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History of English Royal Family (eleanor of Aquitaine)

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Essay title: History of English Royal Family (eleanor of Aquitaine)

Eleanor of Aquitaine

The Troubadour's Daughter

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born around 1122. Her grandfather, William IX, was the wealthy and powerful duke of Aquitaine. He was also a musician and poet, acknowledged as history's first troubadour.

William IX didn't just sing about love. By the time he was twenty he had married and divorced his first wife, Ermengarde. His second wife was Philippa (or Maud) of Toulouse, the widowed queen of Aragon. They had two sons, William and Raymond, and five daughters. When the Troubadour tired of Philippa, she moved to the same nunnery where Ermengard lived. After Philippa's death, Ermengarde tried to force William to take her back, but the duke had other ideas. He had abducted a married woman called Dangereuse ("dangerous" in French), and she was now his mistress.

In time the Troubadour decided that his elder son, William, should marry Dangereuse's daughter Aenor. (Dangereuse's husband was Aenor's father.) The younger William didn't want to marry Aenor, but he had no choice. The marriage took place in 1121, and a year or so later Eleanor of Aquitaine was born. She was followed by a daughter, Aelith (or Petronella) and a son, William Aigret.

When Eleanor was about five years old, William the Troubadour died and her father became Duke William X. A few years later, Eleanor's mother and brother died. Now Eleanor was heir to the vast realm of Aquitaine.

Like his father, William X was a patron of the troubadours and storytellers, and growing up in his court Eleanor developed a lifelong love of music and literature. Proud of his lively, intelligent daughter, William gave her an excellent education. She travelled through Aquitaine with him, preparing for her future role of duchess. Father and daughter were close, and it must have been a harsh blow for Eleanor when William, while making a religious pilgrimage, died suddenly of food poisoning.

Eleanor was just fifteen, and her life was about to change forever. On his deathbed William had asked his men to commend Eleanor to the care of Louis the Fat, king of France. Louis was no fool. He knew just what to do with his young, very beautiful, extremely wealthy ward - marry her off to his own son and heir. And so on August 1, 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future King Louis VII.

Queen of France

Both Eleanor and her husband were in their teens, but they had little else in common. Eleanor was high-spirited and strong-willed; Louis was a quiet, religious young man, regarded by some as a saint. No one ever mistook Eleanor of Aquitaine for a saint.

A few days after the wedding, Eleanor's father-in-law died and her husband became King Louis VII. Eleanor, who was not one to stay at home making tapestries, threw herself enthusiastically into the role of queen. To the dismay of many observers, the new king respected his wife's intelligence and consulted her frequently on matters of state. Queen Eleanor frequently visited Aquitaine, where she was well-regarded by her father's former vassals.

Eleanor's sister, Petronella, was also keeping busy. With Eleanor's encouragement, a nobleman divorced his wife to marry Petronella, which didn't make the family of Wife Number One very happy. War broke out, and Louis led his troops against a town called Vitry, setting it on fire. The townspeople sought refuge in a church, which burned down. More than one thousand people perished. Louis was wracked by guilt.

During the first years of her marriage Eleanor had just one child, who was stillborn. An influential miracle-working abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, told her that she was childless because God disapproved of her wicked ways. Either Eleanor temporarily mended her ways or God relented, because in 1145 she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Marie. But Eleanor wasn't ready to settle down and be a typical medieval mommy.

The Second Crusade

In 1144 the city of Edessa (located in modern-day Turkey), which had been in Christian hands for almost fifty years, was captured by Muslims. Most of its citizens were massacred or sold into slavery. Inspired by this event and the preaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Louis VII and German emperor Conrad III organized their own separate military expeditions to the Middle East. The French and Germans had little interest in cooperating with each other; still, their dual effort is known as The Second Crusade.

Eleanor had no intention of sitting quietly at home while her husband went off on his adventure. The king's advisors may have been opposed to taking Eleanor and her company of 300 women along on the Crusade, but Eleanor

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