Sunday, October 9, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Mother of Kings

by Christy English

When researching my first novel, The Queen's Pawn, I began my obsession with Eleanor of Aquitaine. A woman who ruled the Duchy of Aquitaine in her own right, Eleanor wore two crowns in her lifetime, the first as Queen of France in 1137 and her second as Queen of England in 1154. She only gave birth to two daughters with her first husband, Louis VII, but three of her sons with Henry II went on to wear the English crown.
By Frederick Sandys -
scan of painting, Public Domain,

Henry the Younger was crowned during his father's lifetime. A drinker, a gambler, and a man who enjoyed the company of the ladies, young Henry was often too busy to pay strict attention to politics, though that did not stop him from joining Eleanor's rebellion against his father in 1173. All the sons were forgiven for the roles they played in that rebellion; Eleanor was handed all the blame. But Henry the Younger never sat on the throne alone as he wished. In 1183, he died unexpectedly, leaving his younger brother, Prince Richard, as the heir.

By Mattbuck (talk · contribs) -
This file was derived from: 
London MMB »0Z1 Palace of Westminster.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0,

On the death of Henry II in 1189, Prince Richard became Richard the Lionhearted, King Richard I. Richard spent only six months of his reign in England. Most of his rule was spent trying to reclaim Jerusalem on the Third Crusade and escaping captivity when one of his "brother kings" decided to hold him for ransom on his way home. Eleanor bought Richard out of captivity, and he returned to his domains to fight King Philippe Auguste in France. Richard died in the siege of Chalus from an arrow wound that festered in his shoulder.

Though no doubt Eleanor grieved deeply for her favorite son, she came out of self-imposed retirement to make sure that her youngest and last remaining son, Prince John, took the throne of England.

John Lackland, now King John of England, had many adventures, losing much of his father's land in France to Philippe Auguste, warring constantly with the Irish and the Welsh, and being forced by his barons to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. John was the last son of Henry and Eleanor, and his own son went on to become Henry III.


  1. I have always had a fascination for Elinor of Aquitaine for being such a strong ruler in her own right, but also the influence she, a woman had, over two separate kingdoms.
    Thank you for your post.

  2. Thank you, Sophia Rose. Eleanor of Aquitaine is such an incredible woman, that it is hard to reduce her accomplishments to one post, or one topic. Her strength is an inspiration to me today over 800 years later.

  3. Thanks to Christy English, author of The Queen's Pawn for sharing this wonderful overview on one of my all-time most fascinating women, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.

  4. Like Sophia, I have always thought Eleanor of Aquitaine the most fascinating of creatures. Thank you, Christy, for adding to the information I already possessed. It was quite fascinating.


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