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Eleanor of Aquitaine

European queen
Born: 1122?–

Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful leaders in medieval Europe. She was queen of France and then queen of England, the mother of two kings, and an active participant in European politics into her eighties.

As daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, Eleanor was one of the best-educated women in Europe. At fifteen, she inherited the wealthy province of Aquitaine and married French king Louis VII. Defying convention, she accompanied her husband on the Second Crusade (1147–49) with about 300 female servants. The women did not fight in battle, but their arrival in Jerusalem, on horseback and in lavish costumes, shocked and impressed witnesses.

The marriage was annulled in 1152, supposedly because Eleanor’s vivacity clashed with Louis’s gloomy temperament. Eleanor left their two daughters to be raised in the French court and within a year had married Henry of Anjou, an English prince ten years her junior, who soon became King Henry II. Together they had three daughters and five sons; two sons became kings of England, Richard I and John.

In 1173 Eleanor led three of her sons in a rebellion against Henry II. The king had her imprisoned; she was freed after his death, fifteen years later. Afterward—in her late sixties and beyond—Eleanor traveled throughout Europe to negotiate political and marriage alliances and manage her vast lands. She also ruled England during the Third Crusade (1189–92) while her son, King Richard I, led troops into the Holy Land.

See also Encyclopedia: Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Died: 1204

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