Eleanor of Aquitaine was a Queen consort of France and England. As a member of the Ramnulfids rulers in southwestern France, she was one of the most powerful and she inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine from her father, William X, in 1137, and by successive marriages became Queen of France and then of England. She was patron of literary figures such as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure and she led armies several times in her life and was a leader of the Second Crusade. As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor was the most eligible bride in Europe, three months after she became duchess, she married King Louis VII of France, son of her guardian, King Louis VI. As Queen of France, she participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade, soon afterwards, Eleanor sought an annulment of her marriage, but her request was rejected by Pope Eugene III. However, after the birth of her second daughter Alix, Louis agreed to an annulment, the marriage was annulled on 11 March 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate and custody was awarded to Louis, as soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to the Duke of Normandy, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Henry was her cousin and eleven years younger. The couple married on Whitsun,18 May 1152, eight weeks after the annulment of Eleanors first marriage, in a cathedral in Poitiers, over the next thirteen years, she bore Henry eight children, five sons, three of whom would become kings, and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged, Henry imprisoned her in 1173 for supporting their son Henrys revolt against him. She was not released until 6 July 1189, when Henry died and their son, Richard the Lionheart. Now Queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade, on his return Richard was captured, Eleanor lived well into the reign of her youngest son, John. She outlived all her children except for John and Eleanor, on the other hand, some chronicles mention a fidelity oath of some lords of Aquitaine on the occasion of Eleanors fourteenth birthday in 1136. This, and her age of 82 at her death. Her parents almost certainly married in 1121 and her birthplace may have been Poitiers, Bordeaux, or Nieul-sur-lAutise, where her mother and brother died when Eleanor was 6 or 8. It became Eléanor in the langues doïl of northern France and Eleanor in English, there was, however, another prominent Eleanor before her, Eleanor of Normandy, an aunt of William the Conqueror, who lived a century earlier than Eleanor of Aquitaine. In Paris as the Queen of France she was called Helienordis, by all accounts, Eleanors father ensured that she had the best possible education. Eleanor came to learn arithmetic, the constellations, and history and she also learned domestic skills such as household management and the needle arts of embroidery, needlepoint, sewing, spinning, and weaving
At left, a 14th-century representation of the wedding of Louis and Eleanor; at right, Louis leaving on Crusade.
Eleanor's grandfather, William IX of Aquitaine, gave her this rock crystal vase, which she gave to Louis as a wedding gift. He later donated it to the Abbey of Saint-Denis. This is the only surviving artifact known to have belonged to Eleanor.