Moonday’s Heroic Hunkette: Eleanor of Aquitaine Part II

     Eleanor of Aquitaine’s actions in her later years struck a blow for women’s equality that predated the women’s rights movement by eight centuries. She was one of the most powerful and fascinating personalities of feudal Europe. By 1166 Eleanor, however, was also a woman scorned
     Eleanor usually ignored Henry’s affairs and had even raised one of Henry’s illegitimate sons by a prostitute. But when she arrived at the court in Woodstock to deliver her last child, she was forty-four and ready to pop.  She found Henry-who was thirty-two-in residence with his teenaged lover, Rosamund Clifford. Fair Rosamund was not a prostitute but of noble birth and Henry LOVED her. Eleanor left and delivered her child-who would become King John-elsewhere. Rumor at the time had it that Henry was trying to provoke Eleanor into obtaining an annulment so that she could be sent to a nunnery and deprived of her lands. leaving him free to marry Rosamund. Henry’s plan didn’t work and Rosamund died, but the marriage was beyond repair.
     In 1169 Henry sent Eleanor to Aquitaine to restore order. She asserted her sovereignty over Aquitaine, including dispensing justice. She established and reigned over a “court of love” with her daughter Marie, the countess of Champagne. They commissioned a “Treatise on Love and the Remedies of Love” which established a cult of chivalry and “code of love.” Eleanor sponsored the “courts of love” in which men having problems with the code of love could bring their questions before a tribunal of ladies for judgment. The ladies educated the men on the nature of love, chivalry, and romance, establishing the code of chivalry. The idea was copied in other castles and kingdoms across medieval Europe. The Court of Love lasted until Henry arrived and disbanded the court and sent the judges home home.
     In 1173, Henry the Younger-King Henry’s heir-revolted against his father. He was supported by the French King, Eleanor, and his much younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey. Henry prevailed and Eleanor was arrested in France by her ex-husband, King Louis. She disappeared for a year, then was returned to England by Henry. Eleanor began her imprisonment in a series of castles that lasted for the next sixteen years. She was released for special occasions like Christmas but she seldom saw her children. In 1183, Young Henry revolted again. He was forced to flee his father’s troops. He contracted dysentery and died after reuniting with his father. His last request, that his mother be freed, was denied. Rumor had it that Eleanor dreamed of his death and it haunted her throughout the rest of her life.
     From 1183 until his death in 1189, Eleanor traveled with her husband and aided in the government, but still had a custodian. Richard I Lionheart freed his mother when Henry died and, when he went on crusade named Eleanor who was about seventy his regent. Eleanor escorted his bride to Sicily for their marriage and traveled to Germany to negotiate his ransom when he was taken prisoner on his return from the crusade.
     When Richard was killed in battle in 1199, he was succeeded by his youngest brother, John Lackland. Eleanor returned to Aquitaine but remained busy and journeyed to Castile to escort her granddaughter to France to marry the grandson of her ex-husband, Louis VII. She even held her castle against her grandson Arthur, who was in revolt against King John. After two husbands, ten children, and Lord know how many lovers, Eleanor retired to Fontevrault Abbey and took the veil. She died when she was 82, having outlived all but two of her children. She one-upped Henry (who is buried beside her) in death with a tomb that was more ornate, higher, and longer than his. WTG, Eleanor. Richard the Lionheart will be featured as next week’s Heroic Hunk.

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2 Responses

  1. You say you want love, Henry? How about if I set up an entire court based on it and use you as a prime example of what not to do?

    That’s just me being fanciful and reading into things, so I apologize. But I always loved that part of her story. It was as if she wanted to ensure no other woman had to endure what she had.

    Loved this, Rita. Especially her tomb being a permanent thumbing of her nose at Heny in the end! Eleanor, you rock!

  2. Would that we still had such courts of love- my son was picking out a b’day gift for his g’friend of 3 years and was waffling between a black dress and a necklace. I had to instruct him that he should choose the jewelry because fabric rots and jewelry doesn’t. Told him that he could never go wrong w/jewelry. So, I am passing on Eleanor’s tradtion of telling men how it is! LOL!

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