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Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine (1124-1204), is doubtless the most famous or infamous of all medieval queens, wife of Louis VII of France, then wedded to Henry II of England, and she was the mother of three English kings. 1 Her life would have been noteworthy in any age, but it was extraordinary by medieval standards. In an age that defined women by their powerlessness, she chose to live as she saw fit, seeking political power despite traditions and teachings of women's innate inferiority and subordination to males. Eleanor paid heavily for her pursuit of power, becoming the object of scurrilous gossip comparable to that hurled at a later French queen, Marie-Antoinette. 2 In a culture of honor and shame, a person's fama, personal honor or reputation, was all important, determined by the opinion of acquaintances, neighbors, friends or enemies. Common knowledge of one's shameful character not only brought loss of bona fama, but could result in serious legal and social disabilities. 3 Women especially were threatened by rumors of sexual impropriety that could lead to charges against them in the church courts. 4 Since 'the construction of bona fama and mala fama was controlled by men,' both clerical and secular leaders saw to it that 'femaleness was defined by the submissiveness of wives to their husbands.' 5 Medieval writers ascribed women's actions to irrational, sentimental or libidinous motives, and Eleanor's contemporaries attributed her rifts with her two husbands to personal, passionate sources, not to political factors. This attitude gave rise to a long lasting portrait of Eleanor as 'an essentially frivolous woman' and her life as a series of scandals. 6
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Ralph V. Turner
Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine (1124-1204), is doubtless the most famous or infamous
of all medieval queens, wife of Louis VII of France, then wedded to Henry II of England, and
she was the mother of three English kings.1 Her life would have been noteworthy in any age,
but it was extraordinary by medieval standards. In an age that defined women by their
powerlessness, she chose to live as she saw fit, seeking political power despite traditions and
teachings of women’s innate inferiority and subordination to males. Eleanor paid heavily
for her pursuit of power, becoming the object of scurrilous gossip comparable to that hurled at
a later French queen, Marie-Antoinette.2
In a culture of honor and shame, a person’s fama, personal honor or reputation, was all
important, determined by the opinion of acquaintances, neighbors, friends or enemies.
Common knowledge of one’s shameful character not only brought loss of bona fama, but
could result in serious legal and social disabilities.3 Women especially were threatened by
rumors of sexual impropriety that could lead to charges against them in the church courts.4
Since ‘the construction of bona fama and mala fama was controlled by men,’ both clerical
and secular leaders saw to it that femaleness was defined by the submissiveness of wives to
their husbands.’5 Medieval writers ascribed womens actions to irrational, sentimental or
libidinous motives, and Eleanor’s contemporaries attributed her rifts with her two husbands to
personal, passionate sources, not to political factors. This attitude gave rise to a long lasting
portrait of Eleanor as ‘an essentially frivolous woman’ and her life as a series of scandals.6
Eleanor was the proud daughter of a distinguished dynasty, and she never forgot that
her lineage, successors to Carolingian sub-kings, equaled the Capetians and surpassed the
Plantagenets in prestige.7 In the century before Eleanor’s birth, ladies of southern France
had enjoyed greater liberty than those in the more ‘feudal’ regions to the north.8 Eleanor,
aware of her birthright as heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, felt that her marriage should be a
partnership; she assumed that she would share power with her husband, especially over her
own ancestral lands. Even as a young woman soon after her marriage to Louis VII in 1137,
she demonstrated a desire for power, resentful of her husband’s counselors; and seeking to
influence Louis in matters concerning Aquitaine, she convinced him to invade the county of
Toulouse.9 Later she would insist on accompanying him on the Second Crusade. A
queen’s unique influence in the public sphere through her intimate access to her royal
husband was threatening to others at court seeking to sway him to their opinions.10
Damaging rumors offered a means of weakening her reputation and limiting her influence.
Eleanor’s conduct on the Second Crusade first inspired rumors about the troubled
state of her marriage to Louis. An incident at Antioch gave rise to a ‘black legend’ that has
tarnished her reputation for centuries.11 The royal couple’s stay with her uncle, Raymond,
prince of Antioch, made clear the antipathy between ill-suited spouses, beginning the
unraveling their marriage that finally dissolved in 1152. Louis VII insisted on marching
directly to Jerusalem to fulfill his pilgrim’s vow, despite his wife’s urging that he adopt her
uncle’s plan for combating the Muslims. Unable to sway her husband, Eleanor announced
that she would stay with her uncle and seek an annulment of their marriage on grounds of
Eleanor’s contemporary, John of Salisbury, well informed on the incident at Antioch,
makes clear that Eleanor’s open opposition to her husband’s military and political decisions
and her challenge to the legality of their marriage breached the submissiveness demanded of
wives by a male-dominated Church and a militarized aristocracy.12 Jean Flori, author of a
2004 biography, suggests that her deliberate provocation was driven by a desire to assert her
independence that chroniclers interpreted as infidelity, equivalent to actual adultery.13
Observers at Raymond’s court understood Eleanor’s headstrong behavior as an unacceptable
challenge to Louis’s authority, flouting the Church’s teaching on women’s subordinate role in
marriage. Soon rumors of the queens infidelity spread to the French crusaderscamps,
arousing hatred of the queen; the soldiers embellished her misbehavior, redefining it as
actual adultery with her uncle. On the crusaders’ return to France, blaming their queen for
the crusade’s inglorious end, they spread gossip about her adultery at Antioch. Whatever
happened at Antioch, the resulting rumors inspired talk of serial adulteries that sullied
Eleanor’s reputation for centuries.14
On Louis and Eleanor’s journey from the Holy Land, returned by way of Italy, where
the pope stage-managed a short-loved reconciliation, but after she gave birth to a second
daughter, Louis divorced his queen in 1152. Hostile courtiers at Paris, displeased at her
quick remarriage to Henry Plantagenet, encouraged more talk of her outrageous conduct on
crusade.15 Rumors tarnishing the private lives of the great were one of the few means
available for the weak to challenge their power, and chroniclers alluded to their immorality as
an indirect means of voicing criticism of rulers, even if they had no way of knowing details
of their private lives.16
Later twelfth-century English chroniclers were well aware of scurrilous tales
circulating about the troubled nature of their new queen’s first marriage; doubtless by then
part of a widespread oral tradition17 English students returning from the schools of Paris
would have brought back such talk to clerical circles in their homeland. Some chroniclers
contented themselves with oblique references to Eleanors indiscretion at Antioch. Clearly,
their veiled references indicate an expectation that readers would be knowledgeable enough to
fill in the details of the Antioch episode.18 Others questioned the lawfulness of her marriage
to Henry II; William of Newburgh wrote that he deserved divine retribution for two reasons:
first, for his marriage to Eleanor, the wife of another; and second for his opposition to Thomas
Becket.19 Two authors of satirical accounts of life at the English court, Walter Map and
Gerald of Wales added a new charge, writing that Count Geoffrey of Anjou, Henry II’s father,
had ‘carnally known’ Eleanor during a visit to Louis VII’s court. Their account, if true,
made Eleanor and Henry’s marriage incest of the second type’, a son sharing a woman with
his own father.20
Predisposed toward suspicion of Eleanor, late twelfth-century English writers judged
her as falling short of the standard set by the post-Norman Conquest English queens.
Theydepicted Eleanor’s predecessors as models of piety, conscientious mothers, and worthy
companions of their husbands, even if they sometimes had exercised political power during
royal absences.21 A woman’s pursuit of political power, not uncommon in the southern
France of Eleanor’s childhood, seemed to English churchmen to overturn the natural order.
In the chroniclers’ view, princes who tolerated powerful women risked being labeled
‘unmanly’ or even ‘womanly’. For historians of the Anglo-Norman and early Plantagenet
periods, royal might was so closely associated with purely masculine activities, commanding
knights in battle and besieging castles, that they could not imagine a woman wielding such
During the first decade of Henry II’s reign, 1154-64, he was away from his new
kingdom fighting in his French lands for long periods; and in his absence Eleanor was regent,
exercising power that she had coveted as Louis’s queen. Record sources, though meager,
reveal her considerable role in England’s governance.23
This was a time for restoring royal supremacyafter years of civil war in England, and Eleanor
had an important place during the king’s absences as the personification of royal authority to
the English people, even if she is hardly visible in the chronicles. During her regencies, she
was also busy bearing children, providing Henry with four sons and three daughters. After
Eleanor’s first decade as Henry’s consort, her public role declined compared to that of her
Anglo-Norman predecessors, due in large measure to an expanding royal administration that
took on more and more tasks undertaken earlier by the royal household.
In 1168, Eleanor left England and returned to Poitiers to take charge of her homeland,
doubtless welcoming the opportunity to rule over her duchy.24 By 1173, however, she was
disillusioned with her husband, and she incited her sons to rebel against their own father; and
she joined them in making war on Henry II. This unprecedented example of a wife conspiring
in a large-scale revolt against her own husband astounded and horrified contemporaries. For a
second time she was appeared to be breaking one of the basic rules for a married woman,
forgetting the submissiveness owed to her husband, just as she had at Antioch.25 Yet it is hardly
surprising that an educated, intelligent woman such as Eleanor, frustrated at her loss of
influence in public life, should have sought power through manipulating her sons. Both late
twelfth-century and many modern writers fail to credit Eleanor with political impulses for
turning against Henry II; instead, attributing her actions to emotion, a craving for vengeance.
We can ask with Jane Martindale, an astute observer of Eleanor of Aquitaine, ‘Can there be no
political explanation of a woman’s actions?26 It never occurred to Eleanor’s contemporaries
that her desire to preserve her authority in Aquitaine, her disappointment at Henry’s continued
interventions there, and her hope of ensuring her second son Richard’s succession could have
driven her to take revenge through her sons. Preventing her duchy from being swallowed up
within her husband’s empire, reduced to simply another Angevin province, was a more
important motivation for her revolt than a wronged wife’s thirst for revenge. Henry II crushed
the 1173-74 rebellion, the greatest threat that he faced during his reign, and he brought Eleanor
back to England as a prisoner, where she would remain a captive until his death in 1189.
Only as a widow did Eleanor taste the political power she had always hungered for, and
in exercising authority to preserve the Plantagenet lands for her last surviving sons, Richard
Lionheart (1189-99) and John Lackland (1199-1216), she showed herself a skilled
politician.27 She had the authority of a regent during Richard’s absence on the Third Crusade
and his captivity in Germany, safeguarding England from her rebellion and French threats until
the Lionheart returned in 1194. Following Richard’s death in 1199, Eleanor again threw
herself into political activity to secure the succession of her last surviving son, John Lack land,
opposing his rival, her grandson Arthur of Brittany, supported by Philip II of France. Eleanor
as queen-mother enjoyed the privileges associated with a queen-consort during her two sons’
reigns, for Richard’s bride never visited England, and John’s wife was too young to assume
queenly duties before Eleanor’s death in 1204.28 A few years earlier, Eleanor had retired to
Fontevraud Abbey in France where she died at age eighty, a decade before John’s loss of Poitou,
the heart of her duchy, to the French king.
Within a half century of Eleanor’s death, earlier guarded allusions to her alleged
indiscretion at Antioch expanded into an affair in the Holy Land with a Muslim prince,
identified by some as Saladin., An early example is Matthew Paris, a monk and chronicler at
Saint Albans Abbey in England until his death about 1259.29 When discussing Eleanor,
Matthew Paris could not contain his predilection for ‘unscrupulous falsification,’ and he
charged her not only with multiple adulteries, but ‘especially infidelity with a certain infidel
prince in the East, perpetrated while her husband devoted himself to the business of war.’30
Around the same time in France, an anonymous minstrel of Reims, composing a collection of
historical anecdotes, was spinning a similar tale of Eleanors liaison with a Muslim prince,
whom he identified as the sultan Saladin, who could have been no more than a young child, if
alive at all, during the Second Crusade. Nonetheless, the minstrel, more jongleur than
historian, depicts Eleanor falling madly in love with Saladin before meeting him in person.31
In the late Middle Ages, stories were circulating that attributed not only adultery but
also murder to Eleanor. Added to a body of legend about Henry II’s love affair with Rosamund
Clifford was the role of a vindictive and jealous Eleanor as Rosamund’s murderer.32 More
versions of Eleanor’s pursuit of Fair Rosamund appeared in the early modern era, incorporating
a maze-like bower built by Henry II at Woodstock as a hiding place for his lover that Eleanor
succeeded in penetrating. The Woodstock maze appears in two works dating from the final
years of the sixteenth century: Samuel Daniel’s poem, ‘The Complaint of Rosamond,” printed
in 1592, and a ballad Fair Rosamonde, also from around the end of the sixteenth century,
though not published until the eighteenth century.33 Queen Eleanor’s Confession, a Scottish
ballad published in the seventeenth century that likely recycled earlier ballads, depicts Eleanor
confessing her sins to two friars, in fact Henry II and William Marshal in disguise. In its
verses, the queen confesses to not only to poisoning Henry’s mistress Rosamund Clifford and
trying to poison Henry as well.34 As late as the nineteenth-century, despite the new scientific
approach to historical studies, old canards about the twelfth-century queen were still repeated.
Agnes Strickland’s Lives of the Queens of England revived stories of Eleanor’s affair with a
Muslim, reporting that after leaving her uncle’s court at Antioch, Eleanor engaged in ‘a
criminal attachment ... to a young Saracen emir of great beauty, named Sal-Addin.’35
Approaches to Eleanor in the twentieth century tended to fall into one of two categories.
Specialists in medieval French literature, convinced that close reading of vernacular literature
could disclose twelfth-century reality, created an image of Eleanor as muse of the troubadour
poets, presiding over ‘courts of love’ at Poitiers. An example is Amy Kelly’s still popular
1956 book, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, that provides a fanciful portrait of
Eleanor founding an academy at Poitiers to ‘subdue to civility’ the boisterous young Poitevin
knights of her court.36
The second category consists of professional historians relying on Latin sources,
dismayed by this portrait of Eleanor produced extrapolating historical evidence from poetry.37
For much of the twentieth century of males largely dominated this latter category, and they
showed little interest in women’s history, happy to leave such ‘softer topics’ as the study of
medieval women to scholars in the field of literature, who were often themselves women.38
As late as 1973, W. L. Warren wrote in his biography, Henry II, ‘To judge from the
chroniclers, the most striking fact about Eleanor is her utter insignificance in Henry II’s
reign.’39 No knowledgeable authority today would accept Warren’s neglect of her
significance for politics and government.
Today, the conflict between the literary’ and ‘historicalcamps of scholars is abating,
and the work of feminist scholars is adding new perspectives to Eleanor of Aquitaine’s portrait.
A more rounded portrait of Eleanor is emerging that acknowledges her vital place as a political
player. A pioneer is Jane Martindale, who for years has produced papers illuminating
Eleanor’s key role in the politics of the Plantagenet Empire, and younger scholars are furthering
the process with studies of medieval queenship as an office.40 As a result, we see Eleanor of
Aquitaine today as a woman chose to live her life on her own terms, in defiance of custom and
religion, seeking power through partnership with her husbands, or if that proved impossible,
then daring to challenge them and to go her own way. The price of her choice was a loss of her
bona fama, as a black legend of sexual impropriety haunted her over the centuries.41 Yet
Eleanor merits a certain glory for her refusal to conform to conventional curbs on a woman’s
power and her struggle to control her own destiny.
1. Two recent scholarly biographies are Ralph V. Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of
France, Queen of England (New Haven, London 2009); Jean Flori, Aliénor d’Aquitaine: La
reine insoumise (Paris 2004); English trans. Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen and Rebel (Edinburgh
2007); also Jane Martindale, ‘Eleanor, suo jure duchess of Aquitaine c. 1122-1204),’ in H. C.
G. Matthews and B. Harrison ed., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 20 vols (Oxford
2004). Still important is E.-R. Labande, ‘Pour une image véridique d’Aliénor d”Aquitaine,’
Bulletin de la société des antiquaries de l’ouest 4th series II (1952); new edition with preface
by Martin Aurell (Poitiers 2005).
2. John Carmi Parsons, ‘Damned If She Didn’t and Damned When She Did: Bodies,
Babies, and Bastards in the Lives of Two Queens of France’ in John Carmi Parsons and Bonnie
Wheeler ed., Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady (New York 2003), 265-99.
3. Maïté Billoré and Myriam Soria ed., La Rumeur au Moyen Âge: Du mépris à la
manipulation Ve-XVe siècle (Rennes 2011), Claude Gauvard, Introduction 26-27;Thelma
Fenster and Daniel Lord Smail ed., Fama: The Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval
Europe (Ithaca 2003) Introduction, 1-5,10-11.
4. Madeline H. Caviness and Charles G. Nelson, ‘Silent Witnesses, Absent Women, and
the Law Courts in Medieval Germany,’ in Fenster and Smail ed., Fama, 47-72.
5. First quotation, Caviness and Nelson, ‘Silent Witnesses,72; second quotation, Judith
M. Bennett, Women in the Medieval English Countryside (Oxford 1987) 6, 45.
6. Jane Martindale, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine,’ in Status, Authority and Regional Power.
Aquitaine and France, 9th to 12th Centuries (London 1997), article XI 24, 40.
7. John Gillingham, ‘Events and Opinions: Norman and English Views of Aquitaine, c.
1152-c. 1204’ Catherine Léglu and Marcus Bull ed., The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine:
Literature and Society in Southern France between the Eleventh and Thirteenth Centuries
(Woodbridge 2005) 57-81.
8. E.g. the eleventh-century Agnes, widow of Duke William the Great of Aquitaine, later
wife of Geoffrey Martel of Anjou, Isabelle Soulard-Berger, ‘Agnès de Bourgogne, duchesse
d’Aquitaine puis comtess d’Anjou.(1019-v. 1068),’ Bulletin de la Société des antiquaires de
l’Ouest, 6 (Poitiers 1992); and in the twelfth century, Frederic L. Cheyette, Ermengard of
Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours (Ithaca 2002) 25.
9. Flori, Aliénor, 58; Pernoud, Régine, Aliénor d’Aquitaine (Paris 1965) 37-8.
10. Bull and Catherine Léglu ed., World of Eleanor Introduction 5.
11. Martin Aurell, ‘Aux origines de la légende noire d’Aliénor d’Aquitaine,’ Royautés
imaginaires (XIIe-XVIe siècles), Colloque de l’Université de Paris X-Nanterre du 26 au 27
septembre 2003 ed., Anne-Hélène Allirot, Gilles Lecuppre and Lydwine Scordia, (Turnhout
2005) 89-102.
12. Marjorie Chibnall ed., Historia Pontificalis of John of Salisbury, Oxford Medieval
Texts (Oxford 1986) 52-53; Aurell, ‘Aux origines de la légende noire,’ 90-94.
13. Flori, Aliénor, 333. For a sympathetic presentation of Eleanor at Antioch, see
Parsons, ‘Damned If She Didn’t,Eleanor: Lord and Lady, 270, 291-92.
14. The bishop of Poitiers wrote to John of Salisbury in 1165 insinuating that Eleanor had
scandalous relations with another uncle, Ralph de Faye, W .J. Miller and C. N. L. Brooke, ed.,
The Letters of John of Salisbury, 2 vols. (Oxford 1979, 1986) II 343-47, no. 212.
15. Richard Barber, ‘Eleanor and the Media,World of Eleanor, 26. Troubadour verses
composed in Palestine during the Second Crusade allude to Eleanor’s adultery, Ruth E. Harvey,
The Poet Marcabru and Love (London 1989) 195.
16. Billoré and Soria, eds, La Rumeur au Moyen Âge, Nicholas Vincent, ‘Conclusion’ 340.
On the English chroniclers, Ralph V. Turner“Eleanor of Aquitaine, Twelfth-Century English
Chroniclers and her ‘Black Legend’,” Nottingham Medieval Studies, 52 (2008)
17. Alan Keith Bate, Gautier Map, Contes pour les gens de cour (Brussels 1993). 31-32;
Barber, ‘Eleanor and the Media,’ in World of Eleanor, 26.
18. E.g. Gervase of Canterbury wrote that following the couple’s return from crusade,
There arose a certain discord between [Louis] and his queen Eleanor which concerned that
pilgrimage, [and about which] according to certain persons it was perhaps better to keep silent,
William Stubbs ed., Gervase of Canterbury: Historical Works, 2 vols, (London 1879-80), I 149.
Richard of Devizes, writing early in Richard I’s reign, placed a marginal note alongside a
passage praising Eleanor to remind readers of her conduct on crusade stating, ‘Many know
what I would that none of us knew. This same queen, during the time of her first husband,
was at Jerusalem [rightly Antioch]. Let no one say any more about it. I too know it well.
Keep silent.’ J. T. Appleby, ed. and trans., The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes (London 1963)
25-26. Gerald of Wales, usually eager to depict Eleanor in the worst light, wrote simply, ‘It is
a matter of sufficient notoriety how queen Eleanor had conducted herself . . . beyond the sea,’
J.S. Brewer, J. F. Dimock, G.F. Warner ed., Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, 8 vols, De principis
instructione, VII 300-01.
19. Newburgh, Historia, i, 281, bk 3, ch. 26.
20. Walter Map, De nugis curialium, ed, C. N. L. Brooke and M. R. James,(Oxford 1983),
474-77; Gerald of Wales, De principis instructione,, in Giraldi Cambrensis VIII 300-01. Also
Aurell, ‘Aux origines de la légende noire,’ 94-99.
21. Lois Huneycutt, ‘Female Succession and the Language of Power in the Writings of
Twelfth-Century Churchmen,’ in John Carmi Parsons ed., Medieval Queenship (New York
1993) 189-91; also Huneycutt, ‘Alianora Regina Anglorum: Eleanor of Aquitaine and Her
Anglo-Norman Predecessors as Queens of England’ Eleanor: Lord and Lady, 115-32.
22. Martindale, ‘Eleanor and a “Queenly Court”?,’ in Eleanor: Lord and Lady, 434-5;
Klaus van Eickels, ‘Gendered Violence: Castration and Blinding as Punishment for Treason in
Normandy and Anglo-Norman England,’ Gender and History 16 (2004) 591-94
23. Turner, Eleanor, 151-67, 173-74; also Turner, A Queens Power in the Twelfth
Century: The Example of Eleanor of Aquitaine as Henry IIs Queen, Sewanee Medieval
Studies ed., Susan J. Rudyard XIV (2010) 41-63.
24. Pernoud, Aliénor, 186.
25. Georges Duby, Dames du XIIe siècle: Héloïse, Aliénor, Yseult et quelques autres
(Paris 1995); trans, Jean Birrell, Women of the twelfth century: Eleanor of Aquitaine and six
others (Chicago 1997) 14; Jean Flori, Richard Coeur de Lion (Paris 1999) 42-43.
26. Jane Martindale, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine,’Janet Nelson ed., Richard Coeur de Lion in
History and Myth, Kings College Medieval Studies VII (London 1992); reprint in Status,
Authority and Regional Power, article XI, 24, 40.
27. Turner, Eleanor, 256-75, 280-89; also Turner, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine in the
Governments of Her Sons Richard and John,’ Eleanor: Lord and Lady, 77-94.
28. E.g. Eleanor’s continued collection of queen’s gold, H. G. Richardson, ‘The Letters
and charters of Eleanor of Aquitaine,’ English Historical Review 74 (1959) 209-11.
29. Richard Vaughn, Matthew Paris (Cambridge 1958), 32-33, 143, 152; V. H. Galbraith,
‘Roger Wendover and Matthew Paris,’ in Kings and Chroniclers: Essays in English Medieval
History (London 1982), essay X 5-48.
30. Quotation, Richard Vaughn, Matthew Paris (Cambridge, 1958) 134. Matthew Paris,
Historia Anglorum, ed. F. Madden, 3 vols. (1866-69), vol. I 288; a shorter account in
Chronica Majori, ed., H. R. Luard, 7 vols., (1872-83), vol II 186.
31. Natalis de Wailly, cits d’un ménestrel de Reims au XIIIe siècle (Paris 1876) 3-7;
trans. D. D. R. Owen, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen and Legend (Oxford 1993) 105-07, a tale
repeated by Jean Bouchet’s Annales d’Acquitaine, first published in 1524, Labande, “Pour
une image véridique,” 187, n 54, citing a 1644 edition of Bouchet, 140.
32. Owen, p 116, citing a mid-fourteenth-century chronicle, Chroniques de London,
(ed) G.J. Aungier (London, 1844), pp 3-5.
33. ‘Complaint of Rosamond,’ discussed by Owen, pp 125-28; the ballad Fair
Rosamonde,, Owen, pp 122-24.
34. Owen, Eleanor, 156-60.
35. Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest, 6 vols (first edition
London, 1840-1849; reprint 1893-99), I 171-72.
36. (Cambridge MA 1956) 159-60, Kelly writes that Eleanor summoned her daughter by
Louis VII, Marie of Champagne, to head the royal academy,’ although no evidence exists for
Marie at Poitiers. Marion Meade reinterprets Kellys academy’ in her 1977 biography to
re-visualize Eleanor as a feminist revolutionary, elevating women’s status by taming
belligerent young nobles, teaching them courtly respect for ladies, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A
Biography (New York 1977) 250, 251.
37. Owen, Eleanor, 163-64, 213.
38. Margaret Labarge, A Medieval Miscellany (Ottawa 1997) 20.
39. (Berkeley, Los Angeles 1973) 120.
40. E.g. Huneycutt, Female Succession and Language of Power,’ 189-91; also Huneycutt,
Alianora Regina Anglorum’ in Eleanor: Lord and Lady, 115-32; Pauline Stafford, ‘The
Portrayal of Royal Women in England, Mid-Tenth to Mid-Twelfth Centuries,’ in Medieval
Queenship, 143-67.
41. E.g. Allison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine. By the Wrath of God, Queen of England
(London 2000) 68: ‘. . . it is puzzling to find that most of Eleanor’s modern biographers do
not accept that she had an adulterous affair with Raymond.’ Flori, Aliénor, 321, 323, 328,
332-3; and Owen, Eleanor, 24-5, take no stand, but innuendos indicate their strong
suspicions. Owen writes, ‘Raymond welcomed her with open arms — all too open, some
were to hint.
Since the first ages, women have fought for existence in every field. In general, with the development of civilizations, a huge gap has emerged between men and women who instinctively share everything since their existence, especially in the field of administration. In time, male-dominated societies emerged, and women remained in the background in the administration, and male dominance established a general dominance over women. But women who have not given up their struggle have been able to break this situation in many periods and have gained a place in all parts of society. With the formation of societies, the ruling classes emerged, and the ruling and managed classes were born. Although there are some societies that are rarely managed by women, in general, the government has been in the hands of men. In this case, even if the woman could not intervene directly in the administration, she intervened indirectly. This effect of women on management has changed according to time, place, and societies. In cases where the woman could not be directly in the country's administration, they realized their influence through their husbands. In particular, the monarch's wives not only acted on their own husbands to ensure the continuity of their activities in the administration, but also fought for their children to become rulers in the future. They tried to establish an order between their children that would make them comfortable, they have struggled to have their chosen child be the ruler. The most important factor in this effect is the customs, traditions, and understandings of the societies they belong to. Because beliefs, traditions and customs, social values have also determined the spheres of influence of women. In this study, the effects of monarch wives belonging to three different geographies -West Asia and the Middle East, Europe- and three different nations – Arabs, Turks, Franks - on management will be examined and similar and different aspects of their effects on management will be tried to be revealed by applying the comparison method. When studying the wives of rulers, sources of the period will be considered centrally.
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A Queen's Power in the Twelfth Century: The Example of Eleanor of Aquitaine as Henry II's Queen, 1154-1168 W.L. Warren wrote in his massive 1973 biography, Henry II , "To judge from the chroniclers, the most striking fact about Eleanor of Aquitaine is her utter insignificance in Henry's reign." 1 Indeed, the chronicles contain only scattered mentions of her, and even those terse comments are marred by the misogyny of clerical authors. Thanks to the new field of medieval queenship studies, however, no one can accept Warren's dismissal of her significance for politics and government in her husband's English kingdom. Numbers of scholarly articles and books over the last two decades have focused on the 'office' of queen in the twelfth century, and they suggests that a detailed examination of Eleanor's public role as queen in England is in order. 2 Queenship studies suggest that Eleanor of Aquitaine was resisting a tide that was eroding early medieval queens' strength in the political sphere. Most scholars examining Eleanor's queenship, whether as the consort of Louis VII of France or of Henry Plantagenet in her second marriage, follow Marion Facinger's 1968 study of Capetian queens. They suggest that after the first quarter of the twelfth century the political strength of medieval queens in earlier centuries was declining. Facinger found that a French queen's influence as "an ally and partner in governing" was strongest when government was carried on informally within the king's great hall, where she was normally present with her husband. She saw queens' political roles weakening once administrative agencies staffed by professionals began breaking apart from the royal
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England in the late twelfth century enjoyed a 'golden age' of historical writing. group of English historical writers were all in clerical orders; five were secular clerks with ties to the royal court — Roger of Howden (d. c. 1203), Ralph of Diceto, Diceto or Diss (d. 1201), Walter Map (d c. 1210), Gerald of Wales (d. c. 1223), and Ralph Niger (d. c. 1199) — and four others were monks, Gervase of Canterbury (d. c. 1210), Ralph of Coggeshall (d. 1218), Richard of Devizes (d. c. 1200) and William of Newburgh (d. c. 1198), The crucial episode for blackening Eleanor of Aquitaine’s reputation, fastening onto her a black legend of sexual impropriety, occurred during the Second Crusade when Louis VII and his queen spent ten days in March 1148 at Antioch as guests of her father’s younger brother, Prince Raymond. Eleanor’s largely unflattering portrait in works of these chroniclers demonstrates her failure to meet a standard for queenship being defined in the twelfth century, part of a reformulation of gender roles that imposed harsher judgments of her than those passed on her predecessors as English queens.
The complex question of the relationship of women to power has been a vexed one for historians and feminist theorists for what is beginning to seem like a very long time. Approaching the question becomes more complicated when scholars investigate eras and cultures far removed from our own, when even basic assumptions about gender roles and differences often vary widely from ours. These complications are evident from the results of recent studies on women and power in the Middle Ages that have revealed an often puzzling picture (Erler and Kowaleski 1988: 1–17). Certainly medieval medical and scientific views of women, mainly inherited from antiquity, were extremely misogynistic (Bullough 1973). In addition, medieval Christian theologians accepted and furthered the patristic view of woman as the cause of original sin and portrayed women as having special barriers to overcome before they could achieve salvation (Børrenson 1981). But when it comes to relationships between actual men and women, the situation becomes ambiguous. For instance, even the most misogynistic of male theorists sincerely respected individual female friends and relatives (d’Alverny 1970; Ruether 1979). At the same time, some who professed respect and even reverence for the female sex as a whole maintained troubled relationships with actual women (McLaughlin 1975; Muckle 1955).
The use of castration as a punishment for treason and other forms of misdemeanour was a specific trait of the Norman realms of medieval Europe. In the post-Carolingian kingdoms of France, Germany and Italy, it was rarely practised and only known as a punishment for sexual crimes. In Scandinavia, Normandy, Anglo-Norman England and Norman Sicily, however, blinding and castration were regarded as an appropriate equivalent of the death penalty. The particular emphasis on masculinity implied in the Norman construction of noble honour, rendered the Norman warrior's body particularly vulnerable. Since his testicles were regarded as the prerequisite of his social existence, they became a legitimate point of attack whenever the ruler felt betrayed and decided to use force against his enemies. This gendered violence constituted a constantly renewed frame of reference, which defined political power as male and reinforced the notion that authority required a fully functional masculine body.
Eleanor, suo jure duchess of Aquitaine c. 1122-1204)
  • Jane Also
  • Martindale
also Jane Martindale, 'Eleanor, suo jure duchess of Aquitaine c. 1122-1204),' in H. C.
Bulletin de la société des antiquaries de l'ouest 4th series II (1952)
  • E.-R Labande
Still important is E.-R. Labande, 'Pour une image véridique d'Aliénor d"Aquitaine,' Bulletin de la société des antiquaries de l'ouest 4th series II (1952); new edition with preface by Martin Aurell (Poitiers 2005).
Damned If She Didn't and Damned When She Did: Bodies
  • John Carmi Parsons
John Carmi Parsons, 'Damned If She Didn't and Damned When She Did: Bodies,