Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

Categories: Europe | History

It is known that medieval minstrels never skimped on flattery and, quite often, sang the virtues of beautiful ladies, which they did not have in sight. But if we talk about Eleanor of Aquitaine, then we can say with confidence that the singers did not exaggerate a bit. The woman was not only incredibly beautiful, but also very intelligent, which helped her become one of the most famous women in the history of France and Britain.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

Eleanor was born in 1124 in the family of Guillaume X, Duke of Aquitaine. The ruler had three children — two daughters, Eleanor and Petronilla, as well as the heir — Guillaume Aygret. The power after the death of the duke was supposed to pass to his son, but he died in 1130. In this regard, after the death of Guillaume X in 1137, according to his will, the girls passed under the guardianship of the King of France. The monarch, in turn, undertook to marry off the duke's heiress, Eleanor, in order to continue the dynasty of Aquitanian rulers.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

But the bride's rich dowry, which consisted of Aquitaine, Gascony and Poitiers, haunted Louis VI. The king decided to get these lands for France and pulled off a simple intrigue — he married 13-year-old Eleanor to his 17-year-old son Louis.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

The wedding of Eleanor and Louis VII

Most likely, the king felt that his life's journey was coming to an end and the wedding was played without delay. A week after the marriage of his son, Louis VI died and his son, Louis VII became king. Thus, a very young girl became the queen of one of the most powerful powers of medieval Europe.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

Sculptures of Eleanor and Louis VII

The young king was not interested in hunting, feasts and jousting tournaments, or even a beautiful wife. All the thoughts of the monarch were busy planning crusades. This is probably why the first child in the royal family, daughter Maria, was born only 8 years after the wedding. And 2 years after the birth of his daughter, the king went on the 2nd crusade, at the head of a huge army.

At that time, wives were supposed to wait for their men from the Holy Land, sitting at the tapestry embroidery at the castle window. But Eleanor was from a completely different test. The girl expressed a desire to follow her husband on a hike, which at that time took several years. The queen traveled not under a brocade canopy, but like a real Amazon - on horseback, in chain mail and with a sword in her hand.

Eleanor and her husband on a crusade

Serious troubles with the king and his army began in Antioch, on the territory of present-day Syria. Once captured from the infidels, the city was ruled by Raymond, Eleanor's own uncle. A relative suggested to the king to stay a little longer and capture an excellent strategic point on the way — Aleppo.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

The Siege of Damascus in 1148

Instead of taking possession of the rich and poorly fortified Aleppo in the company of a reliable ally, Louis moved with an army to Damascus, where he did not succeed. Since the army was badly battered by Saracens and diseases during an unsuccessful siege, the king abandoned the idea of going to Holy land and turned home.

In 1149, the king and queen returned to France, and in 1151 they had another daughter, Alice. But even the birth of an heir would not have saved the marriage of Louis and Eleanor, since the queen did not feel any warm feelings for her husband. The stupid and too religious king irritated the woman and she insisted on a divorce, which took place in 1152.

The Castle of the Dukes in Poitiers. Residence of Eleanor of Aquitaine

In those dark times, it was not enough to declare a lack of feelings or inconsistency of characters for a divorce, so the official reason for the dissolution of the marriage was called the close relationship of the spouses, not encouraged by church canons.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet

Henry was the diametric opposite of the dull Louis. Noisy and cheerful, he loved horseback riding, hunting and jousting tournaments. For his wife, he was the personification of a real man - noble, kind and strong. Unfortunately, people tend to change and, becoming King of England in 1154, Henry gradually changed for the worse.

The king began to devote less time to his wife and their 8 children, constantly having affairs on the side. The queen even had to poison one of her husband's mistresses, Rosamund the Beautiful, but this did not affect the behavior of the king. In 1169, Eleanor fled from England to her native Aquitaine, taking with her one of her five sons, Richard.

Richard I the Lionheart, son of Eleanor and Henry II

At a distance, the queen began to plot against Henry II Plantagenet and ensured that her sons rebelled against their father. Eleanor actively supported the rebels from Aquitaine and, oddly enough, in the fight against the English monarch, she was supported by her first husband, Louis VII, King of France. The woman also rebelled in her native Aquitaine, which, as it turned out, the second husband laid, pursuing some political goals.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

Eleanor of Aquitaine

The queen received her freedom only after the death of Henry II, when her son Richard I the Lionheart took the English throne. It was then that the finest hour of an elderly woman came. The king was constantly disappearing on military campaigns, and his mother actually took control of the kingdom into her own hands.

We must pay tribute to Eleanor — she ruled wisely and fairly, earning respect both from her subjects and in the foreign policy arena. After the death of Richard I in 1199, when John took the throne, the elderly queen chose to retire to her French possessions. John, who was the complete opposite of the generous and brave Richard, was an unloved son and his mother could not get along with him.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: how the blonde princess conquered medieval Europe

The tombstones of Eleanor and Henry II in the royal tomb at Fontevrault Abbey

In Aquitaine, Eleanor did not sit idly by — she actively participated in the life of the duchy and even organized the defense of Mirabeau Castle in 1202, which was besieged by her grandson. This remarkable woman died in 1204 at the age of 79.

Keywords: Queen | Bride | Middle ages | France

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