Eleanor of Aquitaine

Photo of Eleanor’s effigy at Fontevraud Abbey, Chinon.

By Gabby Storey

Eleanor of Aquitaine, born c.1122-24, is perhaps one of the most famous queens of medieval western Europe. Crowned queen of both France and England, her long life and several heirs, and position as one of the wealthiest duchesses of western Europe, enabled her to exert great influence in the Anglo-French sphere.

Married to Louis VII of France in 1137, Eleanor’s first marriage was far from harmonious due to their differing personalities. Although Eleanor bore two daughters, Marie and Alix, Eleanor was reportedly dissatisfied with their marriage and requested an annulment whilst they were on the Second Crusade. Unsubstantiated allegations of Eleanor conducting an incestuous affair with her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, and her future father-in-law, Geoffrey of Anjou, purported to have taken place between 1149-51, are the cause of much of Eleanor’s infamy.

After her divorce from Louis in 1152, Eleanor swiftly married Henry, then duke of Normandy and later king of England. They successfully ruled the Angevin realms until Henry’s death in 1189. Their partnership was not entirely harmonious, although it produced several heirs. After 1189, Eleanor continued to exercise power beyond the role of queen mother, as she was politically active and occasional regent for both her sons Richard I and John. She retired to Fontevraud Abbey, Chinon, a place which benefited from her substantial patronage, in her later years, before her death in 1204. 

Recommended Reading

Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons, eds., Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)

Martin Aurell, Aliénor d’Aquitaine (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2020)

Michael Evans, Inventing Eleanor. The Medieval and Post-Medieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

Sara Cockerill, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires (Stroud: Amberley, 2019).

Podcast: You’re Dead To Me featuring Gabby Storey https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p087r8kb

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