I love, nah, adore, medieval history. I particularly like reading about the role of women in medieval Europe. There is a distinct lack on the plebs but oodles on the noble women, and particularly, Queens.
Ever since I was a child I was enamoured by Anne Boleyn, but a few years ago I came across Eleanor of Aquitane. We don’t hear much about her. But she was a Duchess in her own right holding vast lands in what is now France. She was Queen to two Kings, and mother to two. She travelled to the Holy Land in the second Crusade. And she encouraged and sided with her sons to overthrow their father, Henry II, for which she was imprisoned for, something like, 15 years.
She lived into her early 80s, became a nun, and saw the majority of her children die.
And she was scandalous!
She had strong opinions which were suppressed by her husbands, interfered in politics, rumour has it that she poisoned her husband’s mistress, she travelled extensively all over Europe and the Holy Land, and she basically shagged her way across half of Europe and the Middle East. Including her uncle.
When she was in her late 60s, she travelled to Navarre on the French/Castillian border, to pick up Berengaria of Navarre, who was her son, King Richard I’s new bride, and escort her home, travelling back and forth over the mountains.
For most of her life she was under the thumb of her husbands. But, because she was such a wealthy land owner, she had to marry someone really important to protect her lands. The Aquitanians were an unrully lot, but she was pretty skilled at keeping them in line, and they preferred her to her husbands. She was “their Duchess”. It was only really with the death of Henry II, and her release from prison by her favourite son Richard, that really gave her the chance to show how wily, how cunning, and how intelligent she was.
If she were alive today, she’d probably be Prime Minister. And she probably would have inhaled. She may be French, but I know who I would prefer….with Anne Boleyn as Deputy PM