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Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life
by Alison Weir
ISBN 0345405404 / 9780345405401 / 0-345-40540-4
Publisher Ballantine Books
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Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and mother of three, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the great heroines of the Middle Ages. Despite the fact she lived in an age in which women were regarded as little more than chattel, Eleanor managed to defy convention as she exercised power in the political sphere and crucial influence over her husbands and sons. In this beautifully written new biography, Alison Weir, author of five widely acclaimed chronicles of England's royal rulers, paints a vibrant portrait of this truly exceptional woman, and provides new insights into her intimate life.
Born in 1122 into the sophisticated and cultured court of Poitiers, Eleanor came of age in a world of luxury, intrigue, bloody combat, and unbridled ambition. At only fifteen, she inherited one of the great fortunes of Europe--the prize duchy of Aquitaine--yet her father had been shrewd enough to realize that her future security lay in a powerful marriage. Consequently the sensual Duchess submitted to a union with the handsome but sexually withholding Louis VII, the teenage king of France. The marriage endured for fifteen fraught years, until Eleanor finally succeeded in having it annulled--only to enter an even stormier match with the aggressively virile, hot-tempered Henry of Anjou, who would soon ascend to the English throne as Henry II.
As Weir traces the fascinating intersection of public and private lives in Europe's twelfth-century courts, Eleanor comes to life as a complex, boldly original woman who transcended the mores of society. Eventually, after enduring Henry's flagrant infidelities, she showed herself a formidable and dangerous enemy of the King's interests by plotting to overthrow him with their sons Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey. A tireless political fighter and a born survivor, the humbled Queen emerged from sixteen years of imprisonment, age sixty-seven, to rule England with wisdom and panache during the absence of her son, King Richard the Lion Heart, while he fought in the ruinous Third Crusade.
Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long life of many contrasts, of splendor and desolation, power and peril, and in this stunning biography, Alison Weir captures the woman--and the queen--in all her glory. With astonishing historic detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, Weir recreates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent past era. Eleanor of Aquitaine is the crowning achievement of an extraordinary career. [via]