Eleanor of Aquitaine was and probably still considered both a villain and hero. However you see her she is recognizable as a woman who knew her own mind and made decisions to support herself and her children. At times her life felt like I was reading a Mel Brooks movie (Men in Tights anyone?) with the endless schemes of betrayal between father and sons and brother to brother.
In Eleanor’s biography by Alison Weir the author makes it clear that Eleanor was a woman whose influence was remarkable. She had influence over two kings through marriage (albeit not at the same time) the king of France Louis VII and Henry II. She also had influence over another two kings by being their mother (Richard the Lionheart and John of Robin Hood fame). Her influence was wielded during a time period when woman had no influence and where woman were sold to the highest bidder and had relatively little control over their own lives.
This biography did a good job of introducing Eleanor not as a hero or a villain but as a woman who made decisions for good or for bad. The author made it clear that Eleanor was neither a saint nor an evil seductress set upon destroying men. The men in her life certainly made their own bad decisions. The author argues that Eleanor did not kill Henry II mistress that the rumor started by rumors and an opera. However, this biography focuses very heavily on the men in Eleanor’s life. Their were several chapters where their was only a brief mention of Eleanor and while this is understandable due to he lack of resources written about her and understanding the political landscape is to understanding what was going on in the time period and in her own life, it was a bit excessive especially when the author took a whole chapter to describe Henry II and Thomas Becket’s feud.
Overall I did think that this was an interesting and insightful biography on one of England’s most powerful women. I gave this biography 3.5/5 stars. I would love to see a reality TV show based on this family. I would love to see a scene with Richard composing songs while imprisoned and taking a break from surging castles and razing land to conduct his personal chorus. Although I have to ask did these people care nothing about the serfs and peasants?
Bonus: Here is the link to the composition Richard wrote while being held prisoner