Marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II

12065661_164507167224707_8889680313541973800_nEleanor of the House of Poitiers was born somewhere between 1122 and 1124, the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatellerault. At a young age she was granted title of Duchess of Aquitaine, and by the age of thirteen/fifteen, on the death of her father in 1137, Eleanor inherited the Duchy in her own right. William had anticipated her value and had her betrothed to the soon to be Louis VII who was approximately two years older, the marriage took place in July of 1137, around which time both William and Louis VI passed away, and the Aquitaine lands passed as dowry to her husband.

The marriage however was not a happy one. By the age of 19 Eleanor of Aquitaine had become so bored with her deeply religious husband, Louis that she had started dreaming of more adventure in her life. She declared her intent to accompany Louis on the second crusade. Noble born ladies did not go on crusades and Louis immediately forbade her. But being the strong willed woman that she was, she went anyway. In 1147 she accompanied her husband, thousands of knights and three hundred attendant ladies and set out for Constantinople. This journey awakened something she had been missing for so long, romance and adventure, being free. In fact on entering Antioch, and meeting her equally courtly and passionate uncle, Raymond, it was claimed she enjoyed herself a little too much. When Louis went on to Jerusalem Eleanor refused to accompany him, and when eventually they returned to France they did so in separate ships. Eleanor had grown bored of the pious king and had no intention of becoming once more, a cloistered wife.

Back in France, Louis became even more immersed in Church affairs while Eleanor held court for the Princes and nobles of Europe. One of these was 17 year old Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy, great-grandson of William the Conqueror and prospective heir to the English throne, provided he could oust the usurper, Stephen. Henry, born in 1133 to Geoffrey of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I, was eleven years younger than Eleanor and obviously caught her eye. Eleanor’s life was soon to undergo a dramatic change.11250085_164507230558034_6234774235016835856_n
Eleanor had her marriage to Louis annulled two years later following the birth of her second daughter, on the grounds of consanguinity, an extremely versatile political weapon as all the royal families of Europe were related to some degree. Eleanor was even more closely related to Henry. The powerful territories of Aquitaine reverted to its Duchess and she happily left for her castle of Poitiers.

As Eleanor traveled to Poitiers, two lords –Theobald V, Count of Blois, and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (brother of Henry II, Duke of Normandy) tried to kidnap and marry her to claim her lands. As soon as she arrived in Poitiers, Eleanor sent envoys to Henry, Duke of Normandy and future king of England, asking him to come at once to marry her. It was rumored by some that Eleanor had had an affair with Henry’s own father, Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, who had advised his son to avoid any involvement with her.
On May 18, 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry of Normandy. It was one of the most powerful unions in European history and with half of France already in their possession they resolutely set about to reclaim England. On October 25, 1154 Henry was crowned King Henry II of England at Westminster Abbey and Eleanor became Queen again but this time of England. For the second time she seemed to be satisfied with her life. She had found a husband who was 11 years younger and although their relationship was reputed to be tumultuous and argumentative, over the next thirteen years, she bore him five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan.

Adela