Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eleanor of Aquitaine

I finished "Eleanor of Aquitaine" by Marion Meade. It was 355 pages and I finished it in 3 days. I couldn't put it down.

Eleanor was one of the richest and most powerful women of her time. She was the wife of two kings and the mother of two kings. She was very politically astute; she could manouver with the best of them. She joined her husband on the Second Crusade. In a time when you were lucky to live to 50, Eleanor lived into her 80's.

Eleanor was probably born in 1122. Records of her life are spotty at best. At that point in time women were unimportant and her story has to be deduced from the history of the men in her life. She was born to William X, the Duke of Aquataine, one of the richest territories in the world. Upon his imminent death, her father appointed her care and her land to King Louis VI until a proper husband was found. The king seized the opportunity to join Aquataine to France and gave Eleanor to his son, Louis VII to marry. However, 15 years and no sons later this marriage was annulled and Eleanor married Henry II of England.

This marriage eventually led to The Hundred Year War in which the French finally forced the English to give up all claim to the French throne. This marriage also produced two sons who would become kings; Richard the Lionhearted and King John.

I've always found Eleanor an intriguing character. You know the old dinner party question---if you could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party who would it be? Eleanor, Jesus Christ and Jack the Ripper are the only people I choose every time.

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