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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherPenguin Books
File size5.4 Mb
Release date 01.11.1991
Pages count416
Book rating4.06 (862 votes)
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Eleanor grew up in the Dukedom of Aquitaine at a time when most of France was ruled by England. In northern Europe, and England, women had little social standing. Aquitaine, in the south, named "land of waters" by the Romans, was a rich land, filled with orchards and vineyards; life was good for those in power. Leisure was preeminent and women were more highly respected. They could inherit property and many became wealthy landowners. Such was Eleanor's case. She had inherited Aquitaine, which made her a rich prize for any king. She was only fifteen when her father, the Duke, died, and King Louis the Fat (he was so enormous he was virtually unable to sit up) arranged a marriage between his second son, Louis, and the attractive Eleanor, now heir to the most prized lands in Europe.

Louis was a retiring young man best suited, most thought, for the monastery. Eleanor wasted no time — remember she was still an adolescent — corrupting (in the mind of her mother-in-law) Louis to the more secular ways of the south. Their marriage was a catastrophe. He was ineffectual, indecisive, inadequate, generally most ofthe "in's" one can apply. Louis' Second Crusade was a disaster. The presence of Eleanor and her ladies with their enormous baggage train made travel difficult. The Pope's personal intervention, virtually dragging them to bed to force reconsumation of their marriage was the catalyst for the final dissolution, because the product of this pathetic reunion was a girl, and Louis' Capetians desperately needed a male to continue the line.

Then Henry and the Plantagenets entered on the scene. Interestingly, Plantagenet was not a family name. It came from a nickname of Henry's father, Geoffrey of Anjou, who used to wear the yellow blossom of the broom plant, the planta genesta, in his hair.

Eleanor was tired of Louis — once she said it was like being married to a monk — and when she met eighteen-year-old Henry, eleven years her junior and heir to Anjou and all of England, she fell head over heels in lust for him. Meade suspects that sexual attraction, richly spiced with political advantage, was a major justification for her divorce from Louis. Consanguinity was the publicly announced reason permitting annulment. She married Henry eight weeks later. It was a stinging slap at the Capetian, for he and Henry were bitter enemies.
Henry Plantagenet became the most radical monarch in English history. During the next thirty-five years he revolutionized government, streamlining it and making it so efficient the government could function king-less if necessary.

Eleanor played a major role in the reexamination of the role of women in the twelfth century. Even the Church abandoned its traditional view of women as an instrument of the devil, but women continued to oscillate between superiority and inferiority. Eleanor and her daughter by Louis, who lived with her as she approached her later forties and became estranged from Henry, made a conscious and deliberate effort to define the female role in a legal code of social conduct called Tractus de Amore et de Amoris & medies. It was loosely modeled after Ovid but is almost the opposite to his Art of Loving. Their tract proclaimed woman to be the" dominant figure, the man merely a pupil who must be carefully instructed until he becomes a fit partner for his lady. " Woman is supreme, a goddess to be approached by her man only with reverence.

When Eleanor died at age 82, she had been a queen for sixty-six years. She produced several sons, including Richard Coeur-de-Lion, famous for his third crusade but notorious for his flaunted homosexuality (a problem because it meant he would produce no heir), and King John, whose meanness, recklessness and appalling judgment resulted in the Magna Carta. Perhaps because of his evil personality, he was the only English king ever named John. Eleanor was the glue that held the Plantagenets together, and after her death, her first husband's descendants made considerable inroads into Henry's Normandy and her beloved Aquitaine.

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