By Yoon Joung Lee
Eleanor of Aquitaine, renowned for her outstanding beauty and wealth, was born on 1122 in Bordeaux in the region of Aquitaine; as the oldest of three children, to her father, William X, Duke of Aquitaine and her mother, Aenor de Chatellerault. Eleanor grew into a woman of great strength and intelligence.
When she was fifteen in 1137, she inherited her father’s land as her father died in that same year. Just a few months after her father’s death, she married Louis, heir to the throne of France. Her husband ruled as king when his father died less than a month later. Eleanor was anointed a Queen. They had two daughters, Marie and Alix. With her strength and courage, she accompanied her husband on the Second Crusade with thousands of knights and three hundred attendant ladies.
On the voyage to the Second Crusade, Louis and Eleanor decided to separate and publicly acknowledge their marriage had failed. Even the Pope intervened to heal their relationship, but it was not possible and the marriage was annulled. It’s still not clear but many people assume that the main cause of their separation is the fact that they had no son as their next heir.
In 1152, she married Henry FitzEmpress, Duke of Normandy and heir to the throne of England. It was one of the most powerful unions in European history. Two years later, Henry was anointed King Henry ll of England at Westminster Abbey. Aquitaine then became part of the Plantagenet Empire. Eleanor also got her second chance to be Queen.
Although Henry was eleven years younger than her, the age didn’t limit her love. With Henry, she was finally satisfied and began to be actively involved in creating the powerful dynasty. Henry and Eleanor had eight children, five sons and three daughters. Including her 2 children with Louis, Eleanor had a total of ten children. When she gave birth to her youngest son, John, she was forty five years old. Unfortunately Eleanor’s first two sons died in infancy and her 3rd son, Richard the Lionheart, became a troubadour, courtier, famous crusader and eventually King of England and Duke of Aquitaine by his mother’s lead.
Her husband Henry spent most of his time away to defend his territories and Eleanor spent much of her time with her beloved children and grandchildren, arranging them marriages. With her efforts, she made Aquitaine English crown lands until The Hundred Years War (1337), when French nobility battled for control over the region and won.
In 1189, her son Richard became the King as Henry died. But Richard the Lionheart only sat at the King’s position for the next ten years and died by a stray arrow wound in 1199. He was buried next to his father. His brother John took over Richard’s place. The heartbroken mother lived only five more years and died at her age of eighty-two in 1204. Eleanor of Aquitaine was, without doubt, one of the most colorful and powerful Queens in history.