When Eleanor of Aquitaine Was Queen of France

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Eleanor of Aquitaine is now known as a Medieval heroine thanks to the independent holding of her  inheritance and her actions during the last years of her husband’s and sons’ reigns. For me, I’m mostly impressed that she’s the only woman in  history to have been queen of both France and England – throw a 12th century divorce into the mix, a stint of imprisonment and a few goes at regency and it makes for such a notable life that it’s not surprising she’s still relatively well-known today. We’ve covered already Eleanor’s divorce from Louis VII of France and the first several years of her marriage to Henry II of England, but today we’re going to go back a bit further to her tenure as queen of France.

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The Dawn of the Plantagenets: Geoffrey & Matilda

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On May 23, 1125 the only daughter of King Henry I of England was widowed by the death of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda of England had left her home 15 years earlier and in the subsequent years both her mother, Matilda of Scotland, and her brother, William Adelin, had died. Though Henry I married a second time to Adeliza of Louvain, by 1125 the union hadn’t produced any children and Matilda remained her father’s sole legitimate offspring.

Thus, her next steps, including the urgent need for her to marry again, were not only of personal concern, but of national importance. If one considers the amount of sexism that female monarchs like Mary I, Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots encountered in the 16th century, then it should be easy to imagine the disbelief with which many viewed the idea of Matilda ruling England as queen regnant in the 12th. However, rather surprisingly, that’s exactly the plan Henry I put in place.

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