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date: 11 November 2019

Eleanor [Eleanor of Aquitaine], suo jure duchess of Aquitainefree

(c. 1122–1204)
  • Jane Martindale

Eleanor, suo jure duchess of Aquitaine (c. 1122–1204)

tomb effigy, early 13th cent.

photograph: AKG London

Eleanor [Eleanor of Aquitaine], suo jure duchess of Aquitaine (c. 1122–1204), queen of France, consort of Louis VII, and queen of England, consort of Henry II, was the elder daughter of Guillaume, eighth count of Poitou, and tenth duke of Aquitaine (1099–1137), and of his wife, Aliénor (d. before 1137), from the family of the viscounts of Châtellerault. Their only son, also Guillaume, died as a child—probably in the 1120s, not long before his mother: they were survived by Eleanor and her sister, Petronilla.

Aquitanian inheritance

Uncertainties over the precise date and place of Eleanor's own birth can be explained by the fact that she was never intended to succeed to her father's duchy, since it was rumoured in Aquitaine that the duke was proposing to remarry. His sudden death at Santiago de Compostela in Easter week 1137 appears to have been unexpected and left his duchy without a direct male heir. The huge size of Eleanor's inheritance accounts for her attraction to suitors of the highest rank and for her two marriages, first to the Capetian King Louis VII (1120–1180), and then to the Angevin Count Henry (1133–1189), who became Henry II of England. The magnificence of this inheritance does not, however, explain the important role that she played on the European political stage throughout most of her long life, and still less the fascination that she exercised over the minds of contemporaries as a 'woman without compare' (Richard of Devizes, 25).

The post-Carolingian duchy of Aquitaine, whose southern portions eventually came to form the bulk of the duchy of Guyenne of later English kings, in principle covered the lands between the River Loire and the Pyrenees, extending eastward to the Massif Central and the headwaters of the River Garonne. In practice, however, ducal authority was legally ill-defined and varied considerably in its effectiveness. To the north and east, moreover, there was apt to be conflict with the Capetians over the control of Berry and the Auvergne. Additionally, beyond the frontiers of Aquitaine Eleanor had a strong hereditary claim to the rich county of Toulouse, through the marriage of her grandfather Duke Guillaume IX, to its heir, Philippa. This claim was to have sufficient weight to induce both Eleanor's husbands (Louis in 1141, Henry in 1159) to besiege Toulouse in the hope of making good Eleanor's claims. Berry, Auvergne, and Toulouse would all feature prominently in peace settlements negotiated between French and English kings in the years on either side of 1200.

The dukes of Aquitaine in the early twelfth century were renowned for far more than their title to vast territories. Guillaume IX is the first named lyric poet composing in the langue d'oc, or Occitan—the romance speech of southern Gaul. The linguistic boundary between Occitan and the northern version of the romance tongue, or langue d'oïl, ran just south of Poitiers, the traditional political ‘capital’ of the duchy. The Poitevin duke's court became a principal focus for literary activity and patronage, and in particular for the composition of Occitan vernacular poetry. The latter, which was remarkable for its elaborate and intricate professionalism, and for the secularity of much of its subject matter, constitutes one of the main threads of the European literary tradition (as Dante appreciated). It has also been associated with the evolution of a doctrine of courtly love, which, like Eleanor's own role as literary patron and inspiration of poets, has long been the subject of controversy and debate. Scandalized monks, including the Englishman William of Malmesbury, remembered Eleanor's grandfather as having carried in battle a shield painted with his mistress's image. Although it seems likely that Malmesbury was transmitting a garbled version of one of the duke's (now lost) songs, his outrage and incomprehension underline the fact that Eleanor was the product of a very different world from that of the north European court circles into which she married.

Queen of the French

In late July 1137 Eleanor was married in the city of Bordeaux to the Capetian Louis VII, who had been consecrated king during his father's lifetime by Pope Innocent II on 25 October 1131. Husband and wife were also crowned (possibly using an ordo devised for the occasion, declaring Louis to be the ruler of 'Franks, Burgundians, and Aquitanians'), and similar ceremonies took place in other Aquitanian cities. According to one contemporary northern chronicle Duke Guillaume had planned this match and 'left his territory to both of them according to the law of marriage' (La chronique de Morigny, 67), but this explanation of a marriage alliance that obviously favoured Capetian interests is not necessarily entirely trustworthy. In fact this was a time when aristocratic rules of succession were still often unclear. Resistance—such as had indeed occurred when Duke Guillaume IX tried to establish Poitevin control in Toulouse in his wife's name—might be expected when a woman succeeded to a great principality like Aquitaine; and in 1137 resistance to the imposition of Capetian rule seems to have been anticipated in the north. Louis VI (father of Eleanor's bridegroom) made important concessions to the regional bishops of Aquitaine before the French expedition set out for Bordeaux; and furthermore the adolescent bridegroom was accompanied by a papal legate, by his father's chief adviser Abbot Suger of St Denis, and by a large company of knights. The Anglo-Norman historian Orderic Vitalis wrote that after his marriage 'the boy Louis was crowned at Poitiers, and so gained possession of the kingdom of the French and the duchy of Aquitaine, which none of his forebears had held before him' (Ordericus Vitalis, Eccl. hist., 6.490–91), a statement that seems to lay bare the underlying territorial aims of the Capetian dynasty. The significance of the acquisition of this great region to the Capetians is also shown by the dual title of 'king of the French and duke of the Aquitanians' ('rex Francorum et dux Aquitanorum') which was invariably attributed to King Louis during the years of his marriage to Eleanor. Indeed, the importance of that title to the French king is shown by the fact that Louis VII continued to employ it until 1154, some years after Eleanor's second marriage.

Louis and Eleanor had two daughters, Marie (b. c.1145) and Alice (b. c.1150) after their return from Jerusalem. From her marriage to Count Henri of Champagne the elder of the two is often simply referred to as Marie de Champagne, and is remembered as a patron of writers and vernacular poets; Alice was married to Count Thibault of Blois, Count Henri's brother. Despite the birth of these girls, Queen Eleanor's fertility remained an issue which would have dramatic political repercussions; and, according to one account, her first daughter was conceived only after she had suffered at least one miscarriage and as a result of saintly intervention. At a meeting between the queen and Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux at St Denis (probably in 1144), the abbot allegedly promised that, in return for Eleanor's intercession for peace with her husband, the abbot would in his turn intercede with God for the gift of a child. But Bernard did not secure her a son. Eleanor's ultimate failure to give birth to a boy who could succeed to the Capetian throne was surely the chief reason for her separation from Louis VII; but there were signs of tension within the marriage before a divorce was pronounced in the spring of 1152.

The second crusade

Crisis was in fact precipitated during the course of the second crusade between 1147 and 1149. King Louis (by now in his mid-twenties) proposed an expedition to Jerusalem at the Christmas court of 1145, but an expedition was not organized until Abbot Bernard's preaching galvanized the French aristocracy into taking the cross. Queen Eleanor was present in March 1146 at the abbey of Vézelay at the most memorable of those occasions; and, after receiving a papal blessing in the church of St Denis a little over a year later (11 June 1147), both king and queen left with a great army to take the land route to Constantinople. They reached the capital of the eastern empire in early October. Statements that Eleanor raised a military company of armed and mounted ladies are based upon fanciful imaginings of the Amazons and their queen by the Byzantine writer Nicetas; it is more reliably recorded that she and the German-born Empress Bertha communicated by letter, and that the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos tried to arrange a Greek marriage for one of the ladies accompanying the French army. An expedition such as this could be used to make social and diplomatic contacts, as well as pursuing religious and military aims. But in general the crusaders' failure to agree on the expedition's strategic objectives proved to be a disaster which, at the personal level, was reflected in the deteriorating relationship between Louis VII and Eleanor.

That became apparent when, after a disastrous defeat by the Turks in Anatolia, a battered army reached Antioch in March 1148. This important principality was then ruled by Queen Eleanor's paternal uncle, Raymond, who had arrived in the crusaders' territories before his brother's death at Compostela in 1137. (His authority in Antioch derived from marriage to Constance, daughter of Prince Bohemund II.) Ever since the fall of Edessa in 1144 the territory surrounding this important city had become dangerously exposed to Muslim incursions: Prince Raymond intended to persuade the French king to go over to the offensive and join a campaign to lay siege to Aleppo. That was strategically sensible, but the king—apparently eager to discharge his pilgrim's vows in the holy city—was unwilling to participate in the proposed expedition. Eleanor's role was crucial. She was almost certainly sympathetic to her compatriots' aims; but, although aristocratic women were expected to intercede with their husbands, the frequent conversations between the prince and his niece—surely in the langue d'oc and perhaps not comprehensible to northerners—gave grounds for suspicion within the French court circle. Some years later John of Salisbury voiced the gossip: citing Ovid's Heroides he wrote allusively that 'guilt under kinship's guise could lie concealed' (John of Salisbury, Historia pontificalis, 53). Raymond's death in battle against Nur al-Din in the following year (June 1149) certainly justified this prince's assessment that military aid was desperately needed by the Christians in Antioch. On the other side of the Mediterranean, by contrast, royal scandal aroused far more interest: rumours from Antioch reverberated around Europe, and pursued Eleanor to the end of her life.

In any case the king's wishes prevailed and the royal party sailed for Jerusalem, putting in at Acre in June 1148. It is not known whether Eleanor was in any way involved in the disastrous siege of Damascus, which her husband joined after their arrival in Jerusalem, but it seems unlikely. On the journey home to Europe the queen was briefly held captive by a Greek naval commander after her ship was separated from her husband's; she was rescued, and in September 1149 they were reunited and magnificently received at Potenza by King Roger of Sicily. In the following month the royal couple paid a visit to Pope Eugenius III at Tusculum. By this time (as can be seen from the correspondence of Abbot Suger) news of 'discord' between Louis and Eleanor had reached the French kingdom, although that discord need not have referred exclusively to ‘the Antioch affair’. Whatever the cause, the pope's chief aim (again according to John of Salisbury's recollections) was to reconcile the king and queen. Eugenius forbade discussion of the issue of their consanguinity, and rather touchingly encouraged them to sleep together in a sumptuously decorated bed which he had especially prepared for them.

Divorce and remarriage

Papal mediation was for the moment effective: the return to France was followed by a long expedition to Aquitaine, as well as by the birth of the couple's second daughter. And yet a divorce was finally proclaimed during Lent 1152 at Beaugency. No official proceedings survive for that gathering but, despite the earlier papal prohibition, consanguinity was the pretext for the divorce pronounced by the assembled ecclesiastics. Some later twelfth-century writers give the more dramatic explanation that, during her first marriage, Eleanor had 'shared Louis's bed' with Count Geoffrey of Anjou—this was the charge made by Walter Map in De nugis curialium, probably written c.1181–3 (Map, 474–6). If that had been correct, incest would have been added to adultery, since Count Geoffrey was the father of Eleanor's second husband. Statements such as this have been accepted by some modern historians; but it is far more likely that these represent reflections of a prevailing clerical misogyny, court rivalries, and—when written in the late twelfth century—a more general anti-Angevin propaganda. There can be little doubt that both personal desire and dynastic need for a son were the motives underlying Louis VII's decision to obtain a divorce in 1152 (as is surely proved by the speed with which he remarried on each occasion that he lost a wife through divorce or death). In any case, even if rumours of a possibly scandalous liaison did follow Eleanor from Antioch, there was no lack of candidates willing to marry her again.

During the spring and summer of 1152 it must have become abundantly clear that there was in fact little chance that Eleanor could remain unmarried, even had she wished to do so. On her return to Aquitaine, for instance, she is portrayed by a Tours chronicler escaping from ambushes laid both by the count of Blois and by Geoffrey of Anjou (second son of the Empress Matilda and of the Count Geoffrey le Bel who was the subject of Walter Map's later charge of adultery against Eleanor); but within a few months she was nevertheless married to Henry of Anjou, elder brother of this Geoffrey, her failed kidnapper. No information survives describing how this new match was arranged, but it seems unlikely that Eleanor's choice was made because she had already (in Map's words) 'cast incestuous eyes' on the young Count Henry. Eleanor's modern biographers have sometimes supposed that this was a love match, but, although that is not impossible, there are few signs to lend support to such speculation. For Louis VII his former wife's remarriage meant that he lost political control of Aquitaine: presumably he gambled on the chances that his own remarriage would produce a son, and that Eleanor's would not—in which case one of their daughters might eventually succeed to Eleanor's duchy.

Duchess of Normandy and queen of the English

Eleanor's second marriage took place in Poitiers in May 1152 (from where she issued two charters on 26 and 27 May). Henry of Anjou was then nineteen years old, while Eleanor was about thirty, so in personal terms their union resembled that of Henry's own father, Geoffrey, who for political and dynastic reasons had been married to the older (but widowed) Empress Matilda. In 1152 Henry was duke of the Normans and had just recently succeeded to his father in Anjou (despite assertions that Count Geoffrey had intended to divide the territories between his sons). As his claims to the English throne were not yet officially recognized, marriage to Eleanor brought Henry many immediate political advantages. In particular it enabled him more easily to resist his younger brother's plots and to repel attacks on Normandy and Anjou mounted by an aristocratic coalition, backed by the Capetian king. In this context it was surely significant that Eleanor's first son by Henry was called William: 'the name proper to the counts of the Poitevins and dukes of the Aquitanians' (Chronica Roberti de Torigneio in Chronicles, ed. Howlett, 4.176). Even though William was also a name that had been borne both by dukes of Normandy and after 1066 by kings of the English, it implies acknowledgement of the importance of Aquitaine at a time when possession of the duchy could have been essential to Henry's political survival. Eleanor may have hoped that this new marriage would enable her to repair some of the effects of the maladministration of her ancestral duchy, which had suffered many financial exactions during the course of the crusade. In the long term, however, Henry's recognition as heir to King Stephen in 1153, and his succession to the English throne on Stephen's death in the following year, meant that Eleanor's duchy was once more absorbed into a larger political unit.

Eleanor was crowned queen of the English in Westminster Abbey on 19 December 1154 at the same time as her husband was consecrated king. As Henry's wife, Eleanor underwent some extraordinary reversals of fortune. By contrast with the fifteen years between 1137 and 1152, when she had experienced perhaps three pregnancies, she now had ahead of her fifteen years of regular child bearing. Before Eleanor became queen of the English she and her second husband had already had a son. Altogether Henry and Eleanor had eight children. After the short-lived William (born in August 1153, he died in December 1156) came Henry, the Young King, born in London on 28 February 1155; Matilda, born in 1156, who married Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony in 1168; Richard, born at Oxford in September 1157; Geoffrey, born on 23 September 1158; Eleanor, born at Domfront in 1161; Joanna, born in October 1165; and John, born probably in December 1167, possibly at Oxford. The marriages arranged for them at a young age show that the girls served their parents' political and diplomatic ends; but marriages were also arranged for the sons. It was planned that Henry, the Young King, and Richard should marry daughters of Eleanor's first husband, Louis VII; similarly, Geoffrey was actually married to Constance, heir to the duchy of Brittany—a principality whose control had long been coveted by the Norman dukes; John's proposed marriage to a daughter of the Savoyard count of Maurienne (the subject of an elaborate written agreement in 1173) never came to anything.

Queen Eleanor's involvement in the making of dynastic marriages in the years after 1189 suggests that she accepted the grounds on which such aristocratic and royal alliances were based, but it would be a mistake to suppose that this necessarily ruled out maternal or personal feelings, or (as has sometimes been claimed) that she was essentially a frivolous and selfish woman. It is difficult to assess the emotional sincerity of a twelfth-century woman but, while her children were young, the queen certainly often accompanied them during the Angevin court's peripatetic existence. In 1160 she crossed with the young Henry and Matilda to Normandy, in 1165 with Richard and Matilda, in 1167 to England with Matilda; during these same years also expenses of the queen and children are to be found quite frequently grouped together on the pipe rolls of the English exchequer.

A modern biographer of Henry II has observed that during the years of their marriage Queen Eleanor was 'almost totally eclipsed' by her husband (Warren, 121). As far as Eleanor's years of imprisonment are concerned that conclusion is obviously correct, but it surely underestimates the queen's participation in the running of the Angevin empire in the years between 1154 and 1173. During royal absences it seems that the queen's permission was needed to leave the royal court—that at least is implied in John of Salisbury's correspondence; there are also references suggesting that she had influence in at least some ecclesiastical appointments. Her presence was also specifically noted at many great ceremonial courts held throughout the territories making up the Angevin empire: at Cherbourg in 1159 and 1162, Falaise in 1160, Le Mans in 1160–61, Poitiers in 1166, Chinon in 1172. She was almost certainly present at Clermont-Ferrand in 1173, and in the same year at Limoges. At the meetings of 1173 the political affairs of the Auvergne were considered, while the homage of Raymond of Toulouse, and the proposal to marry John to a daughter of the count of Maurienne were also negotiated. At Limoges the suspicion that a revolt was being plotted against Henry II also surfaced.

Despite her recurrent pregnancies, Eleanor played an active part in the government and administration of the English kingdom (for which documentary evidence is more abundant than for any other region); and her itinerary seems often to have been designed to complement her husband's. While Henry was campaigning in Toulouse in 1159, Eleanor intervened in England in a prolonged legal dispute between the abbot of St Albans and one of his great lay tenants; a quitclaim made before her by a Robert Flambard may be of about the same date. In late 1158 (also during the king's absence from England) her authorization for a suit brought by Richard of Anstey to be heard in curia regis meant that she was instrumental in initiating a long-running inheritance dispute which has become a cause célèbre. Evidence for the queen's administrative intervention has undoubtedly been undervalued; and even though her activity was on a limited scale compared with Henry II's, during this phase of her life she witnessed royal charters, and writs and documents embodying her mandates were issued in her own name. Although the composition of her household has never been worked out in detail, during these early years three of her officials, the steward Ralph of Hastings, and the clerks Adam of Ely and Elias, were associates or relatives of men occupying positions of importance in English ecclesiastical or royal administration; Bernard is named as her chancellor. At a later date many of those who served her apparently had Poitevin connections or origins, and her chaplains acted as her scribes, occasionally with the title of notary.

In the year 1168—thus after the birth of her last child—Queen Eleanor is found in Aquitaine together with her son Richard, and with Earl Patrick of Salisbury. The earl was fairly soon killed in a skirmish with Poitevin barons (probably members of the prominent Lusignan family) and, according to the much later vernacular life of William (I) Marshal, Eleanor herself only just avoided capture. She was rescued by the Marshal's son, whom she rewarded lavishly for his bravery; she also acted handsomely in founding a special commemoration for Earl Patrick's soul in the comital abbey church of St Hilaire in Poitiers. That venerable church was also the scene of Richard's inauguration as count of Poitou; and during the years between 1169 and 1173 this adolescent got his first taste of the exercise of authority in his mother's company, and in her ancestral territories. Regional authors writing south of the Loire lay especial emphasis on ceremonial aspects of the new regime, for in Limoges investiture with the ring of Ste Valérie seems to have symbolized the power to be wielded by the ruler of Aquitaine. On this occasion the ceremony was probably accompanied by a newly devised inauguration liturgy.

Rearrangements for the government of Aquitaine form only one facet of Henry II's political plans at this time, for the king had to pay attention to his sons' searches for spheres in which each of them could independently exercise power and patronage; but there was also an increasing threat of Capetian aggression towards Angevin territories. Both concerns are linked in the reference to a meeting at Montmirail in January 1169 at which Richard performed homage to Louis VII for the duchy of Aquitaine—an act that suggests that officially Richard had indeed been vested with authority over the whole region, but also that political concessions had to be made to the French ruler. The repeated homages of these years were a relatively novel way of attempting to solve some acute political problems arising out of the formation of Henry II's ‘empire’. At the same time Richard's deep involvement in the affairs of Aquitaine, and his attraction to its language and literature, should be traced back to these years—as must be the trust which as king he later showed in his mother's political abilities. But in practice, because of Richard's youth, Eleanor must have wielded power; and that view is supported by the relatively sparse documentation available for the government of the region.

Rebel and prisoner

Eleanor's return to her ancestral duchy and this phase of her life did not last very long. The political crisis apparently came to a head in the city of Limoges where, early in 1173, the count of Toulouse allegedly told Henry that his sons were plotting against him. The Young King fled to the protection of his father-in-law, Louis VII (he had been married as a child to Margaret in 1160). Contemporaries on the whole agreed that the Capetian king fomented filial disobedience, although 'it was said by some' that Queen Eleanor was among the authors of that 'deplorable betrayal' (Gesta … Benedicti, 1.42). Other contemporaries concealed their attitudes in the language of the prophecies of Merlin apparently made fashionable some decades earlier by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The writer known as the Norman Dragon refers directly to Merlin's prophecies and calls Eleanor 'the eagle of the broken agreement' (Draco Normannicus, 603), a theme further developed by the historian Richard le Poitevin. Eleanor undoubtedly did join the revolt along with Richard and Geoffrey who were then in her custody; but for a number of reasons the degree of the queen's involvement is difficult to determine.

The most basic is that her movements cannot be precisely traced: how long she evaded capture, and where she was seized by Henry's men, are unknown. It is widely held that when captured she was disguised as a man, but that seems only to be mentioned by the monastic chronicler Gervase of Canterbury, who obviously wished to discredit her for this lack of feminine modesty. More seriously, Eleanor was openly criticized by the archbishop of Rouen because, forgetting that 'man is the head of woman', she had thrown off her husband's authority. Her revolt symbolized the overturning of political and social order, strongly reinforced by religious attitudes towards the proper relationship between the sexes. Modern historians have frequently attributed the queen's encouragement of her sons' rebellion to jealousy of Henry's mistress Rosamund Clifford, but that explanation was not advanced in the twelfth century and (apart from the problems of chronology involved) does not seem to provide an especially plausible psychological explanation for the scale of the revolt—the central political crisis of Henry II's reign. In truth Eleanor's motives are obscure: she may have been provoked by Henry's treatment of their sons, or by the terms on which she was permitted to exercise power in her duchy. More specifically she may have resented the performance of homage to her husband by Count Raymond of Toulouse in 1173, since that implied the repudiation of her own claims to the Toulouse succession, for which in 1159 Henry had been prepared to fight.

Whatever Eleanor's reasons for joining the revolt, for her its consequences were especially severe and long-lasting: by early 1174 she was taken to England where she endured at least ten years' confinement. Her name is not mentioned in the settlement by which the king patched up peace with his sons (at Montlouis on 30 September 1174); and, as far as it is possible to tell from surviving records and documents, the queen never again participated in English government during the years 1174–89. An Aquitanian chronicler, Geoffroi de Vigeois, thought that Queen Eleanor was imprisoned at Salisbury, but English narrative writers are silent on this matter. A number of terse pipe roll entries record expenses allowed on her behalf (authorized either by the king's writ or by that of Ranulf de Glanville), but these do not reveal where she was held. Allegedly, one of the last requests made by the Young King on his deathbed (June 1183) was that his mother should be treated less harshly: her imprisonment does subsequently seem to have been relaxed. Notably she was allowed to meet her daughter Matilda and exiled son-in-law, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, when they visited England during 1184; and, since new clothes of samite and furs were then made for the queen, it presumably follows that Eleanor took part in the public ceremonies that would have been central to such a visit. In 1185 King Henry even obliged Richard formally to return power in Poitou to his mother, but that did not mean that she gained actual political control. One of Richard's first acts after his father's death was to order his mother's release; and even before he had crossed the channel the new king immediately granted Eleanor power to dispose of English affairs. He also restored to her control the lands and revenues that she had enjoyed before the revolt of 1173.

Vicereine for Richard I

The last fifteen years of Eleanor's life fully reveal her extraordinary abilities as a ruler. These seem scarcely to have been recognized during the years of her first marriage; but during the years 1154–73 she was initiated into the conduct of most aspects of contemporary administration and government, even though in 1189 she had not recently exercised these in practice. Her return to government, and her control of political affairs, between the time of Richard's accession and her own death in 1204 form one of the most remarkable phases of her whole life, and were utterly uncharacteristic of any contemporary lay ruler. In 1189 Eleanor was about sixty-seven years old—therefore seventy-seven when John succeeded Richard in 1199—and energetically active at an age scarcely ever reached by any secular ruler of the eleventh or twelfth centuries or, for that matter, by any of the men of her immediate family circle. (Her two husbands died at about sixty and fifty-seven years respectively; her son King John did not quite make fifty, while Henry, the Young King, Geoffrey, and Richard did not reach forty. Her own father, too, was under forty when he died.) There were of course precedents for the conduct of government by royal or aristocratic widows, released from their husbands' control; and Richard's plans to lead an army to go to the relief of Jerusalem made it likely that, when he succeeded his father, he intended his mother to wield power during his absence on crusade. Nevertheless, although in many respects this phase of Eleanor's life can be treated as a continuum, King Richard's early death in 1199 was followed by political crises even more threatening than those which Eleanor faced with Richard's captivity and John's revolt against his brother and alliance with King Philip Augustus (1193–4). The queen's activity after John's succession should, therefore, be distinguished from her general political and governmental involvement after her husband's death, and it needs to be separately considered.

Immediately after Richard had entrusted Eleanor with power in the English kingdom she went from 'city to city and castle to castle', holding 'queenly courts', releasing prisoners and exacting oaths from all freemen to be loyal to her son as their as yet uncrowned king (Chronica … Hovedene, 3.4). She was especially noted among those greeting Richard at his ceremonial entry into Winchester on 14 August 1189. From this time on first Richard and then John as kings entrusted her with the direction or conduct of a number of important affairs, involving some journeys of startling length. On the first occasion, during the early stages of Richard's crusading expedition, Eleanor accompanied Berengaria of Navarre, his prospective bride, to Messina. After a winter journey over the Alps they reached the Sicilian city in late March 1191; Eleanor almost immediately left again for England but, on her return journey through Italy in April of the same year, she became involved in negotiations at the papal curia over the appointment of Richard's bastard half-brother Geoffrey to the archbishopric of York. Then, after King Richard's capture by the duke of Austria on his own return to Europe, and at the end of the protracted negotiations for his release, Eleanor made an extended visit to Germany. This was far more than a visit of ceremony, for it had been preceded by a stream of letters concerning the conduct of government within the kingdom and the raising of the king's ransom; moreover, there was a major political crisis produced by John's rebellion. In order to speed up the king's release Eleanor is said to have counselled Richard to do homage for his kingdom to the emperor Heinrich VI (January and February 1194); but neither the diplomatic journey, nor the collection of a huge ransom for the king, could have occurred if the queen mother had not previously succeeded in taking effective measures to suppress John's revolt. Perhaps most extraordinary of all Eleanor's diplomatic missions was the one that she undertook soon after John's succession as king: in early 1200 she travelled to Castile to select one of her granddaughters as a bride for King Philip's heir, the future Louis VIII. The girl chosen was the future formidable Blanche of Castile, daughter of Eleanor's own daughter and namesake. That journey, too, was far more than a dynastic interlude, for these marriage proposals were central to the plans for a peace settlement between the French and English kings (enacted in the treaty of Le Goulet on 22 May 1200). On this last occasion age seems to have defeated the queen and, while Blanche travelled north under ecclesiastical protection to be married in Normandy, in Holy week Eleanor broke her return journey at Bordeaux.

Even before Richard landed in England in 1189 the queen was drawn into disputes between the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, and their archbishop, and she was one of those eventually instrumental in ensuring that Richard's trusted ecclesiastic, Hubert Walter, was elected to the metropolitan see. Like many rulers of England since the Norman conquest Eleanor was ambivalent about papal intervention in the kingdom, and was responsible for restricting the movements of the papal legate, Giovanni da Anagni. During the early years of Richard's reign her presence was noted at many councils, in both England and Normandy during 1190, at St Albans and Westminster in 1193, at Nottingham in 1194. Eleanor took charge of improving English coastal defences after John's alliance with the French king and his plot to replace his brother became known, and she accepted custody of the royal castles of Windsor, Wallingford, and the Peak in April 1193. Her personal involvement in securing the kingdom emerges, too, from her concession that the men of the priory of Christ Church, Canterbury, would never again be obliged to work on the fortifications of the city as 'urgent necessity' had forced them to do at her request. She seems to have played an important part in the selection of hostages to be sent to Germany, and in arrangements for the dispatch of Richard's ransom. The letters sent in her name to Pope Celestine III during this crisis are written as a powerful maternal appeal, but they are surely encoded to convey a political message, drawing attention to the justice of Richard's cause as an imprisoned crusader and, although undoubtedly composed with their rhetorical impact in mind, they could perhaps represent her own political attitudes. The illegality of John's conduct underlies the struggle between her two sons—'if indeed it is a struggle', when one of them is confined in chains, and the other rampages through the kingdom 'with cruel tyranny' (Rymer, Foedera, 4th edn, 1.74). Eventually, after Richard's release and a second coronation, the brothers were reconciled through Eleanor's mediation, even though a date had been set for May 1194 for formal judgment to be pronounced on John. It must have been recognized that only Eleanor could make peace between them. John's reconciliation with King Richard was followed by their mother's retirement to the abbey of Fontevrault and by Richard's appointment of his nephew Otto (the future Emperor Otto IV, son of Richard's sister Matilda, duchess of Saxony) to Poitou and Aquitaine (1196–8). But Eleanor was not to be allowed a peaceful retirement.

Eleanor, King John, and the Angevin succession

Richard's death at Châlus in April 1199 was immediately followed by the queen's return to the political scene: documents issued at Fontevrault during the days surrounding his funeral indicate that Eleanor was already attempting to retain the loyalty of the Poitevin aristocracy. To cite only one example: on the very day of Richard's funeral she restored lands to William de Mauzé of which he had been dispossessed by Richard. (William was a descendant of her own father's seneschal.) By late April 1199 John had joined his mother at Fontevrault and together they travelled throughout Aquitaine during the early summer, granting privileges to churches and urban communities as well as negotiating with the regional aristocracy. At this time Queen Eleanor finally ceased direct intervention in English affairs: she never again crossed the channel, and—despite the voyage to Castile in 1200—does not seem to have revisited Normandy after the winter of 1199. By contrast her involvement in the political affairs of Aquitaine persisted until the very end of her life; nevertheless, although most of her activity was directly devoted to the affairs of her ancestral duchy, she was also obliged to take measures with the most far-reaching implications to prevent the claims of her grandson Arthur (son of John's elder brother Geoffrey and Constance of Brittany) from undermining John's position. To that end on one occasion she directed a campaign of devastation in the area around the city of Angers (presumably the routier Mercadier, who accompanied her, put this policy into effect). For the first time in her life, too, she was personally drawn into the web of fealty and homages in which the Angevin and Capetian kings and their great subjects were enmeshed.

According to the Capetian apologist Rigord, at Tours in the summer of 1199 Eleanor, 'the former queen of England performed homage [to Philip Augustus] for the county of the Poitevins which was hers by hereditary right' (Rigord, 146). In itself that was a remarkable act, since women did not normally do homage in their own persons; but there can be little doubt that from the standpoint of Eleanor and John it had an ulterior political purpose. That purpose can only be grasped if it is interpreted in the light of two elaborate reciprocal agreements concluded between John and his mother at about the same time. (Neither bears a precise date, but they are entered on the charter roll for the first year of King John's reign.) These state that King John is recognized as Queen Eleanor's 'rightful heir' (rectus heres), while in turn he acknowledges her as lady 'of us and all our lands and possessions' and has done homage to her. As far as Eleanor was concerned, Arthur's pretensions—for Poitou–Aquitaine at least—were legalistically evaded by means of these devices. The validity of Queen Eleanor's hereditary position had been acknowledged through her personal performance of homage to the Capetian ruler, while John's claim to be her prospective successor was also affirmed. If it were indeed Eleanor who had recommended Richard to do homage to the emperor in order to secure the immediate political end of his release, then perhaps she was also responsible for this later ingenious arrangement. On a wider political front the English record also seems to draw attention to the need for unitary control of the great Angevin ‘empire’, and consequently makes King Philip's acceptance of Arthur's fealty and his later promise in July 1202 that he would bestow Poitou on that prince, look extremely suspicious.

It was against this background of political double-dealing that the last events of Eleanor's life were played out. In July of 1202 in the small fortified town of Mirebeau in northern Poitou, Eleanor was trapped by Arthur and his supporters; she refused to surrender the keep, and waited for her son's arrival. After a rapid march from Le Mans, King John took the besieging force utterly by surprise on 1 August: he rescued his mother, captured the most important of his opponents, including Arthur, and was in a good position to go over to the offensive in the conflict with King Philip of France. Less than two years later, however, Eleanor was dead: under King John the Angevins' control of their great inheritance crumbled.

Ruler of Aquitaine

It was entirely fitting that Eleanor's last years should have been spent in Aquitaine, both in her favoured religious house of Fontevrault, and in the cities and sites so long associated with her own ancestors. The affairs of this principality are surely a key to an understanding of Eleanor's political and social attitudes, just as problems associated with the government of Aquitaine may help to explain her actions during some of the crises of her life—especially since as a woman the conduct of affairs in the region was frequently in others' hands. The significance of her activity in Aquitaine during her last years is more comprehensible if it is placed in the context of what seem to have been lifelong aspirations to rule her ancestral territories. Already in 1139 she made a grant of 'our land' to the knights templar in La Rochelle; her annulment in 1152 of a grant of forest formerly made by King Louis to the Poitevin abbey of St Maixent draws attention both to her authority in Poitou and to the need to obtain her personal consent even to royal acts of generosity. Charters issued in her name significantly emphasize the dynastic continuity of Poitevin rule: in 1152, for instance, she confirmed the generosity of her 'great grandfather, grandfather, and father' to their Cluniac foundation of Montierneuf at Poitiers, and similar wording is to be found in her grant of 'liberties' to the city of Poitiers forty-seven years later.

Eleanor's writs employed the language of command, and like her princely forebears she made grants of immunity and issued letters of protection. Most remarkable of all are the privileges that mark the years 1199–1203 and define the communal status of cities and other sites long associated with her ancestors, most notably Poitiers, Niort, La Rochelle, Saintes, the bourg of St Jean d'Angély, and the island of Oléron. The citizens of Bordeaux, too, were granted extensive economic and judicial privileges. It seems likely that at this time Eleanor realized the need to provide a counterbalance to the regional aristocracy who were intent on wringing concessions from her and her sons and on exploiting the antagonism between the Angevin and Capetian kings. The political tragedy was that it was too late to reverse a movement of alienation that had been set in motion over sixty years earlier during the period of Capetian rule in Poitou and Aquitaine. She was still untiring. As an old, sick woman she wrote to John (probably in the year 1200) to tell him that she had commanded Aimery de Thouars, vicomte de Thouars, to visit her in Fontevrault to discuss her suspicions that 'without licence' the viscount and his friends were planning to seize John's Poitevin castles. As late as the year 1203, in the year before her death, documents were still being issued in her name.

Literature and courtly love

Aquitaine provides the background to all the controversies that have surrounded Queen Eleanor's activity as literary patron; her mythical reputation as ‘queen of the troubadours’ is also substantially based on views of the nature of aristocratic courtly life in Aquitaine which often cannot be sustained. A late account in the Occitan life of one of the greatest of twelfth-century lyric poets, Bernard de Ventadour, for instance, describes him as the queen's lover who held court with her, until they were separated by her husband, King Henry of England; but this is utterly untrustworthy, and in any case could not be fitted into the complicated itinerary of Eleanor's movements which can be established from other sources. The myth owes something also to a Latin treatise in dialogue form by the puzzling figure known only as Andrew the Chaplain. It includes judgments supposedly pronounced by various noble ladies, including Eleanor, on the pleas brought before them on questions of conduct, or on the nature of love (for example, on whether love could be said to exist between a married couple). This text has often—almost certainly mistakenly—been regarded as a manual of courtly love, perhaps even written by a cleric at the court of Eleanor's daughter Marie de Champagne (but Andrew's identity is by no means certain). It does not, however, provide a reliable basis for supposing that ‘courts of love’ were regularly held and presided over by the queen of the English, or (as has been imagined) that Poitiers was a centre where Eleanor and her daughter held the twelfth-century equivalent of literary salons. The very existence of a system of courtly love outside the conventions of esoteric literary productions has been seriously questioned, and it is moreover virtually impossible to find traces of actual contacts between Queen Eleanor and her daughter Marie.

The more flamboyant imaginings of Eleanor's significance as a practitioner of courtly love must therefore be swept away, but she and most members of her dynasty were still important patrons of literature. Almost every type of literary production has been attributed to their patronage—Occitan lyrics and other verse, romance historical works indebted to Geoffrey of Monmouth (the Brut), new romances of antique or Arthurian interpretation (Le roman de Thèbes, for instance, and even the works of Chrétien de Troyes, who certainly did write for Marie de Champagne). Although cases where attributions to the Angevin court circle rest on intertextual references often require re-examination, there is no need to question all such attributions. On a purely literary level Bernard de Ventadour's connections with Eleanor's court are well established, as are those of a number of other troubadours, who also served or wrote for her son Richard. The Anglo-Norman court also attracted writers in the langue d'oïl who, like the clerk Wace, included Eleanor in his dedication of the historical Roman de Rou. Eleanor was surely literate (that is, she had received an education which included instruction in Latin), but elaborate and accomplished compositions, like her letters to Celestine III on behalf of her imprisoned son Richard, would have been written in her name by a clerk trained in the arts of classical rhetoric. The representation of Eleanor on her tomb effigy with its unusual iconography of a woman holding a book also surely reflects her reputation for literacy.

Death, burial, and religious patronage

Eleanor died at about the age of eighty-two on 31 March 1204 (there is disagreement over whether she was then residing in the city of Poitiers, or had once more retired to Fontevrault). She was buried in the abbey church at Fontevrault, alongside her husband, King Henry, and her son King Richard; her daughter Joanna, the former queen of Sicily and countess of Toulouse, was also buried there and they would in the future be joined by Eleanor's daughter-in-law Isabella of Angoulême, widow of her son King John. The concentration of family burials in a single chosen church was by no means common in the Romance-speaking world at the end of the twelfth century, while the creation of a group of dynastic monuments was also a relatively recent development. (The Angevin monuments, for instance, antedate the Capetian effigies at St Denis.) Eleanor was portrayed as a life-size recumbent effigy, represented as simply dressed but crowned. Unlike her husband and son who lie carrying symbols of royalty and war, she is portrayed only with an open book in her joined hands.

Eleanor's will, if she ever made one, does not survive, although on 22 July 1202 it was noted on the patent roll that the king permitted her to make 'a reasonable testament'. It might be easier to trace the pattern of Eleanor's personal piety if such a document had been preserved, for many of the charters and writs which now transmit evidence of her generosity to religious communities actually confirm benefactions made by her predecessors or other members of her dynasty. Throughout her life she made redress for encroachments of ecclesiastical privileges or for incursions onto the lands of churches. In 1199, for instance, she restored forest to the nuns of Ste Croix in Poitiers, and remitted dues exacted by comital officials on the lands of the canons of Ste Radegonde (offences that had allegedly been committed by Richard's servants, with or without his consent). It was the duty of a ruler to protect the church, and to ensure that the privileges and immunities of individual institutions were not damaged or threatened. In those respects Eleanor's acts conformed to the contemporary standards by which any ruler would be judged, regardless of gender.

There are few signs that Queen Eleanor was especially inspired by any religious figure whom she met during her long life, or that she showed an intense personal devotion to any particular saint. She rejoiced that Gilbert of Sempringham had blessed her sons; but she was never an advocate of Thomas Becket's cause during his lifetime, and seems only to have invoked his heavenly aid about twenty years after his official canonization. Characteristically that invocation was associated with the desire to gain Richard's liberation from his German imprisonment. It is interesting, too, that—by contrast with her first husband who chose to be buried in a Cistercian church—her own early meetings with Bernard of Clairvaux were never followed by any individual display of generosity to his house or order. She showed no particular favour to other houses of more austere religious foundations either; and, even though she confirmed grants made to Grandmont, she never endowed any Carthusian establishment. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the queen was pious according to the lights of a twelfth-century aristocrat; and today it is impossible to tell whether she wished to have her retirement to Fontevrault as dramatically interrupted as it was by the death of her 'most beloved' son Richard. Quite possibly she may have wished to show practical and material generosity through, for instance, unbroken annual payments made via the exchequer to the 'queen's hospital' in London or (at a rather different level) through the redemption of a great gold cup which the abbey of Bury St Edmunds had been obliged to abandon to meet the financial demands of royal officials. By the terms of one of her last charters also, in return for the daily feeding of three paupers and the saying of two masses for 'the remission of our sins', she confirmed the privileges of the Poitevin abbey of St Maixent granted by her ancestors. Altogether it seems likely that her religious impulses were especially concentrated on securing intercession and commemoration for her close kin and her ancestors. That emerges with especial force from the continuous stream of benefactions enacted in favour of her chosen burial church, Fontevrault.

Historical importance and reputation

The reputation of Eleanor of Aquitaine has never been easy to assess. Given the length of her life, and the range of activities in which she was involved between her marriage to Louis VII in 1137 and her death in 1204, that is understandable. The dynastic matriarch attempting to stem the tide of Capetian advance into the Angevin empire during the reigns of her sons at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was pursuing policies that seem worlds away from the young woman whose exploits and suspected sexual indiscretions at Antioch or in French court circles have provided copy for the censorious—from monastic and clerical writers of the twelfth century to moralists and even social historians of the twentieth. Not surprisingly, historical myths have crystallized around these scandals—for instance, the legend of the queen's liaison with the poet Bernard de Ventadour, and the teasing references to judicial sentences passed on questions of courtly conduct. As early as the thirteenth century she was reported as having enjoyed an affair with Saladin (this shows a strange confusion between the second and third crusades, while Saladin would in any case have been about ten years old at the time of Eleanor's voyage to Jerusalem).

Other legends clustered round Eleanor's supposedly murderous jealousy of Fair Rosamund (Henry's young mistress Rosamund Clifford): they were elaborated in a number of later medieval chronicles and were the subject of English ballads by the sixteenth century; but even in the nineteenth century this jealousy is the central theme of the verse drama Becket by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (He gave an extra twist to the tale by quite unhistorically portraying Eleanor as herself a troubadour, whose voice was silenced at the court of her second husband, in the cold lands of the north.) The same theme of jealousy, though here focused principally on Henry II's supposed liaison with the Capetian princess, Alice, helped in the twentieth century to give spice to the film The Lion in Winter (1968), in which Eleanor, acted with appropriate élan by Katherine Hepburn, spends a Christmas vacation from prison quarrelling with her husband (played by Peter O'Toole). William Shakespeare's play King John, by contrast, places Queen Eleanor in a more ‘realistic’ setting of Angevin political rivalries, and transforms her into a 'cankered grandam' who is prepared to connive at the murder of Prince Arthur following the latter's capture at Mirebeau.

On the whole historical accounts of Eleanor's life and importance can frequently be divided into those in which her literary role and emotional life are discussed to the exclusion of virtually any other topic, and those in which she appears as an often shadowy consort to her husbands and sons, the star players in an exclusively 'masculine Middle Age' (the view of Georges Duby). This dichotomy is accentuated by the tendency either to condemn the queen on grounds of her moral shortcomings, or perhaps to exaggerate her contribution to the shaping of a secularized society asserting different standards from those of an ecclesiastically dominated culture. Even in the seventeenth century the French historian F. de Mézeray wrote of her as 'an infamous and pernicious woman' (Mézeray, 1.480–81), and there were not many to 'declare that she was the most virtuous as well as the most beautiful princess in the universe' (Larrey, 3). For recent English historians Eleanor's activity in the Angevin realm has certainly been regarded as subsidiary to the political and governmental policies and achievements of her husbands and sons—a trend that has obviously been accentuated by the publication of English royal records of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. And yet Eleanor did play a significant part in both the government and politics of her own world. Like her husbands and sons, when called upon to do so, she harnessed—and sometimes overrode—royal bureaucratic machinery to serve her own political ends. That can be seen through the part she played in the suppression of John's revolt, the organization of Richard's release, or her attempts to restore dynastic control in Aquitaine. Political and governmental activity at the end of her life must have been based on experience gained in the late 1150s in England and Normandy, but presumably also grew out of her knowledge of the most important European secular and ecclesiastical figures—a knowledge that encompassed the worlds of northern and Mediterranean politics.

It is difficult either to gain or convey a balanced impression of Eleanor's personality and reputation, partly because even her own contemporaries were so divided in their assessments, but also because early sources do not contain essential information that might help to unravel a number of the mysteries associated with her life. There is not even any detailed account of her appearance to match Walter Map's famous description of King Henry. The impact that she made in her youth suggests that she must have been beautiful, but most writers preferred to stress her high birth and great inheritance; while much has been made of the judgement of Gervase of Canterbury that she was 'unstable'. Unfortunately, the sculpted representation of the queen on her tomb at Fontevrault must be viewed as an idealization, for it could not be the portrait of an eighty-year-old woman. The best indication of the ambivalence aroused by Eleanor's presence and actions is provided by the historian Richard of Devizes. Under an entry for the year 1190 (so when she was probably sixty-eight years old) he is still alluding to suspicions aroused by her behaviour at Antioch, but although he is condescending about what any woman could achieve in matters of government, he cannot withhold his admiration from this female ruler who was both beautiful and powerful—and, on behalf of the king her son, still indefatigably working.


Printed historical narratives (includes correspondence and hagiographical sources)
  • The chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond: concerning the acts of Samson, abbot of the monastery of St Edmund, ed. H. E. Butler (1949)
  • L. Halphen and R. Poupardin, eds., Chroniques des comtes d'Anjou, Collections des Textes pour Servir à l'Étude et à l'Enseignement de l'Histoire (1913)
  • L. Mirot, ed., La chronique de Morigny, Collections des Textes pour Servir à l'Étude et à l'Enseignement de l'Histoire (1912)
  • H. Duplès-Agier, Chroniques de Saint-Martial de Limoges, Société de l'Histoire de France (1874)
  • J. Verdon, ed., La chronique de Saint-Maixent, Classiques de l'Histoire de France du Moyen Age (1979)
  • R. H. Bautier, A.-M. Bautier, and M. Gilles, eds., Chronique de Saint-Pierre-le-Vif de Sens, dite de Clarius (1979)
  • A. Salmon, ed., Chronicon Turonense Magnum, Recueil de chroniques de Touraine (1854)
  • Geoffrey of Vigeois, Chronica, ed. P. Labbe (1657), vol. 2 of Novae bibliothecae manuscriptarum … collectio
  • The historical works of Gervase of Canterbury, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols., Rolls Series, 73 (1879–80)
  • R. Foreville and G. Keir, eds., The book of St Gilbert (1987)
  • P. Meyer, ed., L'histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, 3 vols. (Paris, 1891–1901)
  • The Historia pontificalis of John of Salisbury, ed. and trans. M. Chibnall, rev. edn, OMT (1986)
  • The letters of John of Salisbury, ed. and trans. H. E. Butler and W. J. Millor, rev. C. N. L. Brooke, 2 vols., OMT (1979–86) [Latin original with parallel Eng. text]
  • J. C. Robertson and J. B. Sheppard, eds., Materials for the history of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, 7 vols., Rolls Series, 67 (1875–85)
  • Nicetas Choniates Historia, ed. I. Bekker, Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, 14 (1828)
  • Odo of Deuil, La croisade de Louis VII, roi de France, ed. H. Waquet, Documents relatifs à l'histoire des croisades (1949)
  • Radulphi de Coggeshall chronicon Anglicanum, ed. J. Stevenson, Rolls Series, 66 (1875)
  • Radulfi de Diceto … opera historica, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols., Rolls Series, 68 (1876)
  • M. Bouquet and others, eds., Recueil de historiens des Gaules et de la France / Rerum Gallicarum et Francicarum scriptores, 24 vols. (1738–1904), vols. 11–16 [incl. correspondence of Suger, Louis VII, and others]
  • Richard of Devizes, Chronicon, ed. J. Appleby (1963)
  • E. Berger, Richard le Poitevin, moine de Cluny, historien et poète, Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, 6 (1879)
  • Rigord, Œuvres de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton, ed. H. F. Delaborde, 2 vols., Société de l'Histoire de France (1882–5)
  • Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hovedene, ed. W. Stubbs, 4 vols., Rolls Series, 51 (1868–71)
  • Suger, Vie de Louis VI le Gros, ed. H. Waquet, 2nd edn, Classiques de l'Histoire de France du Moyen Age (1964)
  • Suger, De glorioso rege Ludovico, Ludovici filio, ed. A. Molinier, Collections des Textes pour Servir à l'Étude et à l'Enseignement de l'Histoire (1887)
  • ‘Vita S. Bernardi’, Patrologia Latina, 185 (1855)
  • W. Map, De nugis curialium / Courtiers' trifles, ed. and trans. M. R. James, rev. C. N. L. Brooke and R. A. B. Mynors, OMT (1983)
  • Willelmi Malmesbiriensis monachi de gestis regum Anglorum, ed. W. Stubbs, 2 vols., Rolls Series (1887–9)
  • R. Howlett, ed., Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, 4 vols., Rolls Series, 82 (1884–9), vols. 1–2, 4
  • William of Tyre, Willelmi Tyrensis archiepiscopi chronicon, ed. R. Huygens, 2 vols., Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale (1986)
Documentary and record sources
  • ‘The Anstey case’, A medieval miscellany for Doris Mary Stenton, ed. P. M. Barnes and C. F. Slade, PRSoc., new ser., 36 (1962), 1–24
  • J. H. Round, ed., Calendar of documents preserved in France, illustrative of the history of Great Britain and Ireland (1899)
  • L. Landon, ed., The cartae antiquae: rolls 1–10, printed from the original in the custody of the master of the rolls, PRSoc., 55, new ser., 17 (1939), pt 1
  • T. Grasilier, ed., Cartulaire de l'abbaye royale de Notre-Dame de Saintes (1871)
  • A. Richard, ed., Chartes et documents pour servir à l'histoire de l'abbaye de Saint-Maixent, Archives Historiques du Poitou, 16, 18 (1886)
  • L. Rédet, ed., Documents pour l'histoire de Saint-Hilaire de Poitiers, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de l'Ouest, 14, 15 (1847–52)
  • Rymer, Foedera, new edn, vol. 4
  • A. Teulet, ed., Layettes du trésor des chartes (1863–), vols. 1, 2
  • A. Luchaire, Études sur les actes de Louis VII (1885)
  • P. Marchegay, ‘Chartes de Fontevraud concernant l'Aunis et la Rochelle’, Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes, 19 (1858)
  • P. Marchegay, ed., Cartulaires du Bas-Poitou (1858)
  • L. Delisle and others, eds., Recueil des actes de Henri II, roi d'Angleterre et duc de Normandie, concernant les provinces françaises et les affaires de France, 4 vols. (Paris, 1909–27)
  • H. Delaborde, ed., Recueil des actes de Philippe Auguste, roi de France, 3 vols. (1916–)
  • G. Pon, ed., Recueil des documents de l'abbaye de Fontaine-le-Comte (XIIe–XIIIe siècles), Archives Historiques du Poitou, 61 (1982)
  • F. Villard, ed., Recueil des documents relatifs à l'abbaye de Montierneuf de Poitiers, Archives Historiques du Poitou, 59 (1973)
‘Literary’ sources (Latin and vernacular)
  • Andreas Capellanus ‘On Love’, ed. P. Walsh (1982)
  • B. de Sainte-Maure, Chroniques des ducs de Normandie, ed. C. Fahlin, 3 vols. (1951)
  • J. Boutière and A. Schutz, eds., Biographies des troubadours: texts provençaux des XIIIe et XIVe siècles, 2nd edn (1964)
  • Cercamon, Les poésies, ed. A. Jeanroy, Classiques Français du Moyen Age (1922)
  • Les chansons de Guillaume IX, duc d'Aquitaine, ed. A. Jeanroy, 2nd edn, Classiques Français du Moyen Age (1972)
  • Les romans de Chrétien de Troyes, ed. M. Roques, A. Micha, and F. Lecoq, 6 vols., Classiques Français du Moyen Age (1952)
  • The Historia regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth, ed. N. Wright, 1–2 (1985–8)
  • L. Constans, ed., Le roman de Thèbes, Société des Anciens Textes Français (1890)
  • Le ‘Roman de Rou’ de Wace, ed. A. J. Holden, 3 vols. (Paris, 1970–73)
  • A. Tennyson, Becket (1884)
Modern biographies and studies
  • J.-M. Bienvenu, ‘Aliénor d'Aquitaine et Fontevraud’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 29 (1986), 15–27
  • E. A. R. Brown, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine: parent, queen and duchess’, Eleanor of Aquitaine: patron and politician, ed. W. W. Kibler (1976), 9–34
  • J. Chaban-Delmas, La dame d'Aquitaine (1989)
  • G. Duby, ‘Eleanor’, Women of the twelfth century (1997), 5–20
  • J. Holt, ‘Aliénor d'Aquitaine, Jean sans Terre et la succession de 1199’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 29 (1986), 95–9
  • A. Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings (1950)
  • E.-R. Labande, ‘Pour une image véridique d'Aliénor d'Aquitaine’, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de l'Ouest, 4th ser., 2 (1952), 174–234
  • E.-R. Labande, ‘Les filles d'Aliénor d'Aquitaine: étude comparative’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 29 (1986), 104–22
  • I. de Larrey, L'heritiere de Guyenne ou Histoire d'Eleonor fille de Guillaume, dernier duc de Guyenne, femme de Louis VII, roy de France, et en-suite de Henri II roy d'Angleterre (1691)
  • M. Lazar, ‘Cupid, the lady, and the poet: modes of love at Eleanor of Aquitaine's court’, Eleanor of Aquitaine: patron and politician, ed. W. W. Kibler (1976), 35–59
  • M. D. Legge, ‘La littérature anglo-normande au temps d'Aliénor d'Aquitaine’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 29 (1986), 113–18
  • R. Lejeune, ‘Rôle littéraire d'Aliénor d'Aquitaine et de sa famille’, Cultura Neo-Latina, 14 (1954), 6–57
  • J. McCash, ‘Marie de Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine: a relationship re-examined’, Speculum, 54 (1979), 698–711
  • J. Markale, La vie, la légende, l'influence d'Aliénor comtesse de Poitou, duchesse d'Aquitaine, reine de France, puis d'Angleterre, dame des troubadours et des bardes bretons (1979)
  • J. Martindale, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine’, Status, authority and regional power, Aquitaine and France, 9th to 12th centuries (1997), 11.1–23
  • J. Martindale, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine, the last years’, King John: new interpretations, ed. S. D. Church (1999)
  • D. D. R. Owen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen and legend (1993)
  • R. Pernoud, Aliénor d'Aquitaine (1969)
  • R. Pernoud, ‘Les chartes de la reine Aliénor’, La femme au temps des cathédrales (1980), 195–208
  • A. Richard, ‘Aliénor (1137–1204)’, Histoire des comtes de Poitou, 2 vols. (1903), 2.60–457
  • H. G. Richardson, ‘The letters and charters of Eleanor of Aquitaine’, EngHR, 74 (1959), 191–213
  • R. Turner, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine and her children: an inquiry into medieval family attachment’, Journal of Medieval History, 14 (1988), 321–35
Related secondary sources
  • R. W. Eyton, Court, household, and itinerary of King Henry II (1878)
  • L. Landon, The itinerary of King Richard I, PRSoc., new ser., 13 (1935)
  • R. Benjamin, ‘A forty years war: Toulouse and the Plantagenets, 1156–96’, Historical Research, 61 (1988), 270–85
  • J. Benton, Culture, power and personality in medieval France, ed. T. Bisson (1991) [valuable collected essays]
  • R. Bezzola, Les origines et la formation de la littérature courtoise en occident (500–1200), 5 vols. (1943–66)
  • T. Boase, ‘Fontevrault and the Plantagenets’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd ser., 34 (1971), 1–10
  • Z. N. Brooke and C. N. L. Brooke, ‘Henry II, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine’, EngHR, 61 (1946), 81–9
  • P. Dronke, The medieval lyric (1968)
  • A. Erlande-Brandenbourg, ‘Le “cimitière des rois” à Fontevrault’, Congrés Archaeologique, 64 (1964), 482–92
  • C. Holdsworth, ‘Peacemaking in the twelfth century’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 19 (1996), 1–17
  • J. Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart, 2nd edn (1989)
  • J. Gillingham, Richard Coeur de Lion: kingship, chivalry and war in the twelfth century (1994) [valuable collected studies]
  • J. Parsons, ed., Medieval queenship (1993)
  • L. Paterson, Troubadours and eloquence (1975)
  • E. A. R. Brown, ‘“Franks, Burgundians and Aquitanians” and the royal coronation ceremony in France’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 82 (1992)
  • F. E. de Mézeray, Histoire de France depuis Faramond jusqu'à maintenant, 3 vols. (1685)
  • A. Duggan, ed., Queens and queenship in medieval Europe (1997)
  • W. Warren, Henry II (1973)


  • tomb effigy, 1204–40, abbey of Fontevrault, Maine-et-Loire, France [see illus.]
, PRSoc. (1884–) [pipe rolls]
Chancery records (Record Commission)
Pipe Roll Society
Orderic Vitalis, ed. and trans. M. Chibnall, 6 vols., OMT (1969–80); repr. (1990)
Giraldi Cambrensis, ed. J. S. Brewer, J. F. Dimock, & G. F. Warner, 8 vols., RS, 21 (1861–91)
T. Rymer & R. Sanderson, eds., , 20 vols. (1704–35); 2nd edn, 20 vols. (1726–35); 3rd edn, 10 vols. (1739–45); new edn, ed. A. Clarke, J. Caley, & F. Holbrooke, 4 vols., RC, 50 (1816–69); facs. of 3rd edn (1967)
English Historical Review
Oxford Medieval Texts