This past week I read two biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor, an ancestor of
When Eleanor was fifteen she married seventeen-year-old Louis VII (of the Capet dynasty) of
Shortly before she turned thirty, Eleanor met Henry, Count of Anjou, who was about eighteen at the time. In addition to his lands in
Eleanor and Henry (he was crowned Henry II) founded the Plantagenet dynasty that ruled
After Henry died, Richard I (who was a great warrior and an accomplished poet and musician) became King of England. After freeing his mother from prison and attending his coronation, he left his realms to lead a Crusade to the
When Richard died without any heirs, his brother John became King of England. John also relied on his mother’s counsel and her occasional service as his regent. Of course, by this time, Eleanor was rather old and could only provide limited assistance to John.
In the last few years of her life Eleanor pretty much retired from public life and lived the quiet life of a nun. The abbey where she died still contains her tomb, as well as those of Henry II and Richard I. All of the tombs were vandalized during the French Revolution and the bodily remains were scattered at that time. Since then, however, the tombs have been restored and are on display at the abbey church.I’m awed by what Eleanor accomplished, particularly in an age in which women typically did not have many opportunities for personal development or leadership. She traveled on a Crusade (an activity generally restricted to men only), was queen of two countries, was counselor and regent to three kings, and somehow managed to be both a mother and a nun! WOW!
But I’m also saddened at how chaotic her family life was. Eleanor and her family were extraordinary in so many ways. Today, Henry II is generally regarded as one of
Eleanor’s life challenges me in two ways. First, her accomplishments inspire me to set high standards and goals for myself and my family. Second, her failures warn me to keep my priorities right, for it is only when I do so that my husband, my children and I will be able to be the people God intends us to be and do the work he needs us to do.