HBICs of history » Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor (1122 or 1124 - 1204) was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. As well as being Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, she was queen consort of France and of England. Eleanor succeeded her father, becoming Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers, and by extension, the most eligible bride in Europe, at the age of fifteen. Three months after her accession, she married Louis VII.  Soon after the Second Crusade, Eleanor sought an annulment of her marriage but was rejected by Pope Eugene III. However, after the birth of a daughter, Alix, Louis agreed to an annulment. As soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to Henry Plantagenet who became King Henry II and who was 9 years younger than she. 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. She was imprisoned between 1173 and 1189 for supporting her son Henry’s revolt against her husband. Eleanor was widowed in 1189. Her husband was succeeded by their son, Richard I, who immediately released his mother. Now queen dowager, Eleanor acted as a regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade. Eleanor survived Richard and lived well into the reign of her youngest son John.