Posts Tagged Eleanor of Aquitaine

Episode 87: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Part Two

Posted 17 April 2017 by
Tagged As: , , , | Categories: Podcasts | Comments Off on Episode 87: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Part Two

Part one followed Eleanor’s life from her birth through to the big cliffhanger: after divorcing King Louis and heading back to Aquitaine she popped up only a few weeks later married again to 18 year-old, King in Training, Henry FitzEmpress of Anjou.

The newlyweds took the “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission” strategy and didn’t ask their king (Louis) if they could marry but, really? Would he have given it? No, he would not. Henry’s star was rising and his parents were powerful and connected. His mother, Empress Matilda, needs her own episode, she was that powerful and after a lifetime of civil war over the crown of England (Matilda was beat to it by her cousin, Stephen) Henry’s military training was substantial and he was very good at it. But the biggie? When Eleanor’s lands combined with Henry’s they controlled more than half of modern day France.

Eleanor's fancy new seal and one of the few illustrations of her

Eleanor’s fancy new seal and one of the few illustrations of her

Of course there is so much more to Eleanor’s entire story and we cover all of it in the podcast, but within the first couple years of their marriage, Eleanor gave birth to their first child , a son (take that Louis), Henry let King Stephen know, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to be his successor…and then he was.


Boom! Just like that. The new Angevin Empire is what formed after Henry and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England

The first 21 years of their marriage went pretty well. After becoming King and Queen of England, Henry cleaned up the mess the civil war had made, instituted a new judicial system, conducted an office bromance with Thomas Becket, slapped down any rebellions, and touched base with Eleanor long enough to father eight children. Eleanor gave birth to five sons and three daughters in various castles throughout their lands. She was a hands-on Queen and toured quite a bit signing documents, settling disputes, and when Louis needed her special touch in Aquitaine (after she had retired from the baby-making business) she headed down there to rule it.

Eleanor in Poitiers Cathedral window (images of her are pretty scarce)

Eleanor in Poitiers Cathedral window

Things started to turn sideways for Henry. He had made his former fancy-pants adviser, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury in hopes of taking some control away from the church by having “his guy” in there. But Becket didn’t play that way and a few years later ended up dead with Henry claiming he had been misunderstood when he shouted something like, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest!?” Huh. Wonder how that could be misunderstood?

His boys, now men, staged a rebellion to take the things that had been promised to them by their father…and Eleanor had her hand in that. The junior Plantagenets were not successful and Henry imprisoned Eleanor for 16 years. He had to die before she was released when their son, Richard, succeeded him. When Richard headed off to his own (failed) Crusade, Eleanor was left to rule in his place, and when he died she helped her last remaining son, John, learn the kingly ropes (although he didn’t take the crown until she was 77!)

This is Evil Eleanor attacking fair Rosamund Clifford, Henry's mistress (an oft repeated an most likely incorrectly twist in Eleanor's story.) Edward Burne-Jones 1861

This is Evil Eleanor attacking fair Rosamund Clifford, Henry’s mistress (an oft repeated an most likely incorrectly twist in Eleanor’s story.)

Eleanor did things at an age when most people of her time were long gone and most women of her time were long silent. She died of natural causes at the age of 82 on April 1, 1204. Although John lost everything that was in France the Plantagenets ruled England for the next 300 years.

The remade effigies of Eleanor and Henry

The remade effigies of Eleanor and Henry


All of the media recommendations for both part one and two are here…and there are a lot. Get comfy and pace yourself!


In addition to the ones we recommend, here is a lovely Goodreads list of history fiction about Eleanor!

alison weir

book marcus bull and catherine leglu

book jean markale

book richard barber


Danny Danzinger

For kids

For kids

book jennifer wright


Miscellaneous Web Finds!

Hair shirt! Here’s a nice write-up of the many uses of the hair shirt (in penance and grammar!) Grammar Party

The most excellent History of the Crusades podcast.

Grandpa, William IX, naughty poetry, and other curiosities of the history of troubadours. 

More grisly details of the murder of Thomas Becket (not, of course, Beckett) Eyewitness to History.

Intel on the significance and influence of the Magna Carta on the US Constitution at the 

Grumpy Eleanor of Aquitaine on Facebook


Can’t go on the Eleanor of Aquitaine tour? Neither can we (right now, anyway) but reading about it is the next best thing! Sharon Kay Penman blog

Fontevraud is a hotel! If you go, post a picture there on Instagram with #historychicksfieldtrip so we can live vicariously!


Jinkies! Eleanor’s character sure appears in a lot of movies and television shows! Eleanor’s IMDB list.

There is a famous movie about Eleanor, Henry and three of the boys starring Katherine Hepburn (and a remake starring Glenn Close). It’s got some really fabulous one liners.

know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We’re a knowledgeable family.”

And here is the promised The Lion in Winter, compare and contrast:

Katherine Hepburn



Glenn Close



Episode 86: Eleanor of Aquitaine Part One

Posted 26 March 2017 by
Tagged As: , , | Categories: Podcasts, Shownotes | Comments Off on Episode 86: Eleanor of Aquitaine Part One



You voted for Eleanor of Aquitaine in our last Guaranteed Content Poll. Excellent choice! The Queen of both France and England, and the mother of royalty, she contributed more than looking pretty in a crown – she ruled. And by that we mean, she RULED!


Eleanor’s seal

Eleanor was born in 1122 in Aquitaine- a huge swath of southwestern, modern-day France – andwas the first daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and his wife Aenor. A sister, Aelith (called the more pronounceable, Petronilla) and a brother, William, would follow in short order. Her mother and younger brother died when Eleanor was young, which made her the heir presumptive to Aquitaine.

A bit of Medieval geography for ya.

A bit of Medieval geography for ya. (wikicommons)

Eleanor’s story is packed full of some juicy tales of affairs, schemes and politically motivated marriages…so full that it’s going to take us two episodes to tell them all = both factual and speculative (which is a nice word for “gossip.”) In that first paragraph? A nice one about William X’s father and Aenor’s mother being lovers-married-to-others and arranging the marriage between their two unenthusiastic children.

See what we mean?

Eleanor was a bit spoiled during her childhood. Educated, accomplished, charming, witty, beautiful, smart…and spoiled. That childhood ended when she was 15: her father died and she became the most eligible bachelorette in Christendom. Her father had made plans for her to marry King Louis VI’s teenage son, Louis VII, a mutually advantageous, political union. He had stipulated that Eleanor’s property was always to be in her name ntil it was passed to her sons (this is foreshadowing, by the way), and with his death, the plan was put in motion. As soon as the younger Louis could drag his entourage from Paris to Bordeaux (where she was holed up for safekeeping) the two were wed.

And then his father died. The King is dead; long live the King.

Louis VII had been fast-tracked through King School, hadn’t quite completed the requirements for graduation but he had the crown on his head and the Queen at his side. Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, Countess of Poitou and Queen of France. Excellent! Teenagers in charge, what could possibly go wrong?

Really wrong. Paris wasn’t anything like the sophisticated Aquitaine of Eleanor’s youth and she struggled to clean the place up, introduce modernization and arts to court, all while a series of poor decisions on the new king’s part didn’t start their rule off on the best foot. To make things more complicated, there were no babies born in the first seven years of marriage. Not good.

This is the only relic from the marriage of Eleanor and Louis VII...a re-gifted vase. (pronounced, "vaaahzze.")

This is the only relic from the marriage of Eleanor and Louis VII…a re-gifted vase. (pronounced, “vaaahzze.”) (wikicommons)

At the open house of the Cathedral of Saint-Denis, she let a man come up with a plan she had JUST told him about…which led–sorta- to the birth of Eleanor and Louis’ first baby, a girl named Marie. (If you’re in the neighborhood, in Paris, you can visit that cathedral! Here’s a link Basilica de Saint-Denis.)


A major eff…mess-up on Louis’ part led to the death of a thousand innocent villagers- he knew he was on the wrong path and decided that the right one was from Paris to Jerusalem, leading the Second Crusade. We give you a Crusades primer in the show–the super simplified version: A series of territorial, political and holy wars between European Christians and Muslim Turks over control of the Holy Lands.

“Sounds like a great couples’ adventure,” said Eleanor. (Probably.)

Whatever her reasons, Eleanor and a few hundred other noble wives and women of lessor rank set off with the Crusaders. It began well enough, but didn’t take long to go sideways. It was a rough “adventure” and, after two years, both the Crusade and the marriage of Eleanor and Louis had fallen apart.

Even though Papal Couples Therapy resulted in the birth of a second child, another girl, Alix, both parties had enough. Louis wanted a son, Eleanor wanted away from her monk of a husband and, citing consanguinity (too closely related for God’s blessing) they were granted an annulment. Louis got custody of the girls, Eleanor got out of town and headed back toward the property that she brought into the marriage that was hers, alone, again.

Yadda yadda, two months later 30 year-old Eleanor turned up married to the handsome, 18 year-old Henry, Duke of Normandy…and next in line to inherit the throne of England.

How did this happen so quickly? What’s “yadda yadda?!”

Come back for part two and we’ll tell you.

All media recommendations will be on the shownotes for part two.

You’ll have three weeks before that posts, plenty of time to fall in love with this book:





Because Beckett promised: