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December 7, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1122-1204) is one of the most fantastic characters in medieval history.  She was ruler of the Aquitaine in her own right, queen consort of both France and England, and queen mother of England under Richard I and John I.  She went on the Second Crusade.  In years afterward, the pope would forbid any woman to go on Crusade.  

And although her second husband, Henry II, was a philandering worm, when he tried to replace his queen with a much younger village girl of 15, legend says Eleanor killed the young and lovely Rosamund Clifford.  Rosamund had two of Henry's numerous illegitimate children.

Unlike Henry's other mistress's, he was deeply in love with the uneducated Rosamund.  This infuriated Eleanor.  There are wonderful rumors about Eleanor poisoning Rosamund.  Others have Eleanor stabbing the young girl or throwing her down stairs.  The truth is Eleanor was imprisoned when Rosamund died.  Rosamund probably died in a convent during childbirth.

Accustomed to having her own way,  Eleanor left for the Aquitaine where she set up her own court.  She took her favorite son, Richard, with her. In 1173, Eleanor and three of her sons revolted against Henry II.  They lost.  The queen was captured and kept as Henry's prisoner for the rest of his life.  

While her son King Richard I went on the Third Crusade, Eleanor reigned in his place.  She was known as a cunning and able ruler.  Her word was law.  She brought peace to England.  Her son John tried to take over rule of England from her, but he was no match for Eleanor.  John would have to wait for his brother Richard to die to become king. 

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