Author(s): SARA COCKERILL
Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a life so remarkable that a novelist would hesitate to invent it. Raised at one of the most cultured - and louche - courts in Europe, she succeeded aged thirteen to the massive and influential Duchy of Aquitaine and within weeks she was married and Queen of France. The unhappy marriage to Louis VII was eventually annulled and she married her own choice of second husband, Henry II. In many ways the marriage was a huge success: it spawned three Kings of England, including England's greatest crusader king, Richard the Lion Heart, King John and Queens of Castile, Sicily, France, Aragon and Portugal. But Henry's failure to give her or her sons real power eventually drove Eleanor into the unheard of step of armed rebellion. It failed and she spent the rest of Henry's reign - nearly twenty years - in prison in England. Henry II's death might have been expected to see her move to a luxurious retirement. In fact it was the start of her most successful years. She ruled England as Queen on behalf of her absent crusading son Richard. Eleanor has not lacked biographers - she is beyond doubt the most famous woman of the medieval era. However, too many have repeated the myths that surround her extraordinary life. Sara Cockerill tells the real story of medieval Europe's wealthiest and most powerful woman.