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Eleanor of Aquitaine, the woman who was queen three times for 70 years

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The writer and last winner of the Planet Award Eva García Sáenz de Urturi He considers her “Europe’s first grandmother.” She refers to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the protagonist of the novel that has given her the literary award. But far from historical fiction or film adaptations, such as Katharine Hepburn in The lion in winter, the queen of France and England represents an unusual feminine power for her time; from his ability to make political decisions to the most absolute lust.

The responsibility of truly knowing the intriguing and surprising story of the mother of Richard the Lionheart falls to Alain-Gilles Minella, whose work, Eleanor of Aquitaine. A legendary figure in the time of the crusades and the troubadoursarrives in Spain in a new reissue from La Esfera de los Libros.

From reckless to a great statesman, historians and celebrities of the 12th century defined her with all kinds of adjectives. Where everyone agrees is in its great beauty. However, there are not many specific details about her facial features, as was the case with the majority of illustrious women of the Middle Ages, since the texts wander in metaphors and symbolism. “They will never be for us more than imprecise shadows, without contour, without depth, without relief,” explains Alain-Gilles Minella.

Eleanor would be born in Bordeaux on July 4, 1137 and destiny would lead her to be the most powerful ruler in all of Europe. At the age of 15 she married Louis VII, future king of France. From then on it would be shown that he embodied the figure of a woman who was born to reign.

Eleanor was a duchess, while her husband was a king. Nevertheless, the true power was held by the young noblewoman. “She would remain the powerful sovereign of the duchy of Aquitaine and the county of Poitou, a vast and rich territory compared to the king’s small Île-de-France,” clarifies the author of his biography.

Furthermore, the Poitevin and Aquitanian barons remained, above all, faithful to their duchess, now queen alongside her husband. The difference between a king who aspired to appear that way and a duchess who acted like a queen grew when one looked at the relationship they had as a married couple. “Luis had always forgiven her wife for everything, or almost everything, because he loved her and had accepted a long time ago that he would never understand her. Her temperaments were very different, almost opposite,” describes Alain-Gilles Minella. .

And it is that Various lovers have been attributed to Eleanor of Aquitaine., among them his uncle Raymond of Poitiers. The shyness and passivity of her husband were what the queen did not tolerate. “I have a monk husband,” she said on more than one occasion regarding Louis VII.

Second crusade

In the year 1144, different European kingdoms left for Jerusalem to begin the second crusade. Leonor, as expected, refused to stay in Paris while her husband fought against the Muslims. For her part, the monarch wanted her close to her because of what could happen in France with other men.

The truth is that that company was a failure. The return from the East was not easy either, because the ship on which Leonor was sailing was attacked by Byzantine pirates. The king was not with her: both had decided to return on her behalf.

Louis VII of France and Henry II of England.

The queen was sent to Constantinople, but a quick offensive by the Sicilians freed her from captivity. However, once on French soil, it had become clear that the marriage between Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine could not get ahead. Finally, and even though the king was aware that he would lose his power over his wife’s land, they managed to annul the wedding.

“Luis threatens to assert his right as a husband to take her away by force, to which Leonor responds that she would do well to verify rights that could well be null, since they are cousins, a degree of consanguinity prohibited by the Church,” he points out. Alain-Gilles Minella.

Queen of England

After the divorce was approved, Leonor did not take two months to find a new husband who would allow her to continue serving as queen: “The course of history is altered because A woman who is bored and wants to govern locks eyes with a young duke, ten years younger.“. That young man would be the future Henry II.

With the duke crowned king, and with the marriage carried out, Leonor once again became the most powerful woman in the Old Continent. Thanks to this union, the so-called Angevin Empire emerged, in which the kings of England, although vassals of the king of France, controlled a territory eight times larger than that controlled by Louis VII.

They had eight children, but as happened with the previous marriage, the love and trust ended up dissipating. It all started when Leonor suspected Enrique’s fidelity. Unlike Louis VII, Her new husband did love her and Leonor felt betrayed.. Luis, that first and scorned husband, was interested in fomenting tension between them.

In this way, Eleanor convinced three of her sons, Godfrey, Richard, and Henry the Younger, to conspire against the king of England. Henry II found himself in deep water, as he had completely ignored her wife’s courage to achieve her personal and political goals: “He believed that she would be content with being the duchess mother of Aquitaine. But Leonor is not ‘happy’. She was born for power, to share it, she cannot be deprived of it.”

Tomb of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England.

Never before had a woman had so much power., so much autonomy, in a society that is still warlike and therefore masculine. Never had a woman had such financial means that would allow her to surround herself with a court of artists,” adds the writer.

The rebellion, however, did not succeed as had been expected. Little by little, Henry II began to control the territories that had risen up against him. On the road from Poitiers to Chartres that led to the domains of the king of France, a group of the English sovereign’s men chanced upon a small group of Poitevin knights, whom they took prisoner. Among them was Eleanor of Aquitaine, disguised as a manwho was trying to meet her first husband for help.

Enrique arrived first and ended up locking her up for 15 years, until death took the only man she had ever loved. “In 1189, in the midst of tragic loneliness, Queen Eleanor emerges from prison haughtier and more elegant than ever. She is almost seventy years old. She is prepared to wear the third crown of her life,” narrates Alain-Gilles Minella. “She has been queen of France, queen of England and now she will be queen mother. For fifteen more years, honored throughout Europe for her wisdom and her knowledge of power, she will put her extraordinary energy at the service of the empire that with Henry she had invented, an empire that, existing only for them, will not survive them,” she concludes. .

Eleanor of Aquitaine died at the age of 82, on April 1, 1204. Throughout her extensive biography she reigned wherever she was required, she brought ten children into the world and always looked, according to her criteria, for the right heir. One of her last feats was to cross the Pyrenees on horseback at almost 80 years old to choose among her granddaughters, the Infantas of Castile, the one she would become the wife of the future Louis VIII.

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