Top 10 facts about Eleanor of Aquitaine


Image: Mental Floss

This is one of the most controversial women you will ever read about in history. From several marriages to refusing to conform to societal expectations, Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a very interesting life. She lived quite a unique life, being a queen of two kingdoms in Europe-Queen of England and Queen of France at different times!

She was the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Aénor de Châtellerault, born in 1122 and changed the world and the view of women s we know it. Her parents and brother died at a very young age and she took a lot of responsibilities as a young woman. 

Here are ten very interesting facts about this powerful queen from the middle ages!

1. Europe’s most eligible bachelorette 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The fact that she inherited lots of property and a rich woman at the age of 15 might have been the reason that Eleanor was sought after by many bachelors! Or maybe because she was beautiful, after all, Desmond Seward in ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine’ describes her beauty at length. But I think we will go with the first assumption. Eleanor was a very well educated woman; her father brought her up learning literature, philosophy, and other subjects. When her father William X died, he left her as the heir at a very young age! Then came the King of France.

 2. Eleanor vase still around

Image: Wikimedia Commons

If you are in France, or if you plan to visit Paris, France, then you have to visit the Louvre. This is where the vase that Eleanor was given by her grandfather William IX Duke of Aquitaine. The vase was an important gift, so much so that she gave it to her husband Louis VII during their wedding! The vase has lived through centuries and has been owned by so many people but Eleanor stands out.

3. Her tomb lives!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Eleanor’s tomb is still very much there, but her remains aren’t. There instead is a carving of her as queen, reading a devotional and with a crown on her head, and with her husband Henry II and son Richard the Lionheart by her sides! The queen lived longer than all her husbands and most of her children!

All hail the queen!

4. The fireplace

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t we all love a warm house, with a lively fire crackling away at the fireplace in our houses when it is cold outside? Well, if you did not know, then it is believed that Eleanor was the first person to have and use what is now very common in many houses across the world the living room fireplace! When she moved up north from the south of France, the cold was just unbearable and she requested to have a fireplace made as she renovated her house when she got married to Louis! People then started incorporating fireplaces in their designs and the trend spread like fire! See what I did there?

5. Troubled first marriage

Image: Wikimedia Commons

After the death of her father, the king to whom Eleanor had been left as her guardian decided that Eleanor would immediately marry his son Louis. The wedding took place in July 1137 and the king died soon after too, leaving his son Louis as the king! Now, the newly married couple who did not know each other well were left to rule France, well technically, King Louis was not a model king. He made very bad diplomatic mistakes, some that led to horrible murders, and the stresses of managing the kingdom became too much to bear for the couple who were strangers to each other. Eleanor requested for annulment of their marriage on the grounds of being relatives, and eventually, in 1152, they were divorced. 

6. The Imprisoned Queen

King Henry II
Image: Wikipedia

Eleanor was imprisoned by her second husband King Henry II. And for 16 years. Why? You might ask? The husband found out that she was part of the plans that her son was carrying out to dethrone him! And it was also suspected that she had a hand in the king’s mistress’ death. She, therefore, spent the 16 years being between castles in England. The couple separated in 1167 and she relocated to her homeland. She was also fed up with her husband’s affairs with other women and the fact that he was always away.  

7. Marriage to avoid trouble!

In 1152, Eleanor got married to Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, in May 1152. Henry was the brother of George of Anjou, the man who kidnapped her the same year. In those days, kidnapping was probably a way of obtaining power, especially seeing as he was single and very wealthy.

She then sent word to Henry asking him to marry her, mmh, very brave. The king and queen of England got married shortly after she escaped and had eight children together.

8. Active queen

Image: Wikimedia

Eleanor was a very active queen, who refused to stay at the castle just because she was married to a king. She was a powerful queen who traveled a lot and made a name for herself and England when she was the Queen of England. And she also kept the affairs at the kingdom in check whenever her husband was away. 

9. Richard the Lionheart 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Richard the Lionheart was Eleanor’s son. She groomed her son to one day take the throne, even taking diplomatic trips across Europe to forge alliances and create a name for him. She played a very big role in his leadership, always there as an advisor, and even taking over leadership of the country whenever he traveled. She even negotiated for his release after he was kidnaped in Germany at some point. Unfortunately, in 1199, King Richard died leaving his brother John in charge and their mother did not have as much influence in his government as she had had during his brother’s reign. 

10. Lived a very long life

Image: Wikimedia Commons

King Eleanor lived a very long life. Eleanor, at the age of seventy-seven became a nun in France, where she had taken her daughter to be married to Louise VIII; they were attacked during their trip and the event had an effect on her so she went to her castle in Fontevrault where she took the veil and decided to live as a nun until her death! This queen truly lived a very full life!

With a lot of drama and action, but, yes, a very long life, outliving all her husbands and most of her children! Only two of her children, out of 11, were alive when she died. She died of old age in France in 1204, at 82!

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