Skip to main content

Queen Eleanor and The Young King. Part I (Guest Post)

Today I am delighted to welcome my friend Ulrik Kristiansen to the blog. Ulrik is an expert in the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry the Young King's illustrious lady mother. He is going to share his thoughts on Eleanor/Young Henry relationship with us, from the earliest years of the prince's life till his untimely death on 11 June 1183 and the sad days shortly afterwards. This is the first part in a 4-part series. We may expect the next installements in the upcoming months. Over to you Ulrik...


Thank you, Kasia, for asking me to guest post on your wonderful blog and thus give me a chance to talk even more about one of the Medieval personages that I am already giving live-talks about here in my native Denmark: Young Henry’s formidable mother - queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. I did my best to write something that is informative as well as entertaining for your readers!


Part 1 - Childhood (1155-1163)

Introduction: Much ado about Eleanor

Much ink - real and virtual - has already been spilt over Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204). She was, broadly speaking, in the first few centuries after her death mostly ‘tugged away’ in the chronicles and other writings. If  she ever popped up it was usually for the chronicler to reaffirm what a ‘terrible woman’ she was - and perpetuating rumors and outright myths about her.

Most highlighted in the rumour-department we have her never-proven youthful infidelity with her uncle Raymond of Poitiers, then ruler of Antioch. It all supposedly happened during the Second Crusade led by Eleanor’s first husband, king Louis VII of France. And depending on who you ask, Eleanor’s infidelity was more or less the cause of - or caused by - her rift with Louis.

                                Eleanor marrying Louis (left image) from Les Chroniques de Saint Denis, 14th century

In the myth-department there is the story that Eleanor brutally killed Rosamund Clifford - the long-time mistress of her husband, King Henry. It was either by roasting her alive or by poison, depending on the myth(source) in question - you may take your pick. And it all happened, of course, in 1176 - 3 years after Eleanor had been imprisoned by Henry Sr. for taking part in the Great Rebellion against him (1173-74)!

For there is, I will argue, very little evidence for Eleanor being anything else but a very headstrong, sometimes quite arrogant, and above all very powerful royal woman of the 12th century - and in my view she did not live a life which in any particular way was a 'mirror' of the 21st century’s female (or male) gender roles, political positions or concepts of love!

Eleanor’s life experiences certainly included some tantalizing glimpses of what we could call modern behavior of women (in the 12th century called ‘horrible’ :-). This esp. regarded Eleanor’s insistence on playing a primary role in politics, and not just content herself with being an adjunct to her two husband kings. But too much is read into these glimpses, I think, and they are too often interpreted in a too ‘modern’ way - with too little evidence to back up any conclusions (all of which I will get back to in later posts - especially part III - about the Great Rebellion).

For now: I will briefly mention the best peer-reviewed academic research I have found concerning Eleanor. In my opinion it is to be found found in the book Eleanor of Aquitaine - Lord and Lady (ed. Bonnie Wheeler), and - most likely - in the upcoming Inventing Eleanor by Michael Robert Evans.


In fact, for such a prominent ruling woman - who is still remembered so much 900 years after she lived! - there is precious little information about both Eleanor’s thoughts and actions. Most of what we have of any substance comes from some - usually critical - passages in contemporary or near-contemporary chronicles about Eleanor: The queen who had ‘dared’ to rebel against her second husband (and push for a divorce from her first - Louis VII)! But the first book above (Lord and Lady) does a solid job of turning every stone of actual evidence - from the so called Eleanor vase to various laws signed by Eleanor. And of course those angry old male chroniclers :-)

Just one step down from sober academic prose, we find Ralph V. Turner’s Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England . This is probably one of the best nonfiction books written for a popular audience. Turner at times also falls for the understandable temptation to write as if he is sure what Eleanor may have thought or felt at certain times in her life, but it is difficult to maintain a narrative, of course, if you constantly have to tell the reader you are really guessing. I know that from my own live-talks we are delivered in a short time (2 hours) and to a supposedly more entertainment-hungry audience, than people who have time to read a long book.

So qualified guess work is part and parcel of what we ‘know’ about Eleanor, and we have to accept that. That goes, too, for Eleanor’s relationship with her firstborn surviving son.

Her greatest wish


As most of you faithful readers of Kasia’s blog are probably aware, Henry’s mother had a first marriage to the French king, Louis VII from 1137 to 1152. One of the most trying problems for Eleanor, aside from her apparent personal incompatibility with the pious Louis, was her inability to have children. Or rather, to have male children. After 8 years of marriage, she finally did give birth to the first of two daughters, Marie in 1145, and then Alix in 1150/51. But since the Capetian royal line was traditionally strictly based on male heritage this was not, well, good enough.


Whatever Eleanor thought of Louis personally, and of her husband's family in Paris, she was undoubtedly much distressed by this state of affairs. Not necessarily because she missed children, as a modern mother would (and she had two daughters with whom she, apparently, had normal relations for a royal Medieval woman). The true sting was most likely that she could not have a male child because it impacted on her feeling of personal pride and self-worth, which must have been considerable, given what we know of her entire life.

But in times when it was virtually a given that problems related to fertility were primarily the fault of the woman, it must have torn Eleanor’s heart that she was not able to produce a male heir - especially after having been barren for so long. Aside from this personal aspect of her suffering, which must assume that she was religiously devout as a normal Medieval person - which would be many times more than the average 2015-person, at least in Europe. Eleanor did not practice Christianity to the level of Louis, who went around in a monk’s robe whenever he could (!), but she would have interpreted all the goings-on in the world through the lens of God’s pleasure or displeasure. If something went well, it meant that God was pleased with your life. If not … And the reasons could, as so often, be quite mysterious. All you could do was hope and pray for the outcome you wanted.

And then, from 1152 and onwards, everything seemingly changed. Eleanor was married anew to Henry Fitz Empress, the future King Henry II of England… and began to have children. Many more children. Of both sexes. The first was William, The Young King’s older brother. But if Eleanor accepted that God controlled events in life on earth to a large degree, she cannot have been entirely assured that his Will was finally with her. For William died - only a few months shy of his third birthday - in April 1156 …

  Henry II of England, Eleanor's second husband, as shown in the stained-glass window in Sainte-Pierre Cathedral, Poitiers

We can only imagine the grief and horror of those left to mourn his untimely passing. During our preparation of this guest series, Kasia described in an email this tragedy very poignantly:

... it must have been as if God turned his back on [Eleanor] and her family … and her and Henry's path was no longer the one of neverending triumphs and successes. I strongly believe that the parents back then must have been shaken and distraught by the deaths of their children, but perhaps could resign themselves to them somehow, because their faith was so very integrated with their lives.

The situation then, in this gloomy spring of 1156, is this: William is dead but … Eleanor and Henry are left with Henry The Young King, who had been born February 1155. He in turn is followed by his younger sister, Mathilda -  born also in the spring of 1156! One little boy - and another girl.

Bottom line: One heir to the throne - after all these years.

Eleanor was in her early 30s at the time, and in an age where the natural lifespan ended around 40 - maybe 50 for nobles … so the uncertainty about the future must have been palpable. But there was also hope - probably a hope kept alive at times only by Eleanor’s considerable personal strength. Like when you push on towards some goal, with gritted teeth … or just hold on and … wait. I think Kasia made a quite realistic assessment of Eleanor’s mood at the time when she further remarked in our correspondence that:

... with the king on the Continent Eleanor had no other choice but to handle it herself. The only comfort was her second son, 16 months old at the time. Not only physically, but also ‘We lost our firstborn, but we still have one more and hopefully others will follow’.


And the Young Henry did survive, as we know -  at least beyond childhood. So in the late 1150s it must have appeared to Eleanor that God had finally was ‘with’ of her. Although the insecurity of when that could change would always be there.

Even so, it is not hard to imagine that as the years passed, and the Young King grew up, Eleanor’s relief and probably pride as well - about her first surviving son - must have grown as well. Because of his extreme importance to her - personally, politically, emotionally - it seems inevitable that she would not have attached herself to him closely in the beginning.

We can of course only guess at Eleanor’s exact feelings for young Henry in those early years but they were probably relatively strong, even if they were shaped by the ‘conditions of the times’. Thus, there would have been a personal emotional attachment, especially for Eleanor who spent most of her time with the young children (minus nannies, etc.). We can sure recognize this as parents in 2015!

But more foreign to us today, there were the political and dynastic imperatives that probably gave Eleanor mixed feelings about young Henry as well. She knew all her children were likely to be sent away from her when they were still relatively young, e.g. through a marriage alliance. Although Henry Sr. had the last word in these ‘deals’, Eleanor was likely a participant in this planning.


The future for young Henry would more assuredly take place in domains, perhaps far removed from where his mother was. Thus, from when he reached 6-7 years of age Henry the Young King would likely spend a number of years in another - allied - family’s household to be educated and later learn various martial skills (we will follow up on that in part II). But what do we then know about the young prince and Eleanor in those earliest of years? Not much and yet …

The (very) young king and Eleanor

In her 2013 doctoral thesis  “Establishing adult masculine identity in the Angevin royal family c.1140-c.1200, Elizabeth Jane Anderson cautions that:
Information that sheds light on children and childhood in the twelfth century is scarce, we know little about children’s lives or even about adults’ attitudes towards children. Attempting to locate specific children in this period is all but impossible outside the higher end of society and even in royal circles only glimpses are seen in the documentary evidence.

We do find occasional references to those children born to the royal household. Births and deaths tend to be reported in the documentary sources and occasionally baptisms are also included. There are also sporadic instances where the movements of individual children are recorded, however on these occasions they are almost always noted simply as appendages to their parents or other adults. 

Anderson then goes on to analyze information from Medieval royal accounts and itineraries, many of which were transcribed into readable books in the 19th century. From studying especially Court, household and itinerary of King Henry II from 1878 - (read it online here!) - Anderson finds “a trend of both Henry and Eleanor having had at least some of their children with them when they travelled ... “ And furthermore that:
it appears that their children, male and female, are exclusively seen with Eleanor when they are in the infantia life stage [until about age 7 - Ulrik] and not with Henry or with both parents.

... In every instance noted in the Itinerary, the children of the royal couple, male or female, when recorded during their infantia stage, are noted as being with their mother and this remains true until they had reached the age of seven.

According to Anderson this was quite normal in the earliest stage of children’s lives in this period, and should therefore not be seen as if Eleanor from the outset was closer emotionally connected with the children - including Young Henry - than was Henry Sr. (Although, that would - all other things being equal - have been the inevitable consequence, one could argue.)

Sea voyage as shown in Bede's Life od St Cuthbert, 12th century

It also seems as if Eleanor travelled at times with Young Henry and Mathilda, when she didn’t exactly need to or could have left them safer in the care of nannies and servants. In the abovementioned book Lord and Lady, p. 103, is for example mentioned a crossing of the English channel during bad weather in January of 1163, where young Henry and Mathilda were present with Eleanor.

Anderson adds:
There is no reason for either Henry or Eleanor to wish to travel with their children, in particular across the channel, a frequently hazardous journey, when they could leave them in safety with staff unless they had a genuine desire to be with those children. Therefore I would suggest that they had indeed formed emotional bonds with their children while young.

I have had a little bit of difficulty establishing the sources for these “hazardous crossings” - not all of them seem to be mentioned in the 1878-accounts (see above). Also, the author in Lord and Lady refers to work by Turner, which I have not read - and to the book by D. D. R. Owen, Eleanor of Aquitaine - Queen and Legend, which is quite good but not always easy to discern sources from. This may be due to my own shortcomings in reading the material, or the fact that I did not spend more time to wrap up this blog post which has already been delayed greatly since its inception in early November.

So consider it merely a first word of caution, as regards the use of such ‘spots’ of evidence to establish that Eleanor was together with her young children more or less. Even if we had, say, 5 unambiguous instances in the accounts over a period of, say, 2 years of Eleanor travelling with Henry the Young King, what does that mean? For how much did other royal mothers do the same? It is only through this kind of comparison that such evidence can give any meaning, I would say.

The second word of caution regards what exactly we can infer from this evidence. Was young Henry in the arms of Eleanor most of the time or with nannies and servants? And what was the purpose of the journey? Was it really so ‘abnormal’ as we want to think?  There could have been some political or security-related reason we do not know of that made Eleanor risk those winter-crossings of the Channel with her first surviving son, instead of leaving him in the care of servants. And even if there weren’t such reasons there could also have been other, more emotional reasons of equal strength compelling Eleanor to keep young Henry close.


Let’s imagine Eleanor wanting to cross the Channel for some important political meeting in, say, Normandy during the winter. The weather is harsh - there is risk, as there always is when sailing in Medieval times. Her aides and servants may have strongly asked the Queen to consider leaving Henry the Young in London for a few weeks until she could return. For his safety! Even though Richard and Geoffrey had been born in the late 1150s, Henry was, after all, the heirBut for exactly that reason the headstrong Eleanor may have chosen to take him with her! She could have felt that she was best suited to take care of him - and that she would not risk others looking after him, even for a little while, unless it was absolutely necessary. I don’t mean nannies or servants in London, of course, when Eleanor stayed there herself. I mean when Eleanor was NOT there … when she had to travel. I’m sure even in the present day many of us will know these feelings for our children, even if they are not slated to be kings :-)

Again, we cannot know if this is true, or was true, or was true in some instances. We will not ever know for sure. And that can indeed … be frustrating! The risk is, if we are too timid now with regard to conclusions, that Eleanor and her sons become faint enigmatic figures of long ago, whom we cannot ‘feel’ because we don’t allow ourselves to make qualified guesses about them.  Like: ‘Not enough evidence - let’s not talk more about it.’

The alternative often seems to have Eleanor and young Henry (or any other person from those times) ‘boxed in’ as a definite person with a definite agenda. I think this is equally unsatisfying when we know the scantness of the actual evidence!

I feel that there is a third way to relate to this problem: We must allow ourselves to accept the possibility of all perspectives - of what Eleanor could have felt or thought with regard to the care of her first son, who lived to grow up … That, I will argue, leaves us with a richer feeling of what their bond could have been like - richer than if we seek certainty that we can never have. It is the act of spending time to contemplate all the different ways in which the queen could have cared for her son that allows us to sense them as a real mother and son. Even if they are 900 years removed from us.

This is the way I like to approach history, and so I hope you have enjoyed this post. If I have made any mistakes, do point them out to me and I shall make amends :-)

Until then, look forward to the next installment - coming in January: Eleanor, The Young King and William Marshal!




____________________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for this thought-provoking read, Ulrik! I look forward to your upcoming posts.




Comments

  1. I'm really grateful for having the chance to discuss Eleanor and Young Henry on a blog dedicated to The Young King himself. Thanks a bunch - for the nth time, Kasia! :-D

    Should anyone have wishes for what to focus on in the next post - when a certain famous knight enter Henry and Eleanor's lives - let us know!

    Best,
    Ulrik

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm honoured, Ulrik :-)

      And yes, let us know if there is any aspect of Eleanor, Henry and William Marshal story you find especially interesting. Although, I am pretty sure that we may expect yet one more in-depth and thought-provoking post ;-)

      Delete
  2. Excellent article and I nodded along to all of it - I agree with everything you say Ulrik. It's my thinking on the subject too. Inventing Eleanor is a superb book if you can get hold of it - it's been out for about a year now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Elizabeth - that means a lot to me! I was of course thinking about the paperback-version of Inventing Eleanor, which will be out in March 2016. The cheapest hardcover I saw on Amazon UK was 65 pounds, which is a bit much for me :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am waiting for the paperback edition as well :-)

      Delete
  4. I'm really delighted it's coming out in paperback - really deserves a wider audience. Essential reading IMO.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Kasia, first time I’ve seen your new visual theme. The page is easy to read - nice to see a cleaning of the castle.

    Ulrik, so grand a topic on such epic figures. I resonate with everything you have said, so much so.

    I like that you are open to interpretations. Perhaps the greatest is stepping back. Even if the historian has trouble with Eleanor’s details, just look at this woman’s traverse. What female royal would leave the bon-bon life to travail so far, cross rugged mountains in snow, burn in the desert of Syria, be involved in battle, sail the castaway seas, engage with Paris, Byzantium, Jerusalem, Palermo, London, the Loire, the Thames, the Garonne, the Rhein, Puivert, Castile. Change in point of view is worth 100 IQ - and Eleanor could not help but be genius.

    Pleased that you share so many fine references with readers, the link to the ‘Court ... of King Henry II’ is worth the price of admission. Elizabeth A.R. Brown’s first article in Lord and Lady is an eye-opener. She and Ralph Turner led the charge for the image of the true Eleanor. Yet, a problem with large biographies –and Turner is no exception – is they scope by theme not using the power of chronology which sheds greater light on Eleanor’s character. Yet some themes go unseen. For example, Turner barely mentions Thomas Becket. You asked for focus and I hope you mention the Chancellor’s involvement in raising the children - Henry first at Berkhamsted - a Camelot of his own making - all the way to Canterbury where Henry & Margaret were educated until the dunghill hit the fan. As much as we love William Marshal, do not forget that Thomas was a chevalier leading up to 700 of Eleanor’s knights, and when Henri II failed to take Toulouse, even after truce was signed, it was Thomas who took Quercy to, if I may say, lay at the feet of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Clearly Young Henry was influenced spiritually and martially by this overlooked man. A bit on Becket please.

    In your forthcoming maternal view of the Young King, I am not sure if you have thoughts on the oft-overlooked role Eleanor returned as a crusader. She like all pilgrims returned with an aura for surviving the most God-forsaken crusade. The battle-worn developed a respect for the survival-value of honor, chivalry and conscience - believers were slain - the lesson of Cadmos & Damascus. At the court in Poitiers, her children would count as martial instructors those who marched with and defended her including Lord Taillebourg (Geoffrey of Rancon), the Lord of Sanxay (Saldebreuil), and various knights and bodyguards. One of which may have been a Lancelot figure, a man that both Marie de France celebrates, and Chretien de Troyes begins writing of, but when Eleanor is thrown in prison, he can never finish the story. I know you are strict historians - but I look to the archaeology of the arts. In summary, your thoughts on her crusade legacy and the roll of the arts - for certainly Henry is noted as a gentleman, initially.

    Looking forward to your next contemplations - mrb

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I'll remember Becket - when I find the 'angle' for him :-)

    I am quite fascinated by the Crusade and Eleanor's role in it, but I'm not sure I can see what distinct influence it has/could have had on her relation with the Young King? However, as you say, there were a lot of Eleanor's vassals who might have/had a role in the Young King's martial instruction, so I might reflect on the significance of that. I'll give it some honest thought - and thanks for the suggestion.

    Best,

    Ulrik

    ReplyDelete
  7. Really enjoyed this guest post. We think we know so much about Eleanor, but in truth there is a lot of mythology that has become to be believed to be fact. No doubt she was a remarkable woman for her times. I just wish we knew more about her, especially her personal thoughts. She lived to an exceptional age, and losing some of her children before her must have been agonising - Young Henry, Geoffrey and Richard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anerje - I agree wholeheartedly about this 'guess work': There is no reason to believe that the loss of Eleanor's children did not touch her deeply, even if she was a very different parent than today's mothers in our part of the world. There is a charter somewhere from the end of her life, after the loss of Richard and Joanna, in which she writes something like: 'God who has left me in this world ...' (I will have to dig up the exact source!) But in any case, that remark always moved me deeply and I mention it every time we reach this stage in my talk about Eleanor. I want people to consider that despite all her power and arrogance she has reached a place in life where most people she knew, including her children, have died. This is an existential situation of loss that I think is impossible not to feel connected with across the ages. For in truth, how different could it have been from what people feel today in the same situation? I remember the look of my grandmother-in-law when my father-in-law was buried this spring after dying from cancer. She was utterly crushed. An old lady of 86, surviving her son ... But this is life, with shadows and light, as in 1199 as today.

      Delete
  8. I totally agree Ulrik - whatever the century, the loss of a child is hard to take for any parent. Even at a time when infant mortality was higher, in some ways, a child grown into an adult and then to die must have been devastating emotionally - and I also have a similar experience as yourself in my family. My grandmother never recovered.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, and Eleanor lost all her children, except for Eleanor/Leanora and John before she died, both Richard and Joanna in 1199.

    ReplyDelete
  10. So glad to see this lively discussion here! A couple things spring to mind. First, good historians interpolate and speculate. We have too. As long as we make clear what is fact and what is hypothesis,this is the best way to foster understanding of a distant age in which the record is (inherently!) incomplete.
    As for Eleanor herself, she has become "larger than life," a legend, and so getting back to the core is particularly difficult, and perhaps a little -- if I may be heretical -- counter-productive. What I mean is: don't we want a few legends in our lives?
    Finally, I'd like to pick up your point about comparisons. It is important to remember that Eleanor was not the ONLY powerful woman of her age. Her mother-in-law was made of steal! (Which I believe is one reason Henry and Eleanor got along so well at first; he was used to powerful women who fought for their inheritance). Henry's uncle, furthermore, was only King of Jerusalem by right of his wife, and Melisende ALSO led a rebellion against her husband (Fulk d'Anjou). So Eleanor was in very good company. I think to many modern commentators on Eleanor treat her as an exception, forgetting the other women, and so furthermore completely underestimate the high levels of education, the legal rights and the evident independence of aristocratic women. Too many sources focus on what churchmen preached and theorized about women rather than on what women were actually doing. Just a little food for thought!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for contributing to the lively discussion, Helen! :-)

      Okay (deep breath) prepare yourself for one of my usual long-winded replies ...

      First, I agree very much with you as regards the role and function of historians. I am not a historian, it should be said - I have a master's degree in social sciences, but I am well aware of academic and other ideals for the historian's work.

      It is of course often ideals which are difficult to uphold, making clear boundaries between fact and hypothesis, especially when you write about a larger-than-life person - in whom you can't entirely avoid mirroring yourself and your biases! (I expounded at length - perhaps too much LOL - about my own ideals in this regard over at Kathryn Warner's blog:

      http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.dk/2015/10/how-to-avoid-maligning-historical.html)

      Second, as regards the value from trying to get to the 'core' of a Medieval person whose 'core' you can never get to ... it all depends on situation and inclination for me.

      Yes, I admit it: I am *personally* inclined to do just that and my live-talks are branded as trying to do just that (the situation).

      I also love the aforementioned challenge of trying to combine this goal with telling a good story. On the other hand I do appreciate your point about wanting a legend in our life. Or two LOL.

      I also think it's great when authors write fiction from a legend about a certain Medieval person - be it 'light' novels or that stuff with 500+ page count LOL.

      I do think it's great when historians do a fair attempt at non-fiction, even if it buys into one legend - like "the troubadour queen" - uncritically. There may be other value in the work, so a few blind spots surely can be forgiven. Owen, whose book I mentioned above, is one such author. It is a very worthwhile read despite some 'blind spots'.

      Then we have ... other historical 'biographers' who are less squeamish with the border between fact and hypothesis as you say - and the less we speak of them probably the better LOL.

      But ... as I said in my post, I've come to accept that there is a threshold beyond which I can never pass when it comes to searching for the 'real Eleanor' - or anyone else from long ago. I like to fill this empty space with many different perspectives, trying to get a sense of what the person could have been like - for real. But that is purely because of my own temperament.

      Delete
    2. On the other hand: I *am* also a sucker for legends and great stories! When I'm in the mood, that is :-) I still devour books and movies with 'good yarns' and role-play and have done so since childhood. And sometimes I find some interesting attempts at reconciling the two angles to historical persons. We have for example a Danish author - Anne-Marie Vedsø Olesen - who has written some books about Eleanor during the Crusades.

      In those books the author very cleverly plays on the 'black legend' about Eleanor's infidelity with uncle Raymond - by constructing a narrative that gives room for a very sensual queen who doesn't mind being romantic with the young male protagonist as long as it is discrete.

      As Eleanor says to her young lover at one point: 'Do you think, given my position, I would be so stupid as to have an affair with another man of high position (Raymond)' - or something to that effect. Ample room in that kind of story for a romantic, self-asserting queen who could also have been the real Eleanor. Very clever indeed!

      Thank you also for bringing up the other powerful women of Eleanor's times. I think what 'conspired' to make Eleanor the legend we've been talking about is simply her longevity. Truly she did some exceptional things, but if she had died on the Crusades or in Old Sarum she would have been remembered much differently, I contend. Perhaps the same if Henry the Young King had outlived Richard and not the other way around, but that is another story.

      Thanks for sharing your 'food for thought' - it certainly gave me some! :-)

      Delete
    3. There have always been powerful women, and likely also on those levels of society that didn't make it into the chronicles. We know from burial finds that there had been female physicians in the Roman towns at the Rhine (maybe Rome itself as well though that's more difficult to prove) - it makes me wonder what the status of those woman was and how difficult it may have been for them to pursue a line of work instead of becoming the matron of a household.

      Re. the royal level: I'm doing research on the Ottonians in Germany, and Adelheid and Theophanu come to mind immediately. Dang, there's another blogpost or two I should write. ;-) Even Otto's first wife Eadgyth of Wessex, less well documented than the spirited Adelheid of Burgundy, must have had a good deal of influence on her husband. I find it very interesting that he wanted to be buried by her side in Magdeburg Cathedral instead of the crypt in Quedlinburg like his forefathers.

      Delete
    4. Fascinating - about the female physicans, Gabriele! I will keep a look out for more info on them. Good luck with the Ottonian research - I'll also keep a look out for your blog :-)

      Delete
  11. Thank you Ulrik for this excellent, beautifully written post on one of our very favorite 12th C royal figures. And thank you Kasia, for introducing your guest to us. I too wish that we knew more about her personal thoughts. From what we know as fact, Eleanor represents so much of what we value in our female heroines & mentors. How much more valuable to have had glimpses into that formidable female mind & heart, to have known her feelings as a wife & as a mother. But we don't, so the enigma will continue to inspire great writing such as we have just had the pleasure of reading. Looking forward to your future posts.

    Once more Kasia, a big thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for those words, Joan! I sometimes wish I was both telepathic and had a time machine, too, when I research these 'distant mirrors' of ourselves, like Eleanor was (certainly for both men and women!). But I will have to do with the research, alas. Speaking of which: I do look forward to delving into the next blog post, right after X-mas ... maybe I will even do some delving in advance :-)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

19 December 1154. Coronation of Henry's Parents

On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry the Young King's parents were crowned king and queen of England at Westminster Abbey by Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury*. The chronicler Henry of Huntigdonexpressed the feelingsthat must have filled all the hearts in the ravaged by the civil war England: … Henry was crowned and consecrated with becoming pomp and splendour, amidst universal rejoicing, which many mingled with tears of joy!’ (Henry of Huntingdon p.296-97).
The then Henry fitz Empress was staying in Normandy when he learned that on 25 October king Stephen died. ‘… Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, with many nobles, dispatched messengers in all haste to their now lord the Duke of Normandy, intreating him to come over without delay, and receive the crown of England. Hindered, however, by contrary winds and a stormy sea, as well as other circumstances, it was not till six days before Christmas that, accompanied by his wife and brothers, with a retinue of great nobles and a strong forc…

28 February 1155: In Celebration of Henry the Young King's Birthday

On the pages of his Chronicon Geoffrey, prior of Vigeois, described in meticulous detail how young Henry packed as much repentance into his deathbed as he could before he passed away.  Geoffrey left nothing unsaid. The hair shirt, bed of ashes, halter around neck, Bernard, bishop of Agen administering the last rites, and many other men of religion … all was there to ‘draw the readers attention away from the affairs of this world to those of the next’. Of course, Geoffrey, a man of religion himself, must have seen young Henry’s untimely passing as a divine punishment. But there were other voices who disagreed with that of the prior. Thomas de Agnellis, for example, in his sermon claimed that as the Young King’s sad retinue was toiling over the jolly sunbathed hills and dales of Aquitaine, it became the focus for many miracles. The rumors of the late king’s sainthood began to circulate. The monasteries pillaged by him shortly before his death- as it happened some of the most sacred shri…

1 December 1135. Death of Henry I, the Great-Grandfather of Henry the Young King.

On 1 December 1135 Henry the Young King’s paternal great-grandfather and namesake, Henry I ofEnglanddied after 35-year reign. The reign marked by legal and administrative changes that assured prosperity and peace in bothEngland andNormandy(the latter had been won by Henry from his elder brother Robert Curthose in 1106).
At the time of his death Henry was staying inNormandyat a hunting lodge at Lyons-la-Forêt. As Henry of Huntigdon reports: “… he partook of some lampreys, of which he was fond, though they always disagreed with him; and though his physician recommended him to abstain, the king would not submit to his salutary advice… This repast bringing on ill humours, and violently exciting similar symptoms, caused a sudden and extreme disturbance, under which his aged frame sunk into a deathly torpor… “ (p.259-60)

The old king was known for the “great delight in his grandchildren, born of his daughter by the Count of Anjou”* and they were  probably with him in those last moments of his…