Friday, March 9, 2012

William X, Duke of Aquitaine

by Christy English

Like many amazing women, Eleanor of Aquitaine had a strong man behind her. Without the love and support of her father, William X, Duke of Aquitaine, Eleanor would never have risen to power as duchess at all.

Of course, I have no written proof of William's devotion to his daughter. He never wrote a letter on vellum to posterity, telling the world what an amazing woman and ruling duchess he hoped Eleanor would become. But William's actions, as well as Eleanor's life, speak for themselves. William never remarried after his wife and only son died, though he was under a great deal of pressure from both Church and secular authorities to do so.

The Flag of Aquitaine

Though he had many enemies in the Church, William did not stay humbly in the background but worked to help his ally become Pope. That bid for papal power failed, and a man from an enemy faction won the battle for the papacy, putting William on the losing side of the battle for supremacy in the Church.

The new pope required William to do penance for the sin of backing his enemy, calling on the Duke of Aquitaine to choose between making a pilgrimage to Rome to be shriven of his sins, or a pilgrimage to the popular holy site, Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. William chose the closer route, and before he began his journey to Spain, he made certain that Eleanor was a ward of the Crown of France. That way, in the event of his death, Eleanor would be protected not just by his own barons, who had sworn fealty to her directly on Easter in 1136, but by the King of France.

So when William died of drinking "bad water" at Santiago, he did not die in vain. Eleanor was ready to take her place as duchess and to finish brokering her marriage to the young son of King Louis VI of France. Duchess at fifteen and Queen of France less than six months later, Eleanor more than proved herself to be a powerful woman in a world of men. She took up the reins of power as her father had taught her to, and protected that power all of her life. Had he lived to see Eleanor's strength come to fruition, I have no doubt that William would have been proud of her.

For more about Eleanor of Aquitaine and my obsession with her life, please visit me on my website


  1. Thanks for the post, I'm interested in the flag - one lion, and similar to the 3 lions of William Duke of Normandy.

  2. Christy, your research on Eleanor, and your deep affection for her, are so admirable. Thanks for this glimpse of William.

  3. It would be interesting to know more of William -- his poetry for example, as he was one of the most respected of poets in the troubadour manner. Troubadours weren't just wandering poets, many were powerful noblemen.

  4. He sounds like a heroic man. I love the idea of speculating that he was proud of his daughter.

    Thanks for sharing the post!


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