With Eleanor of Aquitaine in Poitiers

Photo credit: Par Danielclauzier — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30841442
Eleanor (Aliénor) of Aquitaine, 12 C France, was arguably the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages. Enormously wealthy, she had inherited the Aquitaine -- a huge region NOT part of what was then a very small France -- when she was 14, when her brother died. Poitiers was and still is, the main city of the region, and I visited it July 19-20, 2018.

Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, became Queen of France by virtue of her first marriage in 1137 to Louis VII, and brought all her lands to that marriage. She had two daughters (whom she never really knew) with Louis, participated with him in the Crusades, and then had the marriage annulled by the Pope 15 years later, uncommonly keeping her lands. Although she had many residences, she always considered Poitiers "home", and when there she lived in the family château, built by her grandfather (the original "troubadour", Guillaume IX) -- the spectacular Palais des Comtes de Poitou-ducs dÁquitaine (Palace of Poitou counts and Aquitaine dukes). Her residence was in the impressive Maubergeon Tower.

The building is now the Palais de Justice, and back in the day, the main hall was where state dinners were held. I thrilled at being in the same room where Eleanor had dined, but my camera's battery had died, so I have to substitute this link for my own photos -- but I WAS there, sitting on the steps in front of the triple fireplace!


She quickly married again, this time Henry Plantagenet (whose father, rumor had it, probably had been her lover), who became Henry II, King of England. Eleanor bore him 9 children, two of whom died, and spent the rest of her life warring with them, or plotting their ascension to the thrown. She was Queen of England and mother of three Kings of England, and her entire family story was one of constant battles and plots to win territory for England and France, and to assert the conflicting powers between church and state (Thomas Becket was Henry II's Archibishop of Canterbury).

Because she supported son Henry's rebellion against his father, the king imprisoned her (read the play, "Lion in Winter" or watch the Oscar-winning 1968 movie with Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor); however, she outlived him, went on to serve as regent when her favorite son King Richard the Lionhearted went on his Crusades, during which he was killed; and saw another son, John, become king. She died at the age of 82 in a convent in Fontevraud, where she is entombed next to Henry II, her son Richard the Lionhearted, and his wife.

Eleanor's tomb is unusual in that it has her resting for eternity reading a book (a woman!), because of her education and degree of literacy. However, while she is reputed to have been extremely beautiful, common wisdom is that there are no pictures of her, except, perhaps, for the one at the very bottom and center of "The Crucifixion", the stained glass window ("vitrail" in French) that is said to be the oldest in Christiandom, and is installed in the magnificant Cathédrale St Pierre in Poitiers that Eleanor and Henry had built.

Eleanor and Henry are said to be pictured in the center on the bottom,
with this being perhaps the only authentic image of the Queen.
Again, because my camera was no longer working, I have no photos of my own of this gorgeous cathedral, but I was there, and you can see it all here (although text is in French).

The historical scope of it all was simply breathtaking.

A la prochaine --


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