• Eleanor of Aquitaine and her game of Thrones

    Eleanor of Aquitaine and her game of ThronesIt has recently dawned upon me (as well as my colleague Marie) that if you are looking for real life Game of Thrones material, you should look into the story of Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. You would then find most of the main themes of the Game of Thrones saga displayed to some extent. For instance:


    * Weird and problematic weddings for political alliances:

    - Eleanor was married at 15 to the future king of France. After 15 years of unhappy marriage, she finally asked the Pope for an annulment, based on their consanguinity. Two months later, she married Henri Plantagenet, future king of England, around 10 years younger than her, and with whom she shared the same degree of consanguinity as with her first husband. She was thus the first official "cougar" in History and her second marriage created the largest Empire of Western Europe for this period.

    - Eleanor's uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, married a 10-year-old princess in order to become Prince of Antioch.

    - Eleanor's little sister, Petronille, wanted to marry the old Raoul de Vermandois, who was already married to the niece of the Earl of Champagne. So Eleanor got this marriage annulled, based on consanguinity, so that Petronille could marry him. The Earl got mad, so the king of France, Eleanor's husband went to Champagne, and the army accidentally put fire to a church full of civilians who had taken shelter in there...


    * Love and a lot of sex of all kinds, and if possible, adultery and incest:

    - Eleanor was not happy in her first marriage and according to experts, she was either a saint or a slut. Pick your side! It is said that she might have had a lot of lovers, on of them potentially being her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers!

    - At first, Eleanor and her second husband, Henri II, got along very well. She finally had a real man, and a young one, and he had an experienced wife. Hence their 8 children in around 12 years.

    - After a few years of happy marriage, Henri started to take loads of mistresses (you can understand... his wife was old!!). He was also the first king to live with his "official mistress".


    * Religion used by some, using the others:

    - Eleanor's first husband, Louis, had been raised, as second son to the king, to become a bishop or an abbot. But since his elder brother died early (see below, #funfact #nospoiler), he had to become king... Sh*t! He really wanted to be a man of God. Which may explain, at least partially, the 15 years of unhappy marriage with Eleanor... Imagine being married to a man who scourges himself every now and then, and who dresses as a monk instead of a king!

    - Eleanor and Louis took part to the second Crusade with all the French nobility. Mind that, it's when they arrived in the Far East that Eleanor got to spend a lot of quality time with her uncle Raymond...

    - Of course, the christian Church did not allow divorce, except when everybody is cousin with their spouse to some extent... very handy!


    * Treason and civil war:

    - After a few years of happy marriage and ruling their Empire together, things went bad between Eleanor and Henri. They had 8 children together, but their sons, supported by Eleanor, took part to a big rebellion of the English nobility. Henri finally won the war and had Eleanor imprisonned for 15 years (in other words, until he died).

    - Henri decided to nominate his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury so that he could control the Church in England. But Thomas fought with him on many points. During a meeting, Henri exclaimed "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!". Four of his knights decided to visit Becket in order to reason or arrest him. They ended up murdering him with their swords in a church! Henri was then held responsible for this horrible death, although he may not have wanted or planned it.


    * Deaths, deaths, deaths, often convenient, sometimes stupid:

    - Eleanor's father, Duke William 10th, died on his way to Santiago de Compostella when she was 14 (she thus became a very powerful, rich and single duchess), hence her hasty marriage one year later.

    - Louis's big brother died at 15 because his horse took fright at a pig! There were a lot of pigs running free in Paris, because they ate garbage: no need for garbage collectors, and no need to pay to feed the pigs before you ate them! But free pigs were forbidden in Paris after this accident...

    - Eleanor and Louis got married in Bordeaux. On their way back to Paris, they stopped in Poitiers, where they learnt of the king's death. They were now king and queen of France, at 16 and 15!

    - Of course, a lot of people died during the Crusade. But also afterwards. For instance, Eleanor's dear dear uncle, Raymond, got beheaded by the Turks after the Crusaders went away... Eleanor kind of blamed Louis for that, since he was so pissed of at their "friendship" that he refused to help Raymond fight his enemies.

    - About the awful death of Thomas Becket, see above.

    - Several of Eleanor's children died when she was alive, including young Henri, during the rebellion against king Henri (too may Henris in England, too many Louis in France...), and Richard Lionheart, her favorite son.



    This short list is not meant to be exhaustive, rather an incentive. Don't you want to learn more about dear Eleanor?


    Bonus: If you understand French, check out this video where each protagonist exposes their version of this very complex story :-)

    (they actually had the same feeling as me in the video, since the minstrel is playing "The rains of Castamere", the Lannister song ^^)

     You can also read the French version of this article on my professional website.


    EDIT: since the publication of this article, I have turned these thoughts (and many others) into a themed guided tour (I'm a professional tour guide) in my home town, Bordeaux.



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