Eleanor of Aquitaine
When viewing the Middle Ages, it is often assumed that women had little if no political power. However, there are certain women that still stand out in the minds of historians, regardless of whether they are queens or commoners. These women ruled vast domains either directly or indirectly, and have influenced many other women to do the same. One such figure was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Although her name is rarely mentioned in history books, her lineage can be found in almost every noble house in Europe. She not only embodied the virtues of a noble woman, but she was also a charismatic strong leader. Her opinion was often heeded in matters of state as well as personal struggles. Truly a remarkable woman, she has shown what being a cunning and graceful queen can do for a country.
Eleanor was born in 1122, to William X and Anor of Aquitaine. Eleanorís father, the Duke of Aquitaine, ruled a large plush kingdom that was rich in wine and rolling verdant hills (Dahmus 179). The young Eleanor grew up in a court of Troubadours who sang of courtly love and women. Her grandfather, William IX, is credited as being one of the first Troubadours who brought lyric poetry to life, and her own father continued the tradition (Dahmus 180). Eleanor, having been blessed with good looks, is attributed with being the subject of many of these verses and of inspiring men to sing to women of high station (Consort). These happy times however, were short lived when at the age of five, Eleanorís father died (Troubadour). On his deathbed, her father requested that she be given to Louis VI in order to wed one of his sons (Dahmus 181). This was done, and Eleanor and Louis VII were wed in the summer of 1137.
Although this seemed to be a wonderful union because it joined two large kingdoms together, their marriage was far from perfect. Louis VII was very attracted to his young wife and it is said that he "burned with an ardent passion for the maid" (Duby 6). She however was only fifteen and had never met Louis before her father betrothed her to him. The young couple soon had a daughter, Marie, much to the dismay of the king who wanted a male heir (Troubadour). The two lived in the time of the Crusades, and it was Louisís wish, being a highly religious man, to go on a Crusade of his own. With Bernard of Clairvauxís urging, Louis decided after the fall of Edessa, that he would embark on a Crusade to rid the Holy Land of the Infidel (Dahmus 186). Eleanor, being the stubborn woman she was, decided that she was going to go with him, and she did (Eleanor).
With her she brought thousands of vassals from her lands in Aquitaine , along with 300 of her ladies to help "tend the wounded." This however was met with much opposition as many noble men criticized her adventure (Eleanor). None theless, she accompanied her husband on his quest and insisted that they stay with her uncle in Antioch. Their visit soon produced negative attention in that many thought the...