Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Governments of Her Sons Richard and John
The marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II produced two sons, Richard I the Lionheart, and John Lackland, who survived to succeed, between 1189 and 1216, to the English throne, the duchy of Normandy, the Angevin domains in the Loire valley, and Eleanor’s patrimony in Aquitaine. Though her reputation derives largely from earlier events in her life, especially her unhappy marriages to two kings, she exercised her greatest political power as a widow. Eleanor manifested her strongest maternal feelings in Richard and John’s adult years, as she struggled to help them secure their inheritances and preserve their possessions. She did not follow many noble widows’ example and live quietly on her dower lands, though the purpose of dower was to “liberate the new lord’s house from the presence of his mother, so that he would have by him only his wife.”1 As one of her biographers, Régine Pernoud, has written, Eleanor had accumulated during her 1174–89 imprisonment treasures of energy that she would spend without counting the cost during her sons’ reigns, the most burdensome, active, and eventful years of her life.2 An examination of Eleanor’s career in those years, taking into account some fifty surviving acta, adds depth to one-dimensional accounts of her by misogynist medieval writers, and by modern authors absorbed in courtly literature.
KeywordsPipe Roll Unhappy Marriage Royal Charter French King Great Political Power
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