Eleanor of Aquitaine
(1122-1204)

woman and Duchess of Aquitaine (from 1137)

Died aged 82

Eleanor of Aquitaine (French: Aliénor, Éléonore, Latin: Alienora; 1122 – 1 April 1204) was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages and a member of the Ramnulfid dynasty of rulers in southwestern France. She inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine from her father, William X, in 1137, and later became queen consort of France (1137–1152) and of England (1154–1189). She was the patron of literary figures such as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure, and Bernart de Ventadorn. She was a leader of the Second Crusade and of armies several times in her life. As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor was the most eligible bride in Europe. Three months after she became duchess, she married King Louis VII of France, son of her guardian, King Louis VI. As Queen of France, she participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade. Soon after, Eleanor sought an annulment of her marriage, but her request was rejected by Pope Eugene III. However, after the birth of her second daughter Alix, Louis agreed to an annulment given that their union had not produced a son after fifteen years of marriage. The marriage was annulled on 11 March 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate and custody was awarded to Louis, while Eleanor's lands were restored to her. As soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to Henry, Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Henry was her third cousin (cousin of the third degree), and eleven years younger. The couple married on 18 May 1152 (Whit Sunday), eight weeks after the annulment of Eleanor's first marriage, in a cathedral in Poitiers, France. Over the next thirteen years, she bore Henry eight children: five sons, three of whom would become kings; and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. Henry imprisoned her in 1173 for supporting her son Henry's revolt against her husband. She was not released until 6 July 1189, when Henry died and their son ascended the English throne as Richard I. Now queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade, where on his return he was captured and held prisoner. Eleanor lived well into the reign of her youngest son, John. By the time of her death, she had outlived all her children except for John and Eleanor.

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