Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir

  14. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  15. Roger of Wendover.

  16. Matthew Paris.

  17. Ibid. Matthew Paris claimed he was told this by an eyewitness.

  18. After King John's death in 1216, Isabella of Angouleme married Hugh X de Lusignan, the son of her former betrothed.

  19. Ralph of Diceto.

  20. Adam of Eynsham.

  21. Roger of Wendover; Ralph of Diceto; Roger of Hoveden.

  22. Foedera.

  23. Charter Rolb.

  24. Ibid.

  25. Roger of Wendover.

  26. Roger of Hoveden; Rigord.

  27. Rigord.

  28. Her body remained unburied until the church at Villeneuve was completed in 1225, when she was interred there beside Guy of Thouars and their daughter Alice.

  29. Gervase of Canterbury.

  30. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  31. Ibid.

  32. Ibid. Marie, Philip's daughter by Agnes of Meran, was five years old.

  33. Rigord; Guillaume le Breton; Roger of Wendover.

  34. Roger of Wendover.

  35. Calendar of Documents, ed. Round.

  36. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  37. Ibid.; Guillaume le Breton; Chronique des eglises d'Anjou; Roger of Wendover.

  38. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  39. L'Histoire des dues de Normandie.

  40. Letter from King John to the English barons, quoted by Ralph of Coggeshall.

  41. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  42. L'Histoire des dues de Normandie.

  43. Guillaume le Breton; Ralph of Coggeshall.

  44. Roger of Wendover.

  45. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  46. L'Histoire des dues de Normandie.

  47. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  48. Ibid.

  49. Roger of Wendover.

  50. Ibid.

  51. Ibid.

  52. John's quarrel with the Lusignans was not resolved until 1214, when Hugh's son, the future Hugh X, was betrothed to Joanna, the daughter of John and Isabella. After John's death, the betrothal was broken and Isabella herself married Hugh X.

  53. There she would remain, albeit generously treated, until her death forty years later in the reign of John's son, Henry III.

  54. Roger of Wendover.

  55. Ralph of Coggeshall; Matthew Paris.

  56. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  57. Roger of Wendover.

  58. Chronique des eglises d'Anjou.

  22 "A Candle Goeth Out"

  1. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  2. Roger of Wendover.

  3. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Ibid.

  6. L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechale.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Roger of Wendover.

  9. Rotuli Litterarum Patentium; Ralph of Coggeshall.

  10. Rotuli Litterarum Patentium.

  11. Roger of Wendover.

  12. Guillaume le Breton.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Annals of Margam (in Annales Monastici).

  15. Ibid.

  16. Matthew Paris.

  17. Rotuli Litterarum Patentium.

  18. Most notably Richard and Powicke.

  19. Ralph of Coggeshall; Chronicle of Lanercost.

  20. Referred to in Powicke, The Loss of Normandy.

  21. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  22. Annals of Margam.

  23. Matthew Paris.

  24. Roger of Wendover.

  25. Rigord; Guillaume le Breton.

  26. L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechale.

  27. Roger of Wendover.

  28. Ibid.

  29. L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechale.

  30. Ibid.

  31. Ibid.

  32. Ralph of Coggeshall.

  33. Ibid.

  34. Annals of Waverley (in Annales Monastici). Some later sources, notably L'art de verifier les dates, give the date of Eleanor's death incorrectly as 31 March.

  35. Isabella was buried at Fontevrault on her death in 1246. Drawings of all the effigies prior to restoration were produced by C. A. Stothard in The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain, 1876.

  36. Joanna's tomb was irrevocably damaged during the French Revolution.

  37. A record of all those souls to be prayed for by the community.

  38. Quoted in Bienvenu, Alienor d'Aquitaine et Fontevraud.

  39. Liberate Rolb.

  40. Charter Rolls.

  41. Philippe Mouskes, Chronique Rimee (quoted by Marion Meade in Eleanor of Aquitaine).

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  Eleanor of Aquitaine

  Alison Weir

  A Reader's Guide

  A Conversation with Alison Weir

  Sheri Holman grew up in rural Virginia and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her novel, The Dress Lodger, was published as part of the Ballantine Reader's Circle in January 2001.

  Sheri Holman: Growing up, Elizabeth I and Eleanor of Aquitaine were two of my very favorite heroines. Was there anything in the writing of The Life of Elizabeth I that made you naturally turn to Eleanor as your next subject?

  AW: There was nothing as such in the writing of Elizabeth I, but I felt its success opened the door to my writing a biography of Eleanor, an idea I had been trying to sell to my publishers for about eight years! I enjoy writing about strong, charismatic women, and Eleanor was, I felt, an ideal choice.

  SH: There have been some marvelous movies made about Henry II--- Becket (starring Richard Burton) and Lion in Winter with Katherine Hepburn and Richard Harris. Had you seen either of these films when you started work on the book, and if so, how well do you think they represented the historical players?

  AW: I first saw Becket and The Lion in Winter on their releases in 1964 and 1968 respectively; I own the video of The Lion in Winter, which I have seen several times, but Becket is not available on video in the U.K., although I used to have a long-playing record of it. I am therefore very familiar with both, and they are great favourites of mine. Given the dramatic licence inherant in any historical dramas, I would say that both films are legitimate treatments of their subjects, if not in the letter, certainly in the spirit. Katharine Hepburn's portrayal of Eleanor in The Lion in Winter is masterful, as is Peter O'Toole's portrayal of Henry II in both films. Richard Burton made a superb Becket. 1 am not so sure about Richard I being portrayed as a homosexual, because there is very little evidence that he was; this view of him tells us more about our own age than about the 12th century. Nor do I think that John was the backward idiot as portrayed in The Lion in Winter. However, the treatment of Alys of France is probably very perceptive. And, yes, Eleanor was allowed out of custody to spend Christmas with her family, although we have no record of what went on between them. James Goldman has set his screenplay in an appropriate historical context and used the known facts to weave a credible tale. If you haven't seen these films, see them now! They don't make them like this any more!

  SH: You say in your introduction that this book "felt more like a piece of detective work than a conventional historical biography." Can you give us a few examples of snooping? Anything that doggedly eluded you?

  AW: For me, "snooping" meant trawling through piles of ancient chronicles and more modern books in order to extract as m.iuv. snippets of information about Eleanor as I could find. The detective work involved pie
cing them all together and deciding which sources were the most reliable, especially where there was no corroborating information. There are many things rli.it eluded me and every other person who wants to find out rhc truth about Eleanor: what she really looked like, her relationships with her husbands and chddren, the truth about her rumoured sexual adventures, her reasons for separating from Henry II, her whereabouts and activities during the years in which she merits no mention in the sources, and the true extent of her political powers. The fragments of information ue have do not give us a whole picture, so I have had to infer my conclusions from what is available. I realise that some people may not agree with them.

  SH: How difficult is it to reconcile primary sources that put forward diametrically opposed portraits of Eleanor's character? Were their certain of her contemporaries you tended to trust more, and on what did you base this trust?

  AW: This leads on from my previous answer. If there is no corroborative evidence that lends credence to a source, I have tended to trust those who were near to events and therefore prob.ibk in a position to know, or who knew such people. One must always take into account the prejudices of mediaeval chroniclers, many of whom were monks, and many of whom believed that women were of little importance anyway in God's scheme of Creation, and that females who behaved like Eleanor were an abomination!

  SH: Eleanor has held a lasting fascination for generations of historians. How do you think portrayals of Eleanor have changed to reflect the concerns of the age in which they were written?

  AW: For centuries, portrayals of Eleanor reflected the legends that grew up in her own time and in the century after her death. So powerful were these legends that it was not until the 19th century that historians thought to question them. Before then, Eleanor was seen at best as a shameless adulteress, and at worst as a murderess. In the best mediaeval tradition, her story was used to ram home a moral lesson, a ploy that was still evident in Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England (1850s). Twentieth century historians found it hard to be objective about Eleanor, and some even drew historical conclusions from the debunked romantic legends. Now we have become obsessed with her sex life, which no doubt reflects the society we live in. Furthermore, we feel obliged to assess Eleanor within the context of fashionable women's issues, which in my opinion is not a legitimate approach when dealing with historical subjects. And we waste endless rivers of ink on post-Freudian analysis of her character and relationships, when not enough is known about them and such an approach is almost certainly inappropriate and could result in wild inaccuracies. Which probably leaves you in no doubt as to where I stand on such issues!

  SH: What do you consider to be the truth behind Eleanor's extramarital affairs? How have past historians dealt with them? Do you think her frank sexuality makes her more appealing to a modern readership?

  AW: We do not know the truth about Eleanor's so-called extramarital affairs, and we probably never will. The conclusions I reached in my book were based on inferences from contemporary sources. Most other late 20th century historians have drawn other conclusions, i.e. that such allegations were fabricated by scandal-mongering chroniclers who were biased against Eleanor anyway. In my opinion, these authors had an exaggerated romantic view of their subject, and I feel we should not ignore what contemporaries were implying.

  SH: Setting aside your historian's cap and thinking like a mother, how do you rate Eleanor's maternal instinct? Did you ever find yourself becoming frustrated by her? Or applauding her behavior?

  AW: We know very little about Eleanor's maternal role, but speaking .is a mother myself, I would have found it hard to endure the long separations from my children. Nor do I really approve of mothers having favourites, as Eleanor certainly did. But who are we, in our age, to judge the actions of those who lived in a very different era, with different priorities?

  SH: You've told me that you received an early call to history through the fine historical novel Katherine, by Anya Seton. Do you think well-researched, rigorous historical fiction can be helpful in understanding a person and her period?

  AW: I entirely agree that well-researched historical fiction can be an aid to understanding history. In many cases, it was an historical novel that introduced me to historical persons or periods. There are, however, two problems with this. Firstly, there is very little of this kind of fiction about nowadays; I was told recently it was a very unfashionable genre when I tried to publish a novel about Lady Jane Grey. Secondly, when it was fashionable (in the 60s and 70s), the genre became very debased by poorly researched, tritely written books. There are very few historical novels of the calibre of Anya Seton's Katherine.

  SH: What's next? Will you work your way through the Plantagenets?

  AW: I am due to publish Henry VIII: The King and His Court in June 2001, and am now researching another historical whodunnit, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Damley. Future tides are now under discussion, but I am keen to write another mediaeval book, possibly on John of Gaunt of Isabella of France. Or perhaps a book about the Tower of London. I have submitted about a dozen ideas to my agent, and I'm bursting to write them all!

  Topics and Questions for Discussion

  1. How responsible do you think Henry was for his sons' disloyalty? What aspects of his personality alienated boys? How responsible was Eleanor in their disaffection?

  2. From the evidence provided here, Eleanor appears to have had many extramarital affairs, and a nearly psycho-sexual hold on her own sons. Did you find the author's arguments convincing? How do you think Eleanor used her sexuality to retain power in a male-dominated world? What would a modern psychiatrist make of this family?

  3. Given what you know about the religious attitudes of the period, how conventional or unconventional do you believe Eleanor was? Were politics or piety responsible for her break with Louis? For her horror at Becket's murder? For her refusal to "take the veil" at Fontverault, even after she had effectively retired from public life?

  4. There is a theme of imprisonment running through this family story. Eleanor and Alys of France were both held captive by Henry; Rosamund was locked away in her secret bower. Discuss how captivity relates to women's condition of the period.

  5. Eleanor and her daughter Marie of Champagne were two of the most influential patronesses of the troubadours. Discuss the ideals and realities of Courtly Love in relation to Eleanor's dealings with the men in her life.

  6 . The author tried to be even-handed when dealing with the controversial issues, such as Richard I's purported homosexuality, or Eleanor's dealings with Rosamund. Do you think she was successful in this? What is the difference between reassessing history and revising it? Do you think a periodic reassessment is necessary to keep history alive?

  7. The author says in her final chapter that Eleanor was considered a wicked queen up until Bishop Stubbs' late-nineteenth century biography. What do you think had changed about society that allowed him to think of a strong woman as heroic? Can one era's portrait of a historical figure be more "true" than any other era's?

  8. How do the scandals of the current royal family compare to the scandals of the Plantagenets? What do you think accounts for our endless fascination with royal lives?

  9. Are you familiar with film and dramatic treatments of this story? How will your enjoyment of plays such as King John or Murder in the Cathedral, or films like Lion in Winter or Becket be influenced for having read this historical account?

  10. Do you think Eleanor was a pawn or a power-broker? Is it possible to be both?

  About the Author

  Alison Weir is the author of Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Tie Princes in the Tower, The Wars of the Roses, The Children of Henry VIII, and The Life of Elizabeth I. She lives outside London with her husband and two children.



  Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life



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