Eleanor of Aquitaine

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Eleanor of Aquitaine (in French: Aliénor d’Aquitaine, Éléonore de Guyenne) (1122[note 1] – 1 April 1204) was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. As well as being Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, she was queen consort of France 1137–1152 and queen consort of England 1154–1189. She was the patroness of such literary figures as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-More, and Chrétien de Troyes.

Eleanor succeeded her father as suo jure Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers at the age of fifteen, and thus became the most eligible bride in Europe. Three months after her accession she married Louis VII, son and junior co-ruler of her guardian, King Louis VI. As Queen of the Franks, she participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade. Soon after the Crusade was over, Louis VII and Eleanor agreed to dissolve their marriage, because of Eleanor's own desire for divorce and also because the only children they had were two daughters – Marie and Alix. The royal marriage was annulled on 11 March 1152, on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate and custody of them awarded to Louis, while Eleanor's lands were restored to her.

As soon as she arrived in Poitiers, Eleanor became engaged to the twelve years younger Henry II, Duke of the Normans, her cousin within the third degree. On 18 May 1152, eight weeks after the annulment of her first marriage, Eleanor married the Duke of the Normans. On 25 October 1154 her husband ascended the throne of the Kingdom of England, making Eleanor Queen of the English. Over the next thirteen years, she bore Henry eight children: five sons, two of whom would become king, and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. She was imprisoned between 1173 and 1189 for supporting her son Henry's revolt against her husband, King Henry II.

Eleanor was widowed on 6 July 1189. Her husband was succeeded by their son, Richard the Lionheart, who immediately moved to release his mother. Now queen mother, Eleanor acted as a regent for her son while he went off on the Third Crusade. Eleanor survived her son Richard and lived well into the reign of her youngest son King John. By the time of her death she had outlived all of her children except for King John and Eleanor, Queen of Castile.

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