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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitaine and how she might have looked  was the fascinating subject of Anne O'Brien's guestblog exactly two weeks ago. Today, Christy English,  author of To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, is here to tell us something more about this great Medieval queen's personal history. Welcome on Fly High, Christy!

Eleanor of Aquitaine was queen in a time when men dominated the political scene. Raised as a young girl to be the heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, Eleanor always knew that she would have to marry in order to hold her territories safe from encroaching enemies. Literate in Latin and possibly some Greek, Eleanor was extremely educated, and unusual thing for a woman in the medieval period. Most medieval men never learned to read, save for the monks and priests of the Church. Noblemen and kings often had clerks trained by the Church to write their histories and their letters. But in Aquitaine, at the Court of Love established by her grandfather, noblemen and women learned to read and write in the langue d’oc, Eleanor’s native tongue.

Poitiers, Eleanor’s Capital in the County of Poitou

Before she became duchess, Eleanor’s marriage to the King of France, young Louis VII, was arranged. After her father’s death in March of 1137, Eleanor managed to conclude the marriage negotiations herself with the help of her loyal churchman, the Bishop of Limoges. She drove a hard bargain, keeping all her lands under her own rule until her unborn son sat on the throne of France.

Louis VII and Eleanor married on July 25, 1137, and Eleanor spent the next fifteen years of her life vying with the Church for supremacy in the heart and mind of her husband. Though Eleanor ruled her duchy and other lands, she depended on her husband for political power. Like all medieval queens, even a woman as strong as Eleanor often had to turn to men to accomplish her will.
As Eleanor and Louis went on Crusade in the Holy Land, Eleanor began to feel confined by her marriage. Though she and Louis had been married for years, Eleanor had yet to have a son. Unlike most medieval queens, Eleanor held the duchy of Aquitaine in her own right and thus could not be put away in a nunnery while Louis conveniently married someone else. In this case, it was Eleanor who longed for her freedom. And she was one of the few women in medieval Europe with the power and wealth to seek it out.

It took her five years, but in March of 1152, Eleanor was granted an annulment from her husband, the King of France. Giving up the kingdom of France and its crown was no hardship though, for she married young Henry Duke of Normandy a few months later. Within two years, Henry of Normandy and Anjou had become King of the English, and on the day her second husband was crowned, Eleanor was crowned at his side. 

Few women ever wore two crowns in a lifetime, and even fewer managed to hold their own with not one, but two kings. Eleanor of Aquitaine was always a force to be reckoned with.

Maria Grazia , thank you so much for hosting me today! 
Christy English


For those who want to know more about Eleanor’s adventures, please find Christy English on her blog , on Twitter   and on Facebook  


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