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The Counts of Toulouse, the Dukes of Aquitaine and the Kings of England

Arms of the Counts of Toulouse. Click for a larger image in a new window. Arms of the Kings of England. For many generations the fate of the Counts of Toulouse was intimately tied to that of the Dukes of Aquitaine.

Guilhem (William) IX Duke of Aquitaine
Guilhem (William) X Duke of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Jeanne of England


William IX, Duke of Aquitaine (the Troubadour) (October 22, 1071 - February 10, 1126)
 The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Guilhèm IX duc d'Aquitània e de Gasconha, Guilhèm VII comte de Peitieus.
 The Name in French Guilaume IX duc d'Aquitaine

William IX was Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony and Count of Poitou between 1086 and 1126. He was the son of William VIII of Aquitaine by his third wife Hildegarde of Burgundy. He inherited the duchy at the age of fifteen. In 1088, at the age of sixteen, William married his first wife, Ermengarde of Anjou (the daughter of Count Fulk, "Fulk the Contrary"). Ermengarde was pretty and well-educated but suffered from extreme mood-swings. This, coupled with her failure to conceive a child, led William to send her back to her father and have the marriage dissolved in 1091.

In 1094 William married Philippa of Toulouse, the daughter and heiress of Guilhem (William) IV of Toulouse. (Phillipa had been recently widowed by the death of her first husband, Sancho Ramírez of Aragon). William had two sons and five daughters by Philippa, including William's heir, another William later to become William X of Aquitaine.

Pope Urban II spent Christmas 1095 at the court of William IX. The pope urged him to take the cross and leave for the Holy Land, but William was more interested in the territories of the Counts of Toulouse, to which the Dukes of Aquitaine believed they had a long standing claim, now bolstered by William's marriage to Philippa. He took advantage of the absence of Raymond IV Count of Toulouse, his wife's uncle, to press his claim to Toulouse. Urban was not convinced, so without the help of the Church, William and Philippa captured Toulouse in 1098, an act for which they were threatened with excommunication. Partly out of a desire to avoid this, William joined the Crusade of 1101 an expedition inspired by the success of the First Crusade in 1099. To fund this he mortgaged Toulouse to Bertrand of Toulouse, the son of Raymond IV. He arrived in the Holy Land in 1101 and stayed there until the following year. William fought mostly skirmishes in Anatolia without notable success. His recklessness led to his army being ambushed on several occasions. In September 1101 his entire army was destroyed by the Turks at Heraclea; William himself barely escaped and, according to Orderic Vitalis, he reached Antioch with only six surviving companions.

William was excommunicated twice, the first time in 1114 for an alleged infringement of the Church's tax privileges. He was excommunicated a second time for abducting Viscountess Dangereuse (Occitan Dangerosa), the wife of his vassal Aimery I de Rochefoucauld, Viscount of Châtellerault - though it has to be said that Dangerosa herself seems to have been a willing party. William installed her in the Maubergeonne tower of his castle in Poitiers, which lead to her nickname 'La Maubergeonne'). Returning to Poitiers from Toulouse Philipa was enraged to discover Dangerosa living in her palace. Humiliated Philippa left in 1116 to retire to the Abbey of Fontevraud , where she was befriended by William's first wife Ermengarde of Anjou,. According to the abbey records Philippa e died there on the 28th of November 1118.

Relations between the Duke and his elder son William also became strained. Father and son improved their relationship, however, after the marriage of the younger William to Aenor of Châtellerault in 1121. (To close the family circle, Aenor was the daughter of Dangerosa and her lawful husband Aimery I de Rochefoucauld, Viscount of Châtellerault)

After Phillipa's death, Ermengarde, William's first wife, stormed down from Fontevraud Abbey to the Aquitainian court. She demanded to be reinstated as the Duchess of Aquitaine. In October 1119, she popped up at the Council of Reims, presided over by Pope Calixtus II, demanding that the Pope excommunicate William (though he was already excommunicated), oust Dangereuse from the ducal palace, and restore her (Erningarde) to her rightful place. The Pope declined to accommodate her, and William's existing excommunication was lifted in 1220, but she continued to trouble William for several years afterwards, which may have contributed to his decision to join the armies fighting the Moors in Spain. William joined forces with the kingdoms of Castile and León. Between 1120 and 1123, Aquitanian troops fought side by side with Queen Urraca of Castile, in an effort to conquer the Moors of Cordoba and complete the Reconquista.

In 1122, he lost Toulouse, Philippa's dower land and now rightfully the domain of his eldest son, to Alphonse-Jordan of Toulouse.

William added to the palace of the counts of Poitou which had stood since the Merovingian Era. Later added to by his granddaughter Eleanor of Aquitaine. It survives as the Palace of Justice in Poitiers as to the present day.

William's greatest legacy to history was as a poet. He was the first known troubadour, or lyric poet employing the Occitan language. Eleven of his songs survive. They are attributed to him under his title as Count of Poitou (lo coms de Peitieus). The topics vary, treating sex, love, women, his own sexual prowess, and feudal politics. He is among the first Romance poets of the Middle Ages, one of the founders of the troubadour tradition.

His frankness, wit and vivacity caused scandal and won admiration at the same time. William was a man who loved scandal and no doubt enjoyed shocking his audiences. He composed a song about founding a convent in his lands, where the nuns would be picked from among the most beautiful whores in the region, depending on the translation. By most standards he can fairly be described as a character. An anonymous 13th century biography of William, forming part of the collection Biographies des Troubadours, remembers him as follows:

[William] The Count of Poitiers was one of the most courtly men in the world and one of the greatest deceivers of women. He was a fine knight at arms, liberal in his womanising, and a fine composer and singer of songs. He travelled much through the world, seducing women.

Click on the following link for songs (in Occitan with English translations) by William IX of Aquitaine



William X, Duke of Aquitaine "the Saint" (1099 – April 9, 1137)
 The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Guilhèm X duc d'Aquitània e de Gasconha, Guilhèm VIII comte de Peitieus
 The Name in French Guilaume X duc d'Aquitaine

William was Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony and Count of Poitiers as William VIII of Poitiers between 1126 and 1137.

William was born in Toulouse during the brief period when his parents ruled the capital. Later that same year, 1126, his father William IX mortgaged Toulouse to his wife's cousin, Bertrand of Toulouse. His wife, Philippa of Toulouse was less than pleased, and less pleased still when he then left on Crusade. Philippa and her infant son were left in Poitiers.

Long after William IX's return, he took up with the wife of one of his vassals, and set aside his wife, Philippa. This caused strain between father and son, although the strife seems to have been resolved when the younger William married Ænor of Châtellerault (the daughter of his father's mistress) in 1121. The couple had three children:

  • Aliaenor, or Eleanor, who would later become heiress to the Duchy;
  • Aelith ( aka Petronilla), who married Raoul I of Vermandois;
  • William Aigret, who died young.

William's wife Ænor and their son William Aigret both died in 1130.

Like his father before him, William X was a patron of troubadours, music and literature. He was an educated man and gave his two daughters an excellent education - just one example of the gap between the sophisticated culture of Occitania and the rest of western Christendom (It was rare enough to give boys a good education, and generally considered "unnatural" and even blasphemous to educated girls. Senior churchmen objected loudly and often).

William became involved in conflicts with Normandy and France. Inside his own borders he faced an alliance of the Lusignans and the Parthenays against him, happily resolved by total destruction of the enemies.

In 1137, Duke William X set out from Poitiers to Bordeaux, taking his daughters with him. In Bordeaux, he left Eleanor and Petronilla in the charge of the Archbishop of Bordeaux who could be entrusted with the safety of the Duke's daughters. The Duke then set out for the Shrine of Saint James of Compostela in North-western Spain, in the company of other pilgrims; however, on 9th April (Good Friday) 1137 he was stricken with sickness, probably food poisoning. He died that evening, having bequeathed Aquitaine to his fifteen-year-old daughter, Eleanor. On his deathbed, he expressed his wish to have King Louis VI of France as protector of Eleanor, and to charge him with finding her a suitable husband. Louis VI, putting his own interests first, as ever, married Eleanor the new Duchess of Aquitaine to his own son, also called Louis, later King Louis VII.


Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122–April 1, 1204)xx
( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Aliénor d'Aquitània,  The Name in French Eléanor d'Aquitaine)

Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful women in Europe during the High Middle Ages. She was Queen consort in turn of both France and England and took part in the Second Crusade. Her father was William X Duke Aquitaine, and her mother was Aenor de Châtellerault, the daughter of Aimeric I, Vicomte of Chatellerault. William's and Aenor's marriage had been arranged by his father, William IX of Aquitaine "the Troubadour", and her mother, Dangereuse, William IX's long-time mistress. Eleanor was named after her mother and called Aliénor, which means "another Aenor" in Occitan, but she is better known by variations of her name ( The Name in English Eleanor,  The Name in French Eléanor).

Eleanor was the eldest of three children. She was raised in one of Europe's most cultured courts, the birthplace of courtly love. By all accounts, Eleanor was the apple of her father's eye, who made sure she had the best education possible: she could read, speak Latin, and was well-versed in music and literature. She also enjoyed riding, hawking, and hunting. Eleanor was very outgoing and stubborn. She was regarded as very beautiful during her time; most likely she was red-haired and brown-eyed as her father and grandfather were. After the death of her brother, William Aigret, at age 4, along with their mother she became heiress to Aquitaine and 7 other counties, She had only one other sibling, a younger sister named Aelith in Occitan, but more commonly known by the name of Petronilla.

About the age of 15 Eleanor became the Duchess of Aquitaine, and the most eligible heiress in Europe. As these were the days when kidnapping an heiress was seen as a viable option for attaining title, William had dictated a will on the very day he died on his way to Compostella in Spain, bequeathing his domains to Eleanor and appointing King Louis VI "the Fat" as her guardian. He requested that the King take care of both the lands and the Duchess, and to find a suitable husband for Eleanor. Until a husband was found, the King had the right to enjoy Eleanor's lands. The Duke also insisted to his companions that his death be kept a secret until Louis was informed - the men were to journey from Saint James across the Pyrenees as quickly as possible, to call at Bordeaux to notify the Archbishop, and then to make all speed to Paris, to inform the French King.

The King of France himself was also gravely ill at that time, suffering from dysentery from which he seemed unlikely to recover. Presenting a solemn and dignified manner to the grieving Aquitainian messengers, upon their departure he became overjoyed, stammering in delight. Rather than act as guardian to the Duchess and Duchy, he decided, he would marry the Duchess to his heir, and bring Aquitaine under the French crown, thereby greatly increasing the power and prominence of France and the Capets. Within hours Louis had arranged for his son, Prince Louis, to be married to Eleanor. Abbot Suger was charged with arranging the wedding.

King  Louis VII and Queen Eleanor of FrancePrince Louis was sent to Bordeaux with an escort of 500 knights. He arrived in Bordeaux on 11 July and the next day, accompanied by the Archbishop of Bordeaux, the couple was married in the cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux. It was a magnificent ceremony with almost a thousand guests. The land would remain independent of France, and Eleanor's oldest son would be both King of France and Duke of Aquitaine. Her holdings would not therefore be merged with France until the next generation.

Eleanor was not popular with the French who were, to put it as generously as possible, at an earler stage of civilisation. They were not accustomed to string minded and highly educated women, let alone pretty young ones. Her conduct was repeatedly criticised by Church leaders such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Abbot Suger. The King, however, was madly in love with his beautiful and worldly bride, and granted her every whim, even though her behaviour baffled and troubled him.

Though Louis was a pious man he came into conflict with Pope Innocent II. In 1141, the archbishopric of Bourges became vacant. The king put forward a candidate one of his chancellors, Cadurc, and vetoed another candidate, Pierre de la Chatre. Pierre was promptly elected by the canons of Bourges and consecrated by the Pope. Louis bolted the gates of Bourges against the new Bishop. The Pope, recalling a similar incident in Poitou under William X, blamed Eleanor. He also observed that Louis was only a child and should be taught manners. Affronted, Louis swore upon holy relics that, so long as he lived, Pierre should never enter Bourges. This brought an interdict upon the king's lands.

Pierre de la Chatre was given refuge by Count Theobald II of Champagne, which did not endear him to Louis. Before long Louis was involved in a war with Count Theobald of Champagne. Louis had permitted Raoul I of Vermandoisand (seneschal of France) to repudiate his wife, Theobald's niece, Leonora so that he could marry Eleanor's sister (Petronilla). Eleanor urged Louis to support her sister's marriage to Raoul of Vermandois. This war lasted from 1142 to 1144 and ended with the occupation of Champagne by the royal army. Louis was personally involved in the assault and burning of the town of Vitry. More than a thousand people who had sought refuge in the church died in the flames. Desiring an end to the war, Louis made peace with Theobald, who agreed to support the lifting of the interdict on Raoul and Petronilla. It was duly lifted and Theobald's lands were restored to him. But now Raoul refused to repudiate Petronilla, prompting Louis to return to the Champagne and ravage it again. Peace was restored later that year. Theobald's provinces were once again returned and Pierre de la Chatre was installed as Archbishop of Bourges.

In 1145, Eleanor gave birth to a daughter, Marie.

Louis, still burned with guilt over the massacre at Vitry-le-Brule, and wanted to make a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land to atone for his sins. In the Autumn of 1145, Pope Eugenius requested Louis to lead a Crusade to the Middle East. Louis declared on Christmas Day 1145 at Bourges his intention of going on a crusade.

Eleanor as well as Louis took up the cross during a sermon preached by Bernard of Clairvaux. She insisted on taking part in the Crusades as the feudal leader of the soldiers from her duchy. Her launch of the Second Crusade from Vézelay, the rumoured location of Mary Magdalene´s burial, emphasised the role of women in the campaign. In Constantinople, Eleanor was much admired. She was compared with Penthesilea, the mythical queen of the Amazons, by the Greek historian Nicetas Choniates.

From the moment the Crusaders entered Asia Minor, the Crusade went badly. The Crusade itself would achieve little. Louis was a weak and ineffectual military leader with no concept of strategy, tactics, troop discipline or morale.

Louis started off optimistically. He had been preceded by the German Emperor Conrad who Louis thought had won a great victory against a Moslem army. As Louis camped near Nicea, the sad remnants of the German army, including Emperor Conrad, straggled into the French camp, bringing news of their disaster. The French, with what remained of the Germans, then made off, back towards Antioch. Louis decided to cross the Phrygian mountains directly, in the hope of speeding his arrival in antioch where they would find refuge with Eleanor's uncle, Raymond II of Tripoli, in Antioch. As they ascended the mountains, they past the unburied corpses of the previously slaughtered German army.

On the day set for the crossing of Mount Cadmos, Louis chose to take charge of the rear of the column, where the unarmed pilgrims and the baggage trains marched. The vanguard, with which Queen Eleanor marched, was commanded by her Aquitainian vassal, Geoffrey de Rancon; this, being unencumbered by baggage, managed to reach the summit of Cadmos, where de Rancon had been ordered to make camp for the night. De Rancon however chose to march further, deciding in concert with the Count of Maurienne (Louis´ uncle) that a nearby plateau would make a better camp. As the army was divided in two, the Turks attacked, took the strategic mountain peak and happily set about massacring yet another army of incompetents. The King was saved by his own lack of presence - having scorned a King's apparel in favour of a simple solder's tunic, he escaped notice. As one chronicler noted, while his bodyguards were having their skulls smashed open, Louis "nimbly and bravely scaled a rock by making use of some tree roots which God had provided for his safety,".

Eleanor paid for Louis' incompetence. Geoffrey de Rancon, who had made the decision to continue beyond the peak, was Eleanor's vassal. Worse, the Aquitainians had been in the vanguard which had escaped the massacre. And worse yet hostile Church chroniclers soon found a new excuse: the baggage train had been slow because of all of the finery carried for Eleanor and her ladies. In any case the remainder of the army continued to Antioch.

While in the eastern Mediterranean, Eleanor learned about maritime conventions developing there, she introduced those conventions in her own lands, on the island of Oleron in 1160 and later in England as well - the beginnings of what would become Admiralty law. She was also instrumental in developing trade agreements with Constantinople and trade ports of in the Holy Lands.

Even before the Crusade, Eleanor and Louis were becoming estranged. Eleanor's reputation was further tarnished by an alleged affair with her uncle, Raymond, Prince of Antioch. The city of Antioch had been annexed by Bohemond of Hauteville in the First Crusade, and it was now ruled by Eleanor's flamboyant uncle Raymond who had gained the principality by marrying its reigning Princess, Constance of Antioch. Eleanor supported her uncle Raymond's desire to re-capture the nearby County of Edessa, the cause of the Crusade; in addition, having been close to him in their youth, she now showed conspicuous affection towards her uncle. Historians today dismiss this as familial affection, noting their early friendship, and his similarity to her father and grandfather, but at the time hostile Church chronicler believed, or at least reported, that the two were involved in an incestuous and adulterous affair.

Louis was directed by the Church to visit Jerusalem instead. When Eleanor (allegedly) declared her intention to stay with Raymond along with her Aquitaine forces, Louis had her brought out by force. His long march to Jerusalem and back north debilitated his army, and her imprisonment disheartened her knights. Divided Crusade armies could not overcome the Muslim forces. At the insistence of Church leaders, who were even more incompetent than Louis, the Crusade leaders targeted Damascus, an ally until the attack. Failing, they retired to Jerusalem, and then left for home in 1152.

The royal couple, on separate ships due to their disagreements, were first attacked in May by Byzantine ships attempting to capture both. Although they escaped, stormy weather drove Eleanor's ship south to the Barbary Coast. In mid-July, Eleanor's ship finally reached Palermo in Sicily, where she discovered that she and her husband had both been given up for dead. She was given shelter and food by servants of King Roger of Sicily, until Louis eventually reached Calabria. She set out to meet him there. Later, at King Roger's court in Potenza, she learnt of the death of her Uncle Raymond.

Instead of returning to France, they now went off to visit the Pope in Tusculum (where he had been driven by a Roman revolt). Pope Eugenius III did not, as Eleanor had hoped, grant a divorce; instead, he asserted that it might not be dissolved under any pretext. He manoeuvred events so that Eleanor had no choice but to sleep with Louis in a specially prepared bed. The papal bed seems to have been efficacious because Eleanor conceived their second child - another daughter, Alix of France. But perhaps not entirely efficacious because Alix doomed the marriage. Faced with another disappointment over the lack of a male heir, opposition to Eleanor from many French Barons, and his wife's desire for divorce, Louis bowed to the inevitable. On March 11, 1152, they met at the royal castle of Beaugency to dissolve the marriage. Louis and Eleanor were both present. On March 21 four archbishops, with the approval of Pope Eugenius, granted an annulment due to consanguinity within the fourth degree (Eleanor and Louis were third cousins, once removed, sharing a common ancestry with Robert II of France). Their two daughters were declared legitimate and custody of them awarded to King Louis. Eleanor's land's reverted to her.

Two lords - Theobald of Blois, son of the Count of Champagne, and Geoffrey of Anjou (brother of Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy) - tried to kidnap Eleanor to marry her and claim her lands on Eleanor's way to Poitiers. This was a normal way for Christian men of all classes to find a wife throughout the middle ages (and into modern times in strongly Catholic countries). Both attempts failed. As soon as she arrived in Poitiers, Eleanor sent envoys to Henry Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, asking him to come at once and marry her.

On Whit Sunday, May 18, 1152, six weeks after her annulment, Eleanor married Henry. She was about 11 years older than him (and, incidentally, related to him more closely than she had been to Louis - a marriage between Henry and Eleanor's daughter, Marie, had been declared impossible for this very reason). Over the next thirteen years, she bore Henry five sons and three daughters:

  • William, Count of Poitiers
  • Henry ("Henry the Young King")
  • Matilda of England,
  • Richard (Richard I of England, The Lionheart.
  • Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany
  • Leonora of Aquitaine
  • Jeanne of England
  • John (King John of England)

The period between Henry's accession to the throne of England, as Henry II and the birth of their youngest son was to see turbulent events: Aquitaine defied the authority of Henry as Eleanor's husband; attempts to claim Toulouse, the inheritance of Eleanor's grandmother and father, were made, ending in failure.

1167 saw the marriage of Eleanor's third daughter, Matilda, to Henry the Lion of Saxony, during which time Eleanor remained in England with her daughter for the year prior to Matilda's departure to Normandy in September. Following that, Eleanor proceeded to gather together her movable possessions in England and packed them up, transporting them on several ships in December to Argentan. At the royal court, celebrated there that Christmas, she appears to have agreed to a separation with Henry. Certainly, she left for her own city of Poitiers immediately after Christmas. Henry did not stop her; on the contrary, he and his army personally escorted her there, before attacking a castle belonging to the rebellious Lusignan family. Henry then went about his own business outside Aquitaine, leaving Earl Patrick as her protective custodian. When Patrick was killed in a skirmish, Eleanor was left in control of her inheritance. She ransomed Patrick's captured nephew, the young William Marshal.

Away from Henry, Eleanor was able to centre her court on courtly love. According to some, Henry and the Church expunged the records of the actions and judgements of this court. A small fragment of her codes and practices was written by Andreas Capellanus. She was the patroness of such literary figures as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-More, and Chrétien de Troyes

Henry concentrated on controlling his increasingly-large empire, badgering Eleanor's subjects in attempts to control her patrimony of Aquitaine and her court at Poitiers.

In March 1173, aggrieved at his lack of power and encouraged by his father's enemies, the younger Henry launched the Revolt of 1173-1174. He fled to Paris. From there 'the younger Henry, devising evil against his father from every side by the advice of the French King, went secretly into Aquitaine where his two youthful brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, were living with their mother, and with her connivance, so it is said, he incited them to join him'. The Queen sent her younger sons to France 'to join with him against their father the King'. Once her sons had left for Paris, Eleanor encouraged the lords of the south to rise up and support them. Sometime between the end of March and the beginning of May, Eleanor left Poitiers to follow her sons to Paris but was arrested on the way and sent to the King in Rouen. Henry did not announce the arrest publicly. For the next year, her whereabouts are unknown. On July 8, 1174, Henry took ship for England from Barfleur. He brought Eleanor on the ship. As soon as they disembarked at Southampton, Eleanor was taken away either to Winchester Castle or Sarum Castle and held there.

Eleanor was imprisoned for the next fifteen years, much of the time in various locations in England. During her imprisonment, Eleanor had become more and more distant with her sons, especially Richard who had always been her favourite. She did not get the chance to see her sons very often during her imprisonment, though she was released for special occasions such as Christmas (One such occasion is the setting for the classic film The Lion in Winter). About four miles from Shrewsbury and close by Haughmond Abbey is "Queen Eleanor's Bower," the remains of a triangular castle which is believed to have been one of her prisons.

In 1183, Henry the Young tried again. He was in debt and had been refused control of Normandy. He tried to ambush his father at Limoges. He was joined by troops sent by his brother Geoffrey and Philip II of France. Henry II's troops besieged the town, forcing his son to flee. Henry the Young wandered aimlessly through Aquitaine until he caught dysentery. On Saturday, 11 June 1183, the Young King realised he was dying and was overcome with remorse for his sins. When his father's ring was sent to him, he begged that his father would show mercy to his mother, and that all his companions would plead with King Henry to set her free. Henry sent Thomas of Earley, Archdeacon of Wells, to break the news to Eleanor at Sarum.

In 1183, Philip of France claimed that certain properties in Normandy belonged to The Young Queen but Henry insisted that they had once belonged to Eleanor and would revert to her upon her son's death. For this reason Henry summoned Eleanor to Normandy in the late summer of 1183. She stayed in Normandy for six months. This was the beginning of a period of greater freedom for the still supervised Eleanor. Eleanor went back to England probably early in 1184. Over the next few years Eleanor often travelled with her husband and was sometimes associated with him in the government of the realm.

On Henry's death on July 6, 1189, Richard was his undisputed heir. One of his first acts as king was to send William Marshal to England with orders to release Eleanor from prison, but her custodians had already released her when he demanded this. Eleanor rode to Westminster and received the oaths of fealty from many lords and prelates on behalf of the King. She ruled England in Richard's name, signing herself as 'Eleanor, by the grace of God, Queen of England'. On August 13, 1189, Richard sailed from Barfleur to Portsmouth, and was received with enthusiasm. She ruled England as regent again when Richard went off on the Third Crusade. When he was captured by the Austrians on his way home, she personally negotiated his ransom by going to Germany.

Eleanor survived Richard and lived well into the reign of her youngest son King John. In 1199, under the terms of a truce between King Philip II of France and King John, it was agreed that Philip's twelve-year-old heir Louis would be married to one of John's nieces of Castile. John deputed Eleanor to travel to Castile to select one of the princesses. Now 77, Eleanor set out from Poitiers. Just outside Poitiers she was ambushed and held captive by Hugh IX of Lusignan, which had long ago been sold by his forebears to Henry II. Eleanor secured her freedom by agreeing to his demands and journeyed south, crossed the Pyrenees, and travelled through the Kingdoms of Navarre and Castile, arriving before the end of January, 1200. King Alfonso VIII and Queen Leonora of Castile had two remaining unmarried daughters, Urraca and Blanche. Eleanor selected the younger daughter, Blanche. She stayed for two months at the Castilian court. Late in March, Eleanor and Blanche de Castile journeyed back across the Pyrenees.

In Bordeaux, she fell ill and made her way to Fontevraud, where King John visited her. Eleanor was again unwell in early 1201. When war broke out between John and Philip, Eleanor set out from Fontevraud Abbey for her capital Poitiers to prevent her grandson Arthur, John's enemy, from taking control. Arthur learned of her whereabouts and besieged her in the castle of Mirabeau. As soon as King John heard of this he marched south, overcame the besiegers and captured Arthur. Eleanor then returned to Fontevrault where she took the veil as a nun, as her daughter Jeanne Countess of Toulouse had done. Eleanor died in 1204 and was buried in Fontevraud Abbey near her husband Henry, her son Richard, and her daughter Jeanne, joined later by her grandson Raymond VII of Toulouse. Her tomb effigy shows her reading a Bible and is decorated with magnificent jewellery. By the time of her death she had outlived all of her children except for King John of England and Queen Leonora. She is acclaimed by many as the most interesting woman ever to have lived. Certainly few describe her life as dull. Requiescat in pacem, Aliénor d'Aquitània.


Jeanne (or Joan) of England (October, 1165 - 4 September 1199)

Jeanne was the seventh child of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • the younger sister of William, Count of Poitiers,
  • the younger sister of Henry ("Henry the Young King")
  • the younger sister of Matilda of England,
  • a younger sister of Richard (Richard I King of England, The Lionheart.
  • a younger sister of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany
  • a younger sister of Leonora of Aquitaine.
  • an older sister of John (King John of England)


Jeanne was a younger half-sister of Marie de Champagne and of Alix of France (from Eleanor of Aquitaine's first marriage to the King of France)

Jeanne was born at Angers, in Anjou. She spent her youth at her mother's courts at Winchester and Poitiers. She was Richard's favourite sister. In 1176, King William II of Sicily sent ambassadors to England to ask for Jeanne's hand in marriage. The betrothal was confirmed and on August 27 Jeanne set sail for Sicily, escorted by an uncle and the bishop of Norwich.


In Saint-Gilles, the home town of the Counts of Toulouse, her entourage was met by representatives of the King of Sicily: After a hazardous voyage, the party arrived safely in Sicily, and on February 13, 1177, Jeanne married William II of Sicily and was crowned Queen of Sicily at Palermo Cathedral.

They had one son, Bohemond, born in 1181, who died in infancy. Following William's death she was kept a prisoner by the new king, Tancred of Sicily. Her brother Richard I of England arrived in Italy in 1190, on the way to the Holy Land. He demanded her return, along with her dowry. Tancred baulked at these demands so Richard seized a nearby monastery and the castle of La Bagnara. Deciding to spend the winter there he attacked and subdued the city of Messina. Outclassed, Tancred now agreed to the terms and sent back Jeanne's dowry.

In March 1191 Eleanor of Aquitaine arrived in Messina with Richard's prospective bride, Berengaria of Navarre. Eleanor returned to England, leaving Berengaria in Jeanne's care. Richard decided to postpone his wedding. He put his sister and bride on a ship, and set sail for the Holy Land. Two days later the fleet was hit by a storm which destroyed several vessels and blew Jeanne and Berengaria's ship off course.

Richard landed in Crete, but his sister and fiancée were stranded near Cyprus. The Despot of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus was just about to capture them when Richard's fleet appeared. Both princesses were saved, but the ambitious Isaac made off with Richard's treasure. Richard pursued and captured Isaac, threw him into a dungeon, and sent Jeanne and Berengaria on to Acre in the County of Tripoli, an Occitan speaking state belonging to the the House of Toulouse.

Once established in the Holy Land, Richard proposed marrying Jeanne to Saladin's brother, Al-Adil, and making the couple joint rulers of Jerusalem. This excellent plan failed as Jeanne declined to marry a Muslim, Al-Adil declined to marry a Christian and neither wanted to convert (which would in any case have largely defeated the object of the plan).

Jeanne was married in 1196 to Raymond VI of Toulouse, with Quercy and the Agenais as her dowry. The marriage took place in Beaucaire, presided over by Richard I himself. The following year she bore a son, also called Raymond, later to become Raymond VII of Toulouse.

Raymond does not seem to have treated his wife well, and Jeanne came to fear him and his nobles. In 1199, while pregnant with a second child, she was left to face a rebellion. She laid siege to the castle of the ringleaders, the lords of Saint-Félix-de-Caraman les Cassès. Fearing treachery from her own troops she fled to the Limousin, hoping for Richard's protection, but she found him dead at Chalus.

She then fled to the court of her mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, at Rouen, where she found refuge. Jeanne subsequently asked to be admitted to Fontevraud Abbey. She died there in childbirth, aged thirty-four years old, a veiled nun. In the west at this time, caesarean operations invariably meant death for the mother, and in this case for the baby too. It was a second son who lived long enough to be baptised Richard after his recently dead uncle. Jeanne was buried at Fontevraud Abbey along with her brother Richard, and presumably her son Richard. Later they would be joined by Eleanor of Aquitaine and fifty years later by her first son Raymond VII of Toulouse.


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