Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings

Book - 1978
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The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouveres, she played a large part in rendering fashionable the Courts of Love and in establishing the whole courtly tradition of medieval times. Divorced from Louis, she married Henry Plantagenet, who became Henry II of England. Her resources and resourcefulness helped Henry win his throne, she was involved in the conflict over Thomas Becket, and, after Henry's death, she handled the affairs of the Angevin empire with a sagacity that brought her the trust and confidence of popes and kings and emperors. Having been first a Capet and then a Plantagenet, Queen Eleanor was the central figure in the bitter rivalry between those houses for the control of their continental domains--a rivalry that excited the whole period: after Henry's death, her sons, Richard Coeur-de-Lion and John "Lackland" (of Magna Charta fame), fiercely pursued the feud up to and even beyond the end of the century. But the dynastic struggle of the period was accompanied by other stirrings: the intellectual revolt, the struggle between church and state, the secularization of literature and other arts, the rise of the distinctive urban culture of the great cities. Eleanor was concerned with all the movements, closely connected with all the personages; and she knew every city from London and Paris to Byzantium, Jerusalem, and Rome. Miss Kelly's story of the queen's long life--the first modern biography brings together more authentic information about her than has ever been assembled before and reveals in Eleanor a greatness of vision, an intelligence, and a political sagacity that have been missed by those who have dwelt on her caprice and frivolity. It also brings to life the whole period in whose every aspect Eleanor and her four kings were so intimately and influentially involved. Miss Kelly tells Eleanor's absorbing story as it has long waited to be told--with verve and style and a sense of the quality of life in those times, and yet with a scrupulous care for the historic facts.
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, c1978
ISBN: 9780674242500
Branch Call Number: Biography B Ele


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May 29, 2014

Beautifully written, even though it is over fifty years old originally. Well-researched and always interesting, just as Eleanor herself was always interesting.

My only concern is that I would not recommend this text as a first read about Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is quite in-depth and may be intimidating for those who are not huge history nerds like myself - there are so many people in and out of Eleanor's life that it is hard to keep track if one does not already have a solid foundation.

Still, I recommend it highly, absolutely, 100%. Such a fascinating woman in a time when women were never more than an afterthought in the successes of their husbands. Eleanor had many successes in her own right, and outlived two husbands and eight of her ten children (with Henry II). As for her two daughters with Louis VII, I can not say, as history has not given us much information about them. Wonderful, wonderful book.

RickUWS Feb 13, 2012

The scholarship of the book is unquestionably extensive and probably exhaustive. There is a lot of information, most of it pertinent, some of it pretty irrelevant to any but the most deeply involved reader.

I evemtia;;u quickly of the style that attempts to imitate the chroniclers she relied on for her research and that inhibits understanding. Her personalization through constantly referring to the Angevin, Plantagenet, Capetian or Poitevin nature or character is silly and unnecessary. Despite the Roman Catholic Church's and especially their pope's involvement in the politics and even warfare, her apparent affection for the institution is troubling and makes one question her reliability in other matters.

The book is a fine read if exhausting in some of the tedious accounts of marriages and petty local politics. It is a credit to the author that what appears to be the magnum opus of her life's work has stood up so well for more than a half-century. She captures well the sweep of the historical trends that included 2 crusades and huge geopolitical changes in northwestern Europe. The reader appreciates better the life and role of what is certainly the most adept and important woman of her period, when women were not even recognized as people.


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