Eleanor of Aquitaine

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Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)

At 15 she entered an arranged marriage with Louis, which was to suffer from incompatibility and the fact that no sons were produced. She did however bear two daughters by this marriage Marie and Alix. It broke down when she accompanied him to Palestine on the Second Crusade (1147-49). As heiress to the rich and powerful lands of Aquitaine, as holder of the most glittering court in Europe, and as a woman of immense spirit, she was able to gain a divorce from Louis and married the young Henry of Anjou, soon to be king of England. She brought with her her extensive possessions, many of which were to be controlled by the English crown until the 15th century. She was to bear him 8 children: William, Henry, Richard (later known as King Richard the Lionhearted), Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Johnna.

The marriage became stressed, and in 1173 she joined her sons in a revolt against their father. She was captured by Henry and confined in England until his death (prematurely, it seems, because of the constant struggle with his offspring) in 1189. Thereafter she supported King Richard at home whilst he was abroad, and after his death in 1199, she assisted in procuring the throne for Henry's remaining son, John. At the age of eighty she was still involved in the politics of the day.

She was intelligent, interested in the arts, and beautiful. She presided over a golden age in the cultural history of southern France. Many of the songs and lyrics of the troubadours of her court are extant today.

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