Eleanor was born some time around 1124, the granddaughter of William IX "the Troubadour" Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony and Philippa of Toulouse (the rightful heiress to the County of Toulouse).  William, who delighted in scandal, abandoned his wife for the wife of one of his vassals - a lady glorying in the nickname of "Dangereuse". He then insisted on his son marrying Dangereuse's daughter Aenor. So Eleanor combined the bloodlines of her grandfather and his great love.

Eleanor's mother  (for whom she was named: Ali-Aenor, or "another Aenor") died when she was young, as did her brother.  Which left Eleanor heiress to the vast lands ruled by her father, a fact which might not have mattered if he had remarried and started a second family.  But he did not.  Instead he died when Eleanor was only 13, and Eleanor became Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right.

Eleanor was swiftly married to the son of the French King Louis VI "the Fat"; but barely had the marriage taken place when Louis died and Eleanor and her new husband were King Louis VII and Queen Eleanor.

Sadly Eleanor's marriage was not a great success.  Although her husband adored her (quite childishly, according to some chroniclers) it was some years before Eleanor succeeded in bearing a child - the blame for which appears to have lain with Louis who (Eleanor later said) was more like a monk than a king. And then the child was a girl, who could not succeed to the French throne. But the marriage really fell apart when the pair departed on crusade, during the course of which they survived a terrifying battle near Mt Cadmos, and Louis kidnapped Eleanor when she sought a divorce.  The reason for the request for a divorce, and Louis' intemperate reaction has often been speculated to be that Eleanor was getting rather too close the the ruler of Antioch at the time - her own cousin Raymond of Antioch... Matters were not helped when Louis' crusading plans resulted in Raymond losing his head (literally) and his arrangements for the return visit resulted in Eleanor's being kidnapped by pirates.

On return to France Eleanor managed to produce another child, but since this was again a daughter she finally got her wish - a divorce from Louis.

At which point she had to find an alternative husband, and chose the younger, but oh so promising Henry, newly Count of Anjou, and possible heir to the English throne.  Within weeks they were married, and within moths she was pregnant.

Thereafter for years nothing could go wrong for Europe's golden couple. Henry became King of England within three years of his marriage to Eleanor.  Eleanor kept producing children - mostly boys, but just enough girls to be useful for matchmaking purposes.

But by 1173 her sons were young men, frustrated at Henry's refusal to give them lands of their own.  When her eldest son Henry "the Young King" launched a rebellion, Eleanor supported him and sent her other sons to safety with - her ex husband!

Henry, understandably enraged, had Eleanor packed off to England as his prisoner.  His attempts to divorce her falling flat, she was kept under house arrest of varying strictness for the next fifteen years.

Eleanor was however to emerge, with considerable elan on Henry's death, untroubled by her pensionable age.  She ruled England in her own right while her son Richard the Lion Heart was elsewhere (in France or on crusade).  She travelled to Navarre and then across the Alps and down the length of Italy in the depths of winter to escort Richard's bride to him. She made arrangements to raise the ransom when he was taken prisoner on his return from crusade and ensured its delivery personally. She rushed to his bedside as he lay dying, and ensured her son John succeeded him, holding her own domains loyal to him.  She commanded a defence of a castle under siege in her seventies.  She ensured the peace John needed by fetching (again in winter) an eligible granddaughter from Castile.

As her obituary very fairly said: "she surpassed almost all the Queens of the world."

    

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