Eleanor of Aquitaine

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Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and his wife, Aenor. She was the granddaughter of Guilem de Peitieu, the first troubadour. Her reputation is that of a formidable political manipulator and a patron of the arts. She is also remembered as wife to two kings as well as mother to two.

Both her mother and her brother died in 1130, and when her father died in May 1137 on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, she was Countess of Poitou and Duchess of Aquitaine and Gascony. In July of that year she married the dauphin, and on the death of Louis VI in August she became Queen of France and her husband became Louis VII.

Though her marriage seems to have been affectionate at first, and she even went so far as to travel on crusade with him, their marriage was annulled in 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity. The real reason for the annulment seems to have been the fact that she had born no sons (although she did bear Louis 2 daughters).

Within eight weeks of her annulment she had married Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and heir to the throne of England, thus transferring control of her landholdings to the English king.

She did bear sons to Henry. Four of them, and each at the others' and their father's throats. Of these the second and fourth (Richard I and John Lackland) were to gain the throne. Her eldest son, Henry was made co-ruler with his father, Henry II, but died before he could succeed him fully. Her other son, Geoffrey, was Duchy of Brittany, by right of his wife, Constance. He died suddenly in 1186 as a result of an accident at a tournament. His son, Eleanor's grandson, Arthur, succeeded to the Duchy, but, on Richard I's death, was supported as his successor, in preference to John, and died after being captured and imprisoned by John.

She and Henry also had 3 daughters: Matilda, who married Henry, Duke of Saxony; Leonora (or Eleanor), who married Alfonso of Castile; and Joan, who married first William II of Sicily, and then Raymond of Toulouse (though she disliked him, and died in childbirth).

Eleanor died at 81 or 82, just before John destroyed the Angevin Empire that she and Henry had assembled with so much blood and treasure.

A lady of Eleanor's stature deserves a Timeline to match. This free download tracks Eleanor's life from triumph to tragedy and vice versa, giving almost 300 dated entries across a span of nine decades.