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Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of both France and England

Eleanor of Aquitaine died on 1 April 1204 but after 800 years, she still holds our interest. She was Queen twice and held titles in her own name, and she remains one of the most interesting royal women in the mediaeval period.

Eleanor was born on 8 April 1124 to William, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers and Aénor of Châtellerault. Her father’s lands exceeded those of the French crown, and Eleanor inherited the Duchy and all associated lands upon his death in 1137. She also married the Dauphin in July of that year; they were crowned as King Louis VII of France and Queen Eleanor.

Eleanor was Queen of France and consort of King Louis VII
(Public Domain, Wiki Commons)

Although their marriage began well, Louis tired of Eleanor’s outgoing nature and charm over the years. The two had two daughters, Marie and Alix, but their marriage was annulled in 1152.

Eleanor remarried that year; her new husband was Henry Plantagenet who would become King Henry II of England in 1154. Despite the eleven year age gap between the couple (with Eleanor being the elder), they had eight children together. Henry did not remain faithful though, and Eleanor would support her sons’ revolt in 1173.

Eleanor was Queen of England as consort of Henry II
(Adam Bishop, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wiki Commons)

She was kept under arrest for her role in the revolt and was only released upon Henry’s death in 1189. Eleanor saw her son Richard named as King Richard I of England, and was one his staunchest supporters throughout his ten year reign. His death in 1199 led to a power struggle which ended with her youngest son, John, becoming king.

Eleanor died at the age of 80 in 1204 where she was living at Fontrevaud Abbey in France. She was buried at the Abbey along with her husband and two of her children; their bodies were disinterred and scattered during the French Revolution.

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