis?s war was badly planned and his army ended up burning an entire village who had taken refuge in a church. The experience left him virtually destroyed, he who had been so in God?s favour. The King and Queen went to a respected and feared Abbot, Abbot Bernard. Louis wished to repent for his sins and Eleanor wished to bear Louis a child. By the time they left, Louis was committed to going on a crusade, and Eleanor was pregnant. By the time the crusade was to begin, Eleanor had delivered a baby girl, swiftly named Marie Capet. Eleanor accompanied Louis on the crusade.
The trip was long and difficult. On their Holy Journey, they were joined by the Germans, led by King Conrad. Louis was a bad man for a war, having no real taste for it. He badly planned and was a poor leader. Eleanor soon began to despise her husband. After staying about a week in a Greek city that didn?t really want them, they were finally on their way. Going through the mountains, Louis stayed at the back of the train, dressed like a simple pilgrim. Eleanor and her kinsman rode at the front. Disobeying Louis?s order?s, they decided to camp on a grassy plain. Leaving the back of the train, they camped. The back of the train was attacked by Moslems. Louis would have been killed, but for his lack of worldly clothing. Eventually, they reached the city of Eleanor?s uncle Raymond, Antioch. He begged Louis to fight the Moslems there, to defend his city, but Louis, jealous of Raymond?s flirtatious attention to Eleanor, refused. Taking Eleanor in the middle of the night so she couldn?t disobey him, Louis fled to Jerusalem. There they stayed, even though Louis? army could not fight the Moslems, for they always lost. Eleanor hated Louis by this time.
On their return, Eleanor declared to Louis that she wanted a divorce. Louis quickly asked the Pope to intervene and he did. Resulting from this, another daughter, named Alise, was born. However, Eleanor still did not wish to remain married to Louis and eventually she was granted a divorce. She retained her lands, but Louis got custody of the young Princesses.
Eleanor had another plan. One of Louis? vassals, a fiery young man known as Henry Plantagenet, had secretly met with her. Henry, fighting for his rightful place as King of England, was Duke of Normandy, and Count of both Anjou and Angevin. He and Eleanor would join, giving her a throne and him the Duchy of Aquitaine as well. Henry was arrogant, good-looking, and young, being some 11 years younger than Eleanor herself. Finally, after warring in England for only two years after the wedding, King Stephen of England died, leaving Henry as his heir. Eleanor was Queen once again.
As if to prove that this was the better match, Eleanor quickly became pregnant and bore Henry the son he wished for. Unfortunately, young William was not strong and died soon after his fourth birthday. Eleanor bore Henry seven other children however, starting with Henry, who would become The Young King, Matilda, who would be Duchess of Saxony and Bavaria in Germany, Richard, better known as Richard-the-lion-heart, Geoffrey, eventual Duke of Brittany, Eleanor, future Queen of Castile, Joan, who would be the widowed Queen of Naples and eventual Duchess of Apulia, and finally John Lackland, England?s worst king.
However, happy life was not for Eleanor. Despite being Queen of England, Thomas Becket had the King?s ear in all matters. Even when Thomas fell from grace and was eventually murdered in the name of the King, Henry had fallen in love with Rosamond de Clifford. Eleanor, disgraced, left England on the pretext of keeping peace in her homeland. She took her children with her, except for John, whom she disliked, and Matilda, who had been sent to Germany.
Back in her court in Aquitaine, Eleanor set up a court where a woman was superior. Men would come and be judged by a room full of women, who rated his actions according to a book dictated by Eleanor that taught the rules of a women?s superiority. Here also, she fostered her sons? growing hatred for their father, who denied them any type of power.
Prince Henry, who by this time was actually King Henry III, lusted after control. Joining forces with King Louis, he rebelled against his father along with his brothers Richard and Geoffrey. However, Henry soon destroyed their force and threw Eleanor in house-arrest in a stone castle in England.
Eleanor spent 17 years as a prisoner of her husband. Cut off from everything she loved, Henry refused to even let her keep her own household. Eventually, through her son?s objections at her treatment, Henry slowly allowed her more privileges. Through this time, word came to Eleanor that her oldest son, Henry, died warring against his own father, as well as her son Geoffrey. Then, as time passed, her fierce husband died as well, amidst a war with King Philip of France and Richard, and John, his last surviving legitimate sons. Quickly, on the order of King Richard, who had always been her favourite son, Eleanor was set free. She was made Regent until Richard could come to the kingdom himself.
Richard was unknown in his new kingdom, with the reputation of a parricide. Eleanor toured the kingdom, emptying jails and easing taxes in Richard?s name. She had his face engraved on a new currency and planned a coronation so splendid it became the basis for all following coronations.
However, Richard was not concerned with England. He was intent on setting out on a crusade immediately, in the company of King Philip of France and Duke Leopald of Austria. After he had everything set, Eleanor decided he could not go without being married. He had been engaged to the royal princess Alais of France. However, his philandering father had destroyed that plan. ?King Henry later became involved with his son Richard?s fiancee, a French princess who also happened to be the daughter of Eleanor?s first husband, Louis VII. Not surprisingly, Richard never married the girl?(Internet). Eleanor had to think fast and quickly journeyed afar to get Richard a new princess. However, Eleanor?s favourite son would not produce a heir.
Not only was he averse to marrying Alais because she had been his father?s mistress, he objected to marrying any woman. It is interesting to know how this knowledge initially affected Eleanor, but surely it must have caused her some pain. For good or ill, she had moulded him into a beautiful, glorious warrior, the Coeur de Lion, whose name would still be synonymous with valour eight centuries later. The only flaw in her planning was that her son was a homosexual (Meade 308).
On Richard?s return from a half-way successful crusade he was taken hostage by the Holy Roman Emperor. Eleanor raised his ransom money while attempted to put down her son John?s ambitions on the crown. Richard ruled England for 10 years and was killed by a absurd injury taken in the shoulder. For better or worse, and as history shows, it was definitely worse, John was now King of England.
John was a wastrel. Despite the fact that Eleanor was now seventy-seven, she could quickly recognize that this son, whom she had never liked, was going to destroy the Plantagenet empire she and Henry had so carefully built. Not one for war, John let all his Continental lands be taken, one by one by King Philip. Eleanor swallowed her pride and paid homage to Philip for her Aquitaine, so as to not give him or Arthur of Brittany?her grandson who claimed the throne of England–an excuse to attack her lands as well.
Finally however, Eleanor could no longer protect her family. She set down the foundations of courtly love, and thanks to her efforts, men appreciated women. A tradition such as opening a door for a lady, which in today?s society is just dying out, was originally thought of by Eleanor. At the age of 81, she died, having been the mother of 10, the grandmother of 59 and despite being the wife of two Kings, is best known simply as Eleanor of Aquitaine
BibiliographyMeade, Marion. Eleanor of Aquitaine. New York: Hawthorn Books INC, 1977.
Unknown. ?Eleanor of Aquitaine.? Online. Internet. May 11, 2000. Available: http://www.geocities.com/athens/aegean/7545/eleanor.html