Eleanor of Aquitane Essay

Submitted By Amwelhaf
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Historical Medieval Figure: Eleanor of Aquitaine
Secondary Historical Figure: Cleopatra VII

Endowed with intelligence, beauty, and drive, they were educated and powerful female rulers who led their wealthy monarchs with competence and wisdom at a time in history when women were generally viewed as little more than chattel. They were ahead of their time, and their legacies remain relevant. Ancient-day heroines Eleanor of Aquitaine and Cleopatra VII paved the way and continue to inspire women today. The only female in history to have been both the Queen of England and Queen of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine is rightly considered one of the most prominent figures of the Middle Ages and of women's history. As the daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, she had the gift of bloodline, she was highly-educated, and she inherited one of the largest feudal domains that existed in Western Europe at the time. However, more than the daughter of a wealthy feudal lord, Eleanor of Aquitaine was accomplished in her own right. In 1137 at the age of 15, she married the then-heir to the French throne, Louis VII. One month later, Louis VII ascended to the throne, and Eleanor was thrust into the subservient and subordinate roles of both wife and queen consort of King Louis VII of France. Unlike most women of the day, Eleanor was strong-willed and ambitious; she had opinion and drive, and she wanted to accompany her husband on crusades and play a role in ruling the monarchy. Eleanor was not content to fulfill the traditional role of a veiled damsel in the tower. The very ill-matched personalities of this marriage, however, resulted in only two children (daughters) and ultimately could not withstand the test of time, as the couple divorced after fifteen years. However, it was not long before the dark-eyed beauty, Eleanor of Aquitaine had many suitors, and she married again, this time to Prince Henry of England, who was eleven years her junior. Two years after the wedding, Henry ascended to the throne and became King Henry II of England, with Eleanor Queen of England. Their marriage and collective rule lasted forty-years and produced eight children (five sons and three daughters), although this marriage was marred by many disagreements and King Henry's numerous and open extra-marital affairs. Ultimately, the discourse caused Eleanor and three of her sons, Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey, to forge a rebellion against King Henry's rule, which rebellion resulted in a war that was ongoing from 1173 to 1189, until King Henry ultimately succeeded at fending off his own families' efforts to end his reign. Upon his victory, King Henry punished Eleanor for taking her sons' side, and he placed her in prison for treason. Eleanor remained incarcerated for sixteen years until her sons, who had waged a second rebellion, ultimately succeeded at overthrowing their father's rule. The successful rebellion resulted in Eleanor's favorite son, known as Richard the Lionheart, becoming the King of England. His first official act was the freeing his 67-year-old mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard's reign was overshadowed by the third crusade that was waging on the continent, and King Richard was essentially away from his duties as head of the monarchy for a period of five years. It was at this time that Eleanor took the reigns and essentially ruled England with the political wisdom and maturity of a seasoned leader. Upon King Richard's death in 1199, Eleanor's less-favored son, John, became king of England, but she nonetheless engulfed herself in his rule and supported him with maternal loyalty. In her later years, with her legacy established, she returned to Aquitaine and lived happily and peacefully until her death in 1204 at age eighty-two. While historians have judged her unfairly for her indiscretions as a young woman, her political wisdom and tenacity speak louder as