Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England by Alison Weir


  from the bishops present and, baring his back, received from three to five lashes from every one of the numerous body of ecclesiastics who were assembled."40 It is estimated that at least seventy monks participated in the flogging.

  Afterwards Henry remained lying before the tomb, "constant in prayer, all that day and night. He neither took food nor went out to relieve nature, and would not permit a rug or anything of that kind to be provided for him." At dawn on Sunday he heard mass, drank water from a well dedicated to St. Thomas, and was given a phial of blood, perhaps that of the martyr. "So he departed from Canterbury rejoicing, reaching London on the Sunday."41

  That night, sore and exhausted from flagellation and fasting, Henry summoned his physician for a bloodletting, then fell into a much-needed sleep, with his head resting on his elbow and a servant rubbing his feet,42 which had been badly cut by hard stones on the walk to Canterbury.43 Suddenly, there was a banging on the door.

  "Who's there?" cried the keeper. "Begone! Come in the morning, the King is asleep."

  But Henry was awake.

  "Open the door!" he shouted, and in came a messenger, one Abraham, with marvellous news: an army led by Geoffrey, the King's bastard son, and the stoutly loyal Ranulf Glanville, Sheriff of Yorkshire, had achieved a decisive victory at Alnwick, and the King of Scots had been captured and was being held at Richmond Castle. Henry was so jubilant that he immediately rewarded Abraham with an estate in Norfolk, then raced off to tell his barons the good news and order all the bells in London to be rung. He had not expected to receive such a signal sign of divine forgiveness so soon.

  "God be thanked for it, and St. Thomas the Martyr!" he said fervently.44 Others also saw the hand of a forgiving God at work on Henry's behalf, and believed the victory had come about through the intercession of the martyred Becket; in a devout age, it was felt that, with such allies on the King's side, his enemies must surely fail.

  The taking of William the Lyon was indeed catastrophic for the English rebels, and, led by Hugh Bigod, they sued for peace. On 26 July, Bigod was reconciled to the King and renewed his allegiance.45 With Henry's permission, Ralph de la Haie's army quietly left the country.

  Learning that the rebellion in England had collapsed, Louis ordered the Young King and the Count of Flanders to call off their invasion, and joined with them in an attack on Rouen, which was from the first doomed to failure. The truth was that Henry's enemies had lost their confidence and knew they were fighting a losing cause.

  By the end of July England was finally at peace, and on 8 August,


  Henry returned to Barfleur with his Brabantine mercenaries and some Welsh troops. When this formidable force advanced on Rouen, Louis "was reduced to a state of utter bewilderment" and on 14 August scuttled back to Paris with the Young King. He and the Angevin princes were now forced to concede defeat and accept the bitter truth that Henry was once more lord of all their destinies. His masterful victory against such overwhelming odds had also served to restore his reputation, which had been so shamefully tarnished by Becket's death.

  Now the King seemed more invincible than ever. He was received in Rouen with such a ringing of bells as had never been heard there before.46 In Falaise, William the Lyon was forced to sign a treaty surrendering Scotland to Henry as an absolute fief, paying homage to him as his overlord and promising that the lords of Scodand would follow suit. He was also obliged to surrender to the King the castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, Jedburgh, and Berwick.47

  "Looking out for their own peace and quiet," Louis and Philip of Flanders "did all they could to heal the breach between the King of England and his sons."48 The Young King and his brothers had no choice but to sue for peace, offering to submit to their father. Henry realised "that the unusual humility" of his former enemies "and their desire to make peace proceeded only from their inability to resist him," but he was willing to negotiate a peace, "foreseeing the possibility of recalling his sons, whom almost everyone thought had gone seriously astray, to the fruits of a better life-- his sons whom he loved so much, whom he had unceasingly tried to raise to the heights of honour."49

  Duke Richard did not cease campaigning against his father until the bitter end, yet when he came face to face with him at Montlouis near Tours on 29 September, he threw himself weeping at Henry's feet and begged his forgiveness. The King gently raised him and gave him the kiss of peace.

  On 30 September a compromise was reached at Montlouis, Henry assigning the Young King an income of £3,750 per annum 50 and two castles in Normandy, Duke Richard half the revenues of Poitou and two castles, and Geoffrey half the revenues of Brittany, with the rest to follow on his marriage to Constance.51 The King had, in the circumstances, been more than generous, but he had not delegated one iota of his power and had forced the Young King to accept the original settlement of his former estates and castles on John, whose inheritance was now substantially increased by the addition of properties in England, Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, and Maine. "Thus the mighty learned that it was no easy task to wrest Hercules' club from his hand," commented Richard FitzNigel.

  Young Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey "gave assurance that they would


  never demand anything more of the Lord King their father beyond the determined settlement" and would "withdraw neither themselves nor their service from their father."52 Yet although Henry generously excused their treason on the grounds of their "tender age," and chose to believe that they had been led astray by troublemakers such as their mother and the King of France, 53 his relationship with his three eldest sons was naturally strained and would perhaps never recover from such devastating disloyalty. From now on Henry's love for them would be marred by bitterness and distrust, and he would look to his other sons for true affection, making it clear that, of his legitimate sons, John was now his favourite. But John was not yet eight, and it was with his natural son Geoffrey that Henry enjoyed the most satisfying fatherly bond. Geoffrey had fought for him in the north of England throughout the campaigns of 1173-1174, and after the victory at Alnwick Henry had told him, "You alone have proved yourself my lawful and true son. My other sons are really the bastards."54 From now on Geoffrey would be one of the King's most valued counsellors.

  There was to be no savage retribution, nor any executions. Once the Treaty of Montlouis had been concluded, the King, having given orders for the razing of all rebel strongholds and the release of all hostages, proclaimed a general amnesty for all who had risen against him-- save his wife.


  14. Poor Prisoner

  "When the war was over and the fighting had stopped," wrote Giraldus Cambrensis, "the King, attributing his success not to divine mercy but to his own strength, hardened his heart and returned incorrigibly to his usual abyss of vice. He imprisoned Queen Eleanor his wife as a punishment for the destruction of their marriage."

  For the rest of Henry's life, Eleanor was to remain under restraint. Never again would he trust her, nor-- for his own security-- did he allow her much contact with her children, especially during the early years when she was a virtual prisoner: for the best part of a decade he had her kept in strict custody in the most strongly fortified towns.1

  Because the King dealt so discreetly with Eleanor, the chroniclers have very little to say about her life during this period, and details of her imprisonment-- which most of them found "mysterious"-- are fragmentary. During those years, according to the Pipe Rolls, Eleanor was confined mainly at Winchester and sometimes at Sarum, although she did occasionally stay elsewhere, since an allowance for her keep was also sent to Ludgershall Castle in Buckinghamshire and to houses in Berkshire and Nottinghamshire. Her custodians were men whom the King knew he could trust: Ranulf Glanville, a lawyer and diplomat who had served him as Sheriff of Yorkshire and in that capacity captured King William the Lyon; and Ralph FitzStephen, one of the royal chamberlains.

  The twelfth-century town of Sarum occupied a windswe
pt hilltop site, which was once an Iron Age fort and later a Roman town called Sorviodunum. It is now known as Old Sarum, and the newer town of Salisbury, founded in 1217, is situated nearby. In those days the town was dominated by its Norman keep and cathedral and surrounded by a deep ditch. Today only the cruciform foundations of the cathedral and the grassy circular mound on which the tower stood remain. In Eleanor's day Sarum was a bleak, inhospitable place. Water was scarce,


  the city was overcrowded, and the wind was so terrible that the clerks in the cathedral could hardly hear one another sing. They also suffered from chronic rheumatism, while the cathedral itself was repeatedly damaged by severe gales. There is no evidence that Eleanor, who was fifty-two at the onset of her confinement, suffered any lasting impairment to her health as a result of her stays here, for in old age she was to display as much energy and vigour as in her youth.

  If the Pipe Rolls constitute a complete record, then Eleanor's allowance during these early years was a mere pittance. Her household was small and she was permitted only one personal maid, Amaria. After 1 180 she seems to have lived in greater state, with chamberlains in her household-- the names of two are recorded, Fulcold and William of Flanders.2

  Unlike other prisoners, she lived in luxurious surroundings: Roger of Hoveden records that her prison was no worse than her palace at Winchester. There is no evidence to suggest that she was treated in any way but courteously, yet she was completely cut off from the outside world and therefore deprived of any means of plotting her escape or conspiring against her husband. Henry had had proof of how dangerous she could be, and he was taking no chances.

  In Poitou and Aquitaine, the imprisonment of the Duchess provoked grief and anger,3 yet, at the end of the day, most of her vassals were content to transfer their allegiance to her son Richard, who was not only a man but had also recently proved himself a doughty warrior. It was left to the poets to mourn the loss of Eleanor, and it must have been at this time that the chronicler Richard le Poitevin wrote this poignant lament, in which he envisages her suffering and weeping in her prison:

  Daughter of Aquitaine, fair, fruitful vine! Tell me, Eagle with two heads, tell me: where were you when your eaglets, flying from their nest, dared to raise their talons against the King of the North Wind? It was you, we learned, who urged them to rise against their father. That is why you have been ravished from your own country and carried away to a strange land. Your barons have cheated you by their conciliatory words. Your harp has changed into the voice of mourning, your flute sounds the note of affliction, and your songs are turned into sounds of lamentation.

  Reared with abundance of all delights, you had a taste for luxury and refinement and enjoyed a royal liberty. You lived richly in your own inheritance, you took pleasure in the pastimes of your women, you delighted in the melodies of the flute and drum, your young companions sang their sweet songs to the accompaniment


  of tambourine and cithara. You abounded in riches of every kind.

  Now, Queen with two crowns, you consume yourself with sorrow, you ravage your heart with tears. I beg of you, Queen with two crowns, end your continual self-affliction. Why consume yourself with sorrow, why ravage your heart with tears each day? Return, O captive, return to your own lands if you can, poor prisoner. If you cannot, may your plaint be that of the King of Jerusalem: "Alas, my exile has been a long one! I have lived with a crude, ignorant tribe."

  Where is your court, where are your guards, your royal escort, where are the members of your family? Where are your handmaidens? Where are the young men of your household? Where are your councillors of state? Some, dragged far from their own soil, have suffered a shameful death, others have been deprived of their sight, and still others are banished and wandering in divers places and are counted fugitives.

  Eagle of the broken alliance, you cry out unanswered, because it is the King of the North Wind who holds you in captivity But cry out and cease not to cry; do not weary, raise your voice like a trumpet, so that it may reach the ears of your sons. For the day is approaching when they shall deliver you and then shall you come again to dwell in your native land.

  Like other commentators of the period, Richard le Poitevin saw Eleanor as the Eagle of Merlin's prophecies, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Elsewhere, when referring to the rebellion, he calls her "Queen Eleanor, described by Merlin as the Eagle of the Broken Covenant." Similarly, another Poitevin writer, Guernes of Pont-Saint-Maxence, refers to Eleanor as "the Eagless." Nor was there any doubt in the mind of Richard le Poitevin that Henry was Merlin's King of the North Wind. Yet this writer's expectations were totally unrealistic. Eleanor would not be free to return to her native land for many years; nor were her sons, sympathetic though they were to her plight, in any position to rise in her favour.

  With Eleanor disgraced and in prison, Henry began living openly with his mistress, Rosamund de Clifford. Giraldus Cambrensis noted disapprovingly: "The King, who had long been a secret adulterer, now blatantly flaunted his paramour for all to see, not a rose of the world [rosa mundi], as some vain and foolish people called her, but a rose of un-chastity [rosa immundi]. And since the world copies a king, he offended not only by his behaviour but even more by his bad example." In that


  year, 1174, the King bestowed a manor on Sir Walter de Clifford "for the love of Rosamund, his daughter."

  There is no evidence that Rosamund presided over the court in Eleanor's place; in fact, other chroniclers hardly mention her, and it was possibly the young Queen Marguerite who, on ceremonial occasions, stood in for her mother-in-law; the Pipe Rolls show that her allowance was increased at this time to a level far exceeding Eleanor's. Yet since Marguerite was often with her husband on the continent or in Paris, there must have been many occasions when Henry presided alone over his court.

  After concluding the Treaty of Montlouis, Henry remained in Normandy with the Young King and the bastard Geoffrey until the following spring; the King was now putting pressure on the Pope to confirm Geoffrey's election as Bishop of Lincoln, which he finally obtained in 1176.

  Duke Richard and Duke Geoffrey had been sent off to administer their domains: Geoffrey went to Brittany, while Richard returned south to subdue the angry vassals of Poitou and Aquitaine, who had erupted in fury at the news of Eleanor's imprisonment.4 Efficiently and savagely he ravaged the countryside and reduced castle after castle, exacting a terrible vengeance: those who opposed him had their eyes gouged out, their hands cut off, and their women raped by the Duke and his men. With his terrible reputation going before him, the land was soon quietened. 5 From now on Richard would spend his life engaged in a ceaseless succession of campaigns against his turbulent vassals, whose independence would be ruthlessly curbed by his iron hand and violent reprisals.

  In October, Henry made peace with King Louis, and at Christmas he held court at Argentan with his four sons, feasting on "the meat of four score deer" sent over from England.6

  In the new year of 1175, because they wanted "to return to their old familiarity," the princes "decided to remove all suspicion by doing homage and allegiance to their father." The younger sons, Richard and Geoffrey, swore fealty first at Le Mans, and the Young King on 1 April at Bures.7 On that occasion, Henry raised his prostrate and weeping son, assured him of his love, and assigned to him a generous allowance from the treasury.

  On 9 May 1175 "the two kings of England, whom the previous year the kingdom had not been big enough to contain, came together and crossed to England in a single boat."8 Relations between them were much improved: "they ate together at the same table and rested their


  limbs in the same bedroom."9 Henry, "turning his fatherly gaze to the needs of his son," even paid the Young King's "onerous debts."10 On 28 May they went on pilgrimage together to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury, where the King "stayed up on all-night vigils, with prayer, fasting and scourging lasting into the third day."11

bsp; With his empire at peace and stronger than it had ever been, Henry could now afford to devote more time to the affairs of his kingdom. Thanks to his wise and firm government, England was prosperous and peaceful and enjoyed great prestige in Europe. Foreign rulers sought to ally themselves with her, and even the native Irish kings paid homage to the English King.

  After leaving Canterbury the King and his son went on a progress through England so that the Young King could learn how to govern his future realm.12 Yet, resentful of the fact that his brothers were permitted to rule their fiefs and not he, he chafed under his father's tutelage, although for many months he kept his resentment to himself.

  According to Gervase of Canterbury, it was during 1175 that Henry first took steps to have his marriage to Eleanor annulled. Giraldus Cambrensis claimed that his purpose was to marry Alys of France, his son Richard's allianced bride-- who was now fifteen-- presumably with a view to bringing about closer relations between England and France.

  Henry's friend Hugh of Avalon had always held that the King's marriage to Eleanor was adulterous and therefore invalid, and had warned that no good issue would come of it.13 There were indeed good grounds for an annulment: Henry and Eleanor were more closely related than she and Louis had been, and their marriage could even be said to be incestuous, given that she had enjoyed sexual relations with Henry's father. It is more likely, however, that Henry pleaded consanguinity not only to avoid further scandal, but because he could always claim that the marriage had been entered into by both partners in ignorance, in which case the heirs would be accepted by the Church as legitimate. Since Geoffrey of Anjou had warned him, before he married Eleanor, that he himself had known her carnally, Henry could not claim that he had married her in good faith in that regard, and in such a case their children would almost certainly be declared illegitimate.

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