Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lion Heart's Mama

Pop history quiz: Who was Richard the Lion Heart's mom?

You: Should I know this? Sure, I know. I was great at histiry....his brother was the wicked Prince John...Robin Hood...Maid Marian....um, nope. No mom in the story.

Me: Eleanor of Aquitaine? (or Aliénor)

You: Yes! Of course! .......not ringing a bell. Wait a sec. Aquitaine? Like the region of France? Richard the Lion Heart was English, dude!

Me, getting defensive: What, 'cause no French guy would be called Lion Heart? Are you sayin' the French are cowards? Well, I'm gonna....get back on track. And set you staright on Eleanor of Aquitaine.

She married Louis VII of France at 15 at the cathedral Saint André in Bordeaux.  She was the heiress of the vast region between the Loire river in the north and the Pyrenees moutians in the south. Eleanor set up court in Poitiers, known for its sophistication and luxury. As a nineteen-year-old, she decided she wasn't going to be stuck at home and convinced everyone to let her and 300 of her ladies to go to the Crusades! She dressed like an Amazon and they carried lances, but the ladies didn't do any fighting, but rather took care of the wounded.

Yet her husband didn't always agree when she tried to give him battle strategies, and he wasn't too happy that they only had two daughters. Eleanor wasn't too thrilledwith him either saying that she thought she'd married a king, only to find she'd married a monk. Eleanor wanted to move on to greener pastures and was able to get the marriage annulled by saying they were too closely related.

Within a couple of months, Eleanor had married Henri d'Anjou who was ten years younger than her, and soon became Henry II king of England in 1154. Greener pastures. They then had eight children in the next thirteen years. Theire thrid son was...Richard the Lion Heart, and their fifth son, John Lackland. See, told ya. Herni d'Anjou + Eléanor d'Aquitaine = Richard the Lion Heart was 100% French.

When the kids grew up, Eleanor got bored and fed up with her husband's affaires, "stupid" descions and him having all the power. She led three of her grown sons against their dad in a rebellion. They didn't win, and Eleanor was locked up for fifteen years.

Finally, her husband died and her favorite Richard became king. At the age of  sixty-five, Eleanor was back in the swing of things. While Richard was on the Crusades, she protected his lands, even from lillt brother John. When Richard was captured, she workd out his ransom and personally took it to him!

There was nothing she wouldn't do for the crown and her Richard. She was seventy when she crossed the Pyrénées mountains to get Richard's bride, Berengaria, the daughter of King Sancho the Wise of Navarre. They then crossed the Alps and Itlay to Sicily, where the bride went on to  Cyprus, for the wedding at Limossol in 1191.

Even as an old woman, she traveled from one end of Europe to another (in Medieveal times), working out marriages for the grandkids, campagning and such. Eleanor died in 1204 the abbey of Fontevrault in Poitiers,where she had retired for some peace and quiet (o, she went out, got into trouble, retired again...a couple times). She is buried there, with Henry II and Richard the Lion Heart.

You: What an amazing woman! So, you live in the region of Aquitaine, you told me this story, I take it you've been to their tomb?

Me: Hélas! No! I heard this story on the radio while we were driving to my parents-in-law this weekend. Oddly enough, we pass Poitiers EVRY time we go to their house and we have never stopped. My husband even admitting to knowing she and Richard were buried there - yet he never took me! So the second part of the post will happen when he redeems himself by taking me to their tomb...

You: I'm waiting...


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