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Eleanor and Henry did not live "happily ever after," though, and King Louis was reportedly enraged that the marriage went forward without his consent which the king would undoubtedly have refused to given had he been asked anyway.
A historian of the day, Robert de Torigny, noted that it was unclear whether the Eleanor and Henry's marriage was the result of spontaneity or if the two had actually colluded to achieve this result. Cavendish points out that one of Eleanor's most recent biographers, Alison Weir, believes that Eleanor and Henry had been conspiring ever since they had met in Paris the year before and Eleanor had deliberately encouraged the annulment of her marriage to Louis. "Either way, when Henry succeeded to the throne of England in 1154, the effect was to give the rulers of England a domain in France stretching from the English Channel to the Pyrenees and covering ten times as much of the country as the French kings themselves possessed. The consequences for the subsequent history of English ambitions in France were profound."
Over the course of the following 12 years, Eleanor and Henry had five sons and three daughters; two of the couple's sons, Richard and John, would later become kings of England. Eleanor also played a prominent role in governmental affairs was commissioned numerous works that contributed to the development of both troubadour poetry as well as the Arthurian legends.
In her essay, "Rereading Rape in Medieval Literature: Literary, Historical, and Theoretical Reflections," Evelyn Birge Vitz believes that during Eleanor's reign, some members of both sexes found references to forced sex personally interesting. "It is a significant historical fact that many of the literary works discussed in the recent rape scholarship spring from contexts in which women are known to have been significant patrons as well as consumers." Vitz points to the patronage by Eleanor of Aquitaine, and her daughters, Marie, countess of Champagne (patroness of Chretien de Troyes); Mathilda, wife of Henry the Lion, duke of Bavaria and Saxony; Eleanor, queen of Castille; and Joan, who was first married to William King of Sicily, then to Raymond VI, count of Toulouse. "All these powerful women (many others as well) are known to have been important mecenes in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries." powerful personage in her own right, Eleanor's marriage to Henry might have lasted longer than her first, but it was rocky going at times nevertheless. For instance, according to Cavendish, Eleanor probably encouraged her sons to rebel against their father in 1173, an act that resulted in her being kept a virtual prisoner in England until his death in 1189. This imprisonment was not an isolated response to the powerful women of the day because men had good reason to fear them.
In her essay, "The Politics of Courtly Love: 'La Prise d'Orange' and the Conversion of the Saracen Queen," Sharon Kino*****a points out that, "In twelfth century France, the growing frequency of female inheritance was perceived as a threat to political stability. One has only to look at the example of Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose 1152 divorce from Louis VII of France and remarriage to the future Henry II of England radically transformed the politics of at least the following fifty years." When her sons became king, Eleanor resumed her active role in governmental affairs: "Under both Richard and John she was active in matters of state and she died eventually in a nunnery at Fontrevault in Anjou in her early eighties in 1204, having been for much of a lifetime probably the most powerful woman in Europe."
The research showed that Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long and eventful life during the 12th century, even by contemporary standards. Through her marriages to and subsequent manipulations of Louis VII of France and Henry II of England, Eleanor gained territory, titles, wealth and prestige. Her life was not without intrigue or controversy, certainly, but no one today would likely argue with the assertion that Eleanor was one of the most powerful women in history, and perhaps the most powerful female of her day.
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