Sunday, May 11, 2008

Royal Yummy Mummy

This week, in honor of mother’s day, I am featuring the truly captivating and beautiful, yummy mummy, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was born in 1122 and had 10 children including two kings of England, Richard I(Richard the Lionheart) and John. Today, having 10 children alone would qualify you for some serious respect on mother's day. But Eleanor survived more than just the dangers of child birth.

Here is a bit of information about this facinating queen:

Mice of Men
Eleanor married Louis VII and became queen of France in 1137. Eleanor and Louis could not have been more different. Louis was quiet and religious and could often be indecisive. Eleanor was vivacious, bold, loved adventure and craved the romance of courtly love. Her love of adventure sent her on the crusades to the Holy lands with Louis. (Louis had more religious motives.)

It wasn’t long before Eleanor was bored out of her mind with her lackluster marriage and begging for a divorce. Eleanor was not the type of mom to stay home and pray while her husband bungled wars. She wanted to be free. At the time, Eleanor had only given birth to two girls in 15 years of marriage with Louis. (some historians have inplied that there was not much action in the royal bedroom). Louis needed a son. He was eventually convinced that he must remarry to get an heir. The pope granted Eleanor her annulment and she literally galloped as fast as she could away from France and into the arms of husband #2, the 18-year-old Plantagenet stud, Henry II. Eleanor was 30 at the time…practically washed up for the 12th century.

The Cougar tries to tame the Lion
Eleanor had traded in her dull, pious hubby for a hotheaded philanderer. Eleanor certainly cared for Henry, but their temperaments ultimately clashed. Eleanor resented Henry’s many affairs and Henry could not tolerate Eleanor trying to run the show.

Who needs a man to rule
Eleanor and Henry had eight children before Eleanor decided to leave and set up court in Poitiers. Surrounded by troubadours and artists, she educated her sons on the art of both love and war. For five years Eleanor flourished. These were Eleanor’s golden years, but her independence was not to last. Trouble started when Henry ordered her to turn over the province’s tax revenues to his treasury. Eleanor refused.

Never mess with a man’s mom
When Henry and Eleanor butted heads over Poiters' taxes, she put her years of mom power to good use. She incited her sons to rebel against their father. Henry was having none of it. He put down the rebellion and locked Eleanor up. Eleanor was imprisoned until Henry died in 1189. Set free at the ripe, old age of 67, she continued to arrange marriages, put down rebellions and offer support and advice to her children. Now that is a super mom.

Eleanor died in 1204 at the age of 82.

In a time where queens were merely baby mills, Eleanor was not a woman to take a back seat to the men in her life. But her unconventional quest for power meant that her reputation had to suffer through scandals and rumors. After her death, historians even wrote that she was a demon. In reality, her combination of sexuality and power simply sat uncomfortably on the thrones of England and France.


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Eleanor is one of my favorite Queens and has been ever since I saw A Lion in Winter as a kid on cable. I've read many biographies and novels about her since then.

MmeT said...

She was one sassy momma. I'm glad you're giving her her dues.

Anonymous said...

Eleanor was 30 at the time…practically washed up for the 12th century.

are there any contemporary writers saying she was all old and wrinkly?
because it is a common mistake to think that just because the average age-of-death was a lot lower back then there were almost no old people. there was a very high rate of infant-mortality.
imagine a population were half dies at the age of 5 and the other half at the age of 75. then on average people would die at 40, but a 40-year old person would not be considered decrepit.
if every couple got 4 children, 2 of which died young, then 50/160=31% of the total populace would be older then 50 years at any given time

Bearded Lady said...

anonymous - I didn't say she was "old and wrinkly". In fact, Eleanor was reported to be quite beautiful late into her age.

On average, women died earlier than men and the explanation behind these earlier deaths is a simple and one that is very easy to track - childbirth.

Old people (especially old women) were viewed very suspiciously (often accused of being witches) and were relegated to the outskirts of society.

That's not to say that old people didn't exist. I don't think you can make any of those generalizations.

Let me know if I can answer any more questions. There are a few posts on this blog on the history of childbirth and witchcraft that might clear up any confusion

Anonymous said...

Before she married she was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right