I have written about Fontevraud in Anjou France and it’s fascinating founder Robert of Arbrissel before.
The post can be found here
I have written about Fontevraud in Anjou France and it’s fascinating founder Robert of Arbrissel before.
The post can be found here
a) Married twice
b) A patron of Fontevraud
c) A great heiress and Duchess in her own right
Answer: Eleanor of Aquitaine
a) Born to the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury
b) Once won a pike
c) Regent of England.
Answer: William Marshal
a) Died in Rouen
b) Ordered what is known as an early census
c) Was a bastard in many senses of the word.
d) Answer: William I
a) Known as a great writer and thinker of the early medieval period
b) Had a son called Astrolabe
c) Was castrated for his great passion for one of his students (it’s a little more complicated, but that’s the gist)
a) The illegitimate daughter of a king of England
b) Married to a foreign Prince
c) Helped broker a peace between her husband a Prince of Wales and her father King John
Answer: Joan of Wales
a) An Irish lord
b) Buried in Ferns
c) The reason the Normans came to Ireland
Answer: Diarmait mac murchada
a) The second oldest son of a King.
b) Died in 1183
c) Known as reckless and crowned in his father’s life time.
d)Answer: Henry the Young King
a) A medieval writer who liked to travel
b) Descended from Nest, a well known Welsh princess.
c) Known for his descriptions of Wales and Ireland
d)Answer: Gerald of Wales
a) 12th child
b) Knight of the Garter
c) Arguably the last Plantagenet.
a) Married at a very young age
b) Daughter of Alice de Courtenay
c) Remarried when her husband died and her children with her second husband reaped great benefits at the court of Henry III
So how did you do?
1-10: Not too bad, maybe read a little more
11-20: Absolutely getting there, excellent effort
21-30: Brilliant, you really know your medieval figures!
31-40: Are you sure you didn’t check the next clue? No? Didn’t just have a pile of lucky guesses? No? Well then, exceptional effort!!
The way this quiz works.
It’s pretty simple. You see the question with a photo underneath and underneath the photo you’ll find the answer. There’s twenty five questions so keep track of how many you get right and how many you get wrong and see how you do at the end. There’s also a poll at the end so you can see how you compare to everyone else if you’re interested.
As the title suggests, it starts off easy and gets much more complicated. There are five sections: Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult and Evil.
Photo: Part of Runnymede the water meadow where Magna Carta was signed.
Photo: The Battle of Hasting in the Bayeux Tapestry.
Answer: Thomas Becket.
Photo: Henry II at Fontevraud Abbey.
Answer: Domesday Book
Photo: A recreation of the Domesday Book from in the National Archives.
Answer: Third Crusade
Answer: Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. Either is correct
And I wouldn’t be deducting points if you spelt either wrong.
Photo: Llywelyn’s coffin.
Answer: Isabel de Clare.
Photo: William Marshal’s effigy.
Answer: The Wash
Photo: Part of The Wash as it looks now.
Answer: Oxford Castle.
Photo: 1800s drawing from Cardiff Castle of the escape.
Photo: William the Conquerer’s tomb.
Answer: Henry III.
Photo: Great Hall of Winchester Castle.
Answer: It was a time “that Christ and His saints slept.”
Michael Swanton, (ed) & trans, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, London: Phoenix Press, 2000, p. 265. You get the point if you got a variant of this, there’s different translations.
Photo: The current tomb of Empress Maud, one of the antagonists of the Period of Anarchy.
If you got all of them but not in order have a point, but you get a bonus point if you got them in order.
Photo: Henry’s non contemporary tomb at Rouen Cathedral.
Answer: Lincoln, Salisbury Cathedral and The British Library (the British Library has 2).
Photo: Part of Lincoln Castle.
Answer: William Longsword Earl of Salisbury and bastard son of Henry II.
Photo: His tomb.
The Rev. John Williams, (ed), Brut y Tywysogion, London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860, p. 261
Answer: Cilgerran Castle.
Photo: Recent wicker statue of Marshal at Cilgerran
Answer: 100,000 silver marks and 200 hostages. You get the point if you got the monetary amount.
Photo: Riveaux Abbey, a Cistercian foundation. Cistercian foundations had to contribute part of their wool clips to the ransom.
Photo: Canterbury Cathedral
Answer: Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem.
Photo: Temple Church in London.
Answer: Hang him, catapult him at the walls of his father’s castle and crush him with a millstone.
A.J Holden & David Crouch (eds) S. Gregory, trans, History of William Marshal, Volume I, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002, p. 31.
You can have the point if you got these in any order but you have to have all three to get the point.
Photo: William Marshal
Answer: 70.34m, but you can have the point if you said 70.
Photo: My favourite scene in the Bayeux Tapestry with the Hand of God coming out of the sky.
Answer: Guala Bicchieri. You can have the point if you only got Guala, or said Gualo. It is a variation of the spelling and often only Guala or Gualo is written.
Photo: Facsimile of Salisbury’s Magna Carta in the Temple Church.
Answer: Robert Earl of Gloucester and oldest illegitimate son of Henry I. The passage is from Geoffrey’s dedication of his work History of the Kings of Britain.
Photo: Monmouth Castle. Geoffrey was born somewhere in the region of Monmouth
So that’s it. How did you do?
1-5: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.
6-10: You know more than basics, well on your way.
11-15: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.
16-20: Impressive. You know you stuff.
21-25: Incredible effort. You may know more about this period than is sensible 🙂
26-27 remember the two bonus points: Speechless. Incredible. You definitely know more than you need to about this specific period and area.
27: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?
Now if you feel like it put your results in the poll below.
The photos are all mine.
In many cases historic buildings are finding a new meaning in an increasingly technological world as canvases for modern art. Whether it is as a cinema, or a projection space or as a place for installations. This sort of repurposing brings new life and new significance to historic buildings.
There are many examples, but I thought I’d just discuss a few. I’d like to begin with some I have previously mentioned in an earlier post.
Fontevraud is an abbey in France that was founded in the 11th century. Various parts of it have been used for artistic installations. The Cloister. You can walk on this sculpture, creating whole new ways of seeing an ancient building.The dormitory. You are able to lie in these boats, simulating the experience of the sleeping monks.
The two installations in Fontevraud both work with the history of the building to give alternative ways of experiencing it.
Another example from France is Foix Castle not that far from Toulouse. You can see the castle below. It is perched on a a lump of carboniferous limestone and parts of the castle itself date from the 11th century. It was involved in the Albigensian Crusade and was part of an area of known Cathar sympathisers.
The installations below could be found inside and were both representations of people at prayer. Again repurposing an old building and using its own history for art.
Fontevraud and Foix notwithstanding, probably the best known historic building repurposed for art is The Louvre itself in Paris. It is an ancient palace and castle and now one of the most famous art galleries in the world. As you can see from its foundations, incidentally one of my favourite parts of The Louvre, it has been there for a long time. In fact it began its life as a fortress commissioned by Phillip Augustus to protect Paris in c. 1190. This fortress was large even for its time, with a keep measuring roughly 15m diameter and 30m in height. Within the Louvre itself you also have the repurposing of rooms, such as Napoleon III’s apartments, for the display of modern art. In this particular case they were integrated to simultaneously blend in with the overt opulence and to reflect it.
Historic buildings are not just used for static art. They are also used for performances, such as the Vivaldi concert in the stunning Sainte Chapel you can see below. Sainte Chapel was commissioned by Louis IX, later Saint Louis, and was originally built to house his collection of holy relics. It is one of the few survivors of the full colour that would have been present in many of the larger churches and cathedrals. It also has one of the largest collections of 13th century stained glass.
Aside from music and art installations historic buildings are becoming canvasses in their own right. This often happens in festivals such as the recent Melbourne White Night. Melbourne has many historic buildings, by historic in Melbourne I mean 1800s and early 1900s not medieval, and on White Night several come alive with astounding light and sound displays.
The State Library of Victoria is one of my favourite buildings in Melbourne. The SLV has been on its site, though in a smaller building, since it opened in 1856. The founders wanted to create a place of learning for all Victorians and a place to preserve Victoria’s heritage. It is not one building. It is actually made up of 23 individual buildings that have been repurposed and integrated over the years. In the SLV my favourite room is the Latrobe domed reading room which was opened in 1913. The dome itself is 114 feet in diameter and 114 feet high. It is a wonderful place to study or write. During a normal day it looks like this. But on White Night this year, this happened.
Other buildings were illuminated externally. Such as the Forum Theatre. The Forum opened in 1929 and is slightly insane in its own right even without illumination. It was built as an immersive theater and the interior has a large number of greek and roman statues as well as a blue sky with stars. This is what is looks like normally.
And this is what it and its surrounding buildings look like when they’re lit up.
The final building I wanted to look at is in some ways the most spectacular and the most important historically. The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens was completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first international exhibition. It is one of the world’s oldest examples of exhibition pavilions. It was also the site of Australia’s first parliament in 1901. The Argus described the event as.
The atmosphere was radiant and illuminated the vast spaces of the building and the great sea of faces with a bright Australian glow. A sight never to be forgotten was the assemblage which, in perfect order but with exalted feeling, awaited the arrival of the Duke and Duchess in the great avenues which branch out from beneath the vast dome of the Exhibition Building. (Argus 10 May 1901)
And it was depicted in the famous Tom Roberts painting below.
This is what the Exhibition Building looks like during the day, a beautiful example of exhibition architecture.
Below is the truly stunning work of moving modern art it became on White Night. Sorry about any talking in the background.
Historic buildings have their own story and their importance and purpose is fundamental to what they are. Integrating modern art allows whole new interpretations of the past, new ways of viewing history and art and the ability to bring these buildings to brand new audiences.
For more information see…
The photos and videos are all mine apart from:
The inside of the Forum, which can be found at http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g255100-d258068-i46387954-Forum_Melbourne-Melbourne_Victoria.html#85255678
The Exhibition Building which can be found at http://museumvictoria.com.au/reb/
The Tom Roberts painting which can be found at http://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Parliament_House_Art_Collection/Tom_Roberts_Big_Picture
Fontevraud has appeared in some of my other posts because Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I and Isabelle of Angouleme are buried there.
Isabelle of Angouleme and Richard I
It is, however, an absolutely fascinating place in its own right and one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.
Fontevraud was founded in c. 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel. The remains of his tomb can be seen below.
Robert d’ Arbrissel was an enigma even in his own time. Fulke V of Anjou described him as a thunderclap of holy exhortation which lit up the whole church with its eloquence. Peter Abelard, a fascinating figure in his own right, called him “That outstanding herald of Christ.” But many contemporary churchmen viewed Robert as a danger to his own soul and the souls of his female followers. Robert was everything from a parish priest, to a student, to a hermit, but he has been remembered as the founder of Fontevraud.
Fontevraud was an atypical abbey even for its time because it was founded as a mixed community of men and women and the Abbess ruled over the whole community, male and female. This was exceptionally unusual. The fact that many of Robert’s followers were women was part of the reason he was distrusted, but was also in a way a product of his times. With older men marrying much younger women widowhood was common, but it is clear at Robert’s message and personality attracted not only widows but unhappy wives. Some of his followers were also former clerical wives cast aside in the newer push for chastity amongst the clergy. This was also a time where clerical celibacy was seen to imply a strict separation of men and women in religious life. An ideal that Robert definitively did not share. (Venarde, xi-xxix).
In fact it is quite possible that the majority of Robert’s followers were women. The only piece of surviving spiritual writing from Robert himself is directed to Countess Ermengarde of Brittany who was the sister of Robert’s main patron Count Fulke V of Anjou.
The walls of Chateau d’Angers the home of the Counts of Anjou, though these were built after the time of Count Fulke V.
Ermengarde herself was fascinating. She was the daughter of Fulke the IV of Anjou, engaged but never married to Duke William IX of Aquitaine, the grandfather of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and then the wife of Count Alan IV of Brittany. She was her husband’s regent while he was on crusade from 1096 till 1101. She became dissatisfied with her marriage and attempted to end it through flight and an appeal to an ecclesiastical court, but she failed to get the annulment. It was shortly after this in 1109 that Robert wrote to her. She was described by poet-bishop Marbode of Rennes, who hated Robert, as powerfully eloquent, extremely astute and the glory of Brittany. In later life, after her husband retired to a monastery in 1112, she played an important role in the court of her son before following Bernard of Clairvaux to Burgundy. Bernard himself was an interesting figure, if very strange and in my opinion quite annoying, and I will write more on him in a later post. In Burgundy she became a nun before going with some fellow nuns to the Holy Land where her brother Fulke was King of Jerusalem. She returned to Brittany where she remained active at the court until she died in 1147. The extent of her relationship with Robert is unknown, it is possible that she visited Fontevraud but it can’t be proven. The letter he wrote to her just after she attempted to have her marriage annulled is very interesting.(Venarde, 68-69).
It is too long to go into great detail here, but a basic breakdown is possible.
1. The spirit of pride is bad
2. Do not trust or yield to every spirit
3. Take heart and be strong.
4. Do not regret too much that you are bound to an infidel husband. You can still benefit God’s people.
5. Don’t be too anxious about changes of place and appearance.
6. Fear not enemies of Christ for they will not harm you unless God allows it.
7/8. Do not get puffed up by good fortune or shattered by adversity, for those who fear God want for nothing.
9. Believe, love, hope in God, do good, settle in the land of your heart and feed on its riches.
10. Flee the wicked words of savage men in your heart.
11. Alms and prayer are good if done for God but profit nothing if done for the praise of mankind.
12. Many clerics are hypocrites
13. You can not get out of your own marriage but you should do what you can to get your daughter out her her’s as it consanguineous.
14. Don’t disclose all your plans to all your household and friends, many are self serving.
15. Exercise caution and discretion in all things.
Fontevraud also rose out of a period of change for monasticism in general. There was the beginnings of a shift in the way monasticism was practiced. The Cistercians rose out of a reaction against the interpretation of benedictine monasticism which created great wealth and power for the institutions, not the monks themselves necessarily. The best example of this was the monastery of Cluny which was founded in 910 and financed by Duke William I of Aquitaine. Cluny created a number of brother and sister houses which answered directly to Cluny. By Robert’s time it had gained exceptional wealth.
The Exterior of the Musee du Moyen Age in Paris. Which was originally the Paris townhouse of the Abbots of Cluny.
The Cistercians were a reaction against the opulence and focus on wealth that Cluny represented. They favoured a strict adherence to the rule of Benedict and Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the leading lights. The Cistercians wanted to go back to the basics and their monasteries were heavily focused on self sufficiency, simplicity and were often remote and agrarian.
Robert’s Fontevraud was different again. In c. 1101 Robert settled his followers at what would become Fontevraud. Until that point he had been an itinerant preacher, albeit with a significant number of followers including a number of noble women. In fact he departed to continue preaching by c. 1103 having seen the beginning of permanent monastic settlement and appointed two female superiors. However it was not until October 1115 that an Abbess of Fontevraud was appointed after Fontevraud has been recognised by papal authority. Robert’s intentions for this mixed community were never exactly clear, except for working towards spiritual excellence. Despite this when he died on February 25th 1116 and was buried at Fontevraud, Fontevraud and the daughter houses it had established were, as described by Venarde, “Well on the way to becoming the wealthiest order of monasteries for women in Roman Catholic Europe.” (Venarde, xxii).
The statutes of Fontrevraud are reasonably clear but they don’t conform exactly to specific monastic orders. Sisters and brothers lived and worshipped together. The women were guided by the rule of St Benedict, but the statutes don’t make clear whether the male members are to follow Benedictine or Augustine rule. So they are neither monks nor cannons, they are simply called brothers and Robert makes clear they are in the service of and obedient to the women of Fontevraud. (Venarde, 84-87).
There were a number of interesting women who became Abbesses of Fontevraud, Petronilla the first Abbess being one of them. She was a noble widow who became a follower of Robert’s and he personally appointed her the first Abbess of Fontevraud. Another was Matilda of Anjou. She was abbess from c. 1150 -1158. She is remarkable because if not for one of the most interesting accidents in the medieval period she would have been Queen of England. She was the daughter of Fulke the V of Anjou, the brother of Ermengarde and patron of Robert, but she was married to William the only legitimate son of Henry I. William drowned on the White Ship in 1120 along with much of the young nobility of England and France. Matilda could have remained at court and she did for a time. Henry I was more than happy to have her and he would have married her off again. In the end though she took vows at Fontevraud in c. 1128 and became Abbess there in c. 1150.
Many of the early Plantagenets were patrons of Fontevraud, as evidenced by the fact that four of the them are buried there. Indeed Eleanor of Aquitaine spent her last years there and died there in the 1204. She was a great patron of Fontevraud throughout her life. One of her surviving charters is evidence of her patronage. In this charter she gives the abbey and the “nuns serving God there” the “rent of one hundred pounds, in perpetual alms, from the provosture of Poitiers and the vineyard of Benon, particularly what is received from Marcilly.” (Epistolae).
Fontevraud as a complex of buildings has gone through many changes since it was built. The church was begun to hold the body of Robert and is Romanesque in style with a Byzantine influence. It dates from successive periods in the 1100s. You can see the interior below.
You can see the spectacular grandeur of Fontevraud’s exterior built in the beautiful creamy local tuffeau stone in the photos below.
When it was built much of the interior would have been painted. Some of the early paint remains in fragmented sections.
Some of the later paintings can be seen in more detail. As can be seen in the chapter house photo below, which was painted and remodelled in the 16th century to show the wealth and prestige of King Francis I.
Probably my favourite of all the buildings is the kitchen. It dates to the early 1100s though it has been remodelled. It is built of the more heat resistant charente stone. It is also built in the Byzantine Romanesque style brought back from the crusades.
The interior is constructed so one embrasure was used to make hot coals and the meals were cooked in the embrasures away from the prevailing wind to prevent the blowback of smoke. The central chimney got rid of both smoke and vapours.
The fact that anything of Fontevraud survives at all is really saying something because it was deconsecrated in the revolution and Napoleon decided to use it as a prison in 1804 and it remained one for a long time. In fact the last prisoners left in 1985. The abbey was completely restored in the 20th century and now is also used for a variety of art installations such as the two that can be seen below. The first was in the dormitories and the second was in the cloister and could be walked on, giving you different perspectives of an ancient building.
The gardens are also absolutely worth visiting.
It is a truly beautiful place with a fascinating history. A place where the calm seems to have seeped into the stone.I went to Fontevraud so I could see Eleanor of Aquitaine’s tomb but it is much more than that. It is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been.
Bruce L. Venarde. Robert of Arbrissel. ISBN: 9780813213545.
Eleanor of Aquitaine Charter to Fontevrault, 1185 at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/885.html, accessed 26/9/2010.
Other sources include the signs at Fontevraud, and my university course notes on monasticism.
The photos are all mine.
Due to the fact that the majority of interest seems to have been in Eleanor of Aquitaine from part one of this series I am going to begin my investigation of individual women with her. There has been so much written about Eleanor of Aquitaine and I am the first to admit that there isn’t that much new to say, but she is one of my favourites from this time period so I’m always happy to write about her.
Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy at Fontevraud Abbey.
Royal marriages changed the political face of the country and ensured the transmission of states between families. They also formed alliances that helped to stop wars, start wars and disseminate culture between different countries. The royal bride who had the most profound effect on England during this time period was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Henry II from 1152-1189.  Her marriage was made for political reasons, on her side as well as Henry’s, but it did later come to involve affection and it appears there was some form of initial attraction on both sides. Her marriage to Henry II also changed English politics. She brought the Duchy of Aquitaine to the English Crown and thus was instrumental in the creation of the Plantagenet Empire on the continent. The Plantagenets ruled substantially more of what we would now consider France than did the French. Eleanor was also the mother of the three kings: Henry the Young King ,who was crowned during his father’s lifetime but died in 1183, Richard I and John I. Richard and John were both kings who made strong marks, good and bad, on the political landscape. Medieval English queens did have authority, but it was largely ceremonial and dependant on their husbands. They had their own unique status, as they were the only ones beside the king who were officially anointed and appointed by God as part of the royal authority. Medieval queens also had their own land in the shape of their dower lands, which were given to them by the king on their marriage. However, how much say the queen had in the running of these lands was dependant on the queen herself and the amount of authority the king allowed her.  The queen was also often at the cultural centre of the court. Even contemporaries who were not otherwise remarkably complimentary of Eleanor of Aquitaine acknowledged the immense cultural downturn the court took in her absence. Patronage was another area in which queens could have great influence. An example of such patronage is Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 1185 charter to the abbey of Fontevraud. In this charter she gives the abbey and the “nuns serving God there” the “rent of one hundred pounds, in perpetual alms, from the provosture of Poitiers and the vineyard of Benon, particularly what is received from Marcilly.” 
It was primarily because of her background that Eleanor of Aquitaine was able to wield a little more real authority than some other queens of England, though she was still subject to the power of her husband. She was born in c 1124 and was a great heiress in her own right.  Her father was Duke William X of Aquitaine and when he died on pilgrimage in c 1137 he left Eleanor as the ruler of one of the biggest and most powerful duchies in Christendom. Contemporary writer William of Newburgh described the duchy as “very extensive” and stretching “from the borders of Anjou and Brittany to the Pyrenees.” In dying William X left Eleanor very vulnerable, because she became a desirable marriage prize. A little over a month after her father’s death, probably to ensure her own protection, she married Prince Louis the heir to the French throne and the future Louis VII. However for the next fifteen years of her marriage, despite her title as Queen of France, she would have little control over Aquitaine, as Louis took it for himself and installed French administrators. Her marriage was annulled in 1152 and she found herself once again a vulnerable heiress. She married Henry the young Duke of Normandy and the future Henry II of England only eight weeks after the annulment of her previous marriage. This marriage would eventually begin her time as Queen of England, and help to establish her as a woman of authority and power as well as a duchess in her own right.
St Denis Cathedral where Louis VII is buried with the majority of the Kings of France. Eleanor would have been very familiar with it.
In the first twenty or so years of her reign as Queen of England Eleanor did have power and involvement, but it was not that dissimilar to the traditional power of a queen. She did originally have some say in the running of Aquitaine, but it was more a position of advising Henry II rather than having a free reign to run the Duchy she had inherited. She also acted as a regent both in England and in various parts of the continental domains. Additionally Eleanor and Henry II seem to have acted in some sort of partnership for the first decade or so of their marriage. This is illustrated with Henry II’s campaign to try to enforce Eleanor’s rights in Toulouse in 1170. This was not a campaign that was particularly advantageous to Henry and it was one that Eleanor had also persuaded her previous husband to undertake. Eleanor also had eight children, including five sons, with Henry II and this helped to increase her standing because she was fulfilling the main role of a queen. Eleanor was not a queen who was just left at home to bear children while the king was out fighting wars. She was present with Henry and without Henry all over their disparate empire and seems to have been very involved in the culture as well as the political side. 
Effigy of Henry II at Fontevruad Abbey.
However it is also important to note that Eleanor was not necessarily well liked in her new kingdom. Gerald of Wales, a contemporary writer, describes her as having a reputation of “sufficient notoriety,” citing her apparent “carnal knowledge” of Henry’s father Geoffrey of Anjou as evidence. While it is unlikely this particular accusation was true it does show that Eleanor was very much at the mercy of a masculine world where she was subject to ridicule by male chroniclers. This was a world in which independent authority by a woman, however powerful, was very difficult.
Also her role during the reign of Henry II was curtailed by her fifteen years of imprisonment for her part in her sons’ rebellion. Henry forgave his sons due to their relative youth and the fact that he needed them, but he never forgave Eleanor. The imprisonment was relatively comfortable and it began in the 1174. She was not released until Henry II’s death and Richard I’s ascension to the throne in 1189. In this period she had little influence. She lost her dower lands and most of her revenues, losing even the traditional trappings of power for a queen. What she did receive she could not dispose of as she wished. Despite the appearance of some autonomy, any power Eleanor did have during the reign of Henry II, like other queens, came courtesy of her husband. She was able to work in partnership as long he allowed her to. So most of her authority came from any influence she might have had over Henry II and his actions. Her acting as regent, while it was a position of significant power, was not independent power. This changed abruptly when Henry II died in 1189. Eleanor’s certainly shaped the political situation in England with her involvement in the reigns of her sons. It can be seen specifically in her actions in the governance of the kingdom while Richard was on crusade. It was her backing that gave legitimacy to Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen, when he was appointed as the joint authority with Chancellor Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, who had been left nominally in charge. de Coutances was primarily appointed to check Longchamp’s excesses. Eleanor also mediated in any arguments between the justiciars who were sharing authority in Richard’s absence. Eleanor was also one of the few people who had some influence on Prince John who, as Richard’s most likely heir, caused significant trouble when Richard was out of the country. Eleanor was also not in England all the time that Richard was absent because she traveled across the Plantagenet Empire, helping to hold it together and to bring Richard his new wife Berengaria of Navarre. In 1191, despite the fact that she was in her late 60’s, she traveled to Navarre, in the modern day Spanish and French borderlands, to bring Berengaria back to marry Richard in Limassol in Cyprus.
Richard’s effigy in Fontevraud Abbey. The effigy beside him is that of Isabel of Angouleme. She was the wife of his brother John and another heiress who will be discussed in a later post.
Eleanor’s influence was most apparent when Richard was captured and held for ransom in 1193 on the way back from crusade. Richard had been taken by Duke Leopold of Austria and the ransom set was the exorbitant 100, 000 silver marks, plus 200 hostages from his vassals’ families. Richard’s lands had already been heavily taxed to help pay for his crusade and now they were squeezed even harder to raise a ransom that was twice England’s annual revenue. One of the ways Eleanor raised the ransom was to approve, with Walter of Coutances, a levy of one quarter of all moveable goods, a percentage of all knights’ fees and significant contributions of gold and silver from the churches. The only churches that were exempt were the Cistercians and Gilbertines, who were too austere to have gold and silver. From these she demanded a percentage of their wool clip. Her integral involvement in these levies is illustrated by the fact that the treasure was stored with her seal on it as well as Walter of Coutances’.
Cistercian abbeys like Riveaux were exempt from providing gold for the ransom.
Richard I also placed great importance on his mother’s role in keeping his kingdom together. This is very well illustrated in the letter that he wrote to her in 1193, requesting her assistance in ensuring that Hubert Bishop of Salisbury would be made Archbishop of Canterbury. Firstly in this letter he describes Eleanor as by the grace of God “Queen of England.” Which clearly shows that he considers her authority paramount. Additionally he thanks her for the “faithful care and diligence [she gave] to [his] lands for peace and defense so devotedly and effectively.” He goes on to say that her “prudence and discretion” is the “greatest cause of [his] land remaining in a peaceful state until [his] arrival.” This independence of action is further illustrated in another letter of Richard’s, regarding the appointment of Hubert. He appeals to “his dearest mother Eleanor, by that same grace Queen of England, greetings and the inviolable sincerity of filial love”. He appeals to her to ensure that the justiciars the bishops of Canterbury Church, and anyone else she believes needs to be involved, instate Hubert of Salisbury as Archbishop of Canterbury. The fact that Richard I assumes that Eleanor will have the influence and power to achieve his request, indicates the power and independent authority that she wielded during his reign. Henry II married Eleanor as a royal bride mainly for political reasons, they barely knew each other when they were married, but she made an indelible mark on England primarily in holding the country together. The next post in this series will be about Joanna Princess of Wales. She was the wife of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, know as Llywelyn the Great, and the illegitimate daughter of King John.
 Marie Hivergneaux, “Queen Eleanor and Aquitaine 1137-1189”, in Bonnie Wheeler & John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Aquitaine Lord and Lady, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p 55.
 Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 1-3.
 Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 8-9.
 Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 8-9.
 Eleanor of Aquitaine Charter to Fontevrault, 1185 at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/885.html.
 Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 13-14.
 William of Newburgh, The History of English Affairs, trans. PG, Walsh and M.J Kennedy, (eds), William of Newburgh History of English Affairs, Warminster, 1988 pp.129-131.
 Melrich V Rosenberg, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Massachusetts, 1937, pp. 4-5.
 Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 21-23.
 Ibid., pp. 63-69.
 Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, p. XVIII.
 Ibid., pp. 123-125.
 Ibid., pp. 139-141.
 Gerald of Wales, The Death of Henry II and Comments on the Angevin Family, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/geraldwales-dip1.html.
 Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, pp. 233-237.
 Richard Barber, Henry Plantagenet, Ipswich, 1964, pp.182-183.
 Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Wheeler and Carmi Parsons, (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, pp. 79-83.
 Crawford, Queens of England, pp. 32-34.
. Anne Crawford, “Berengaria of Navarre,” in Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 43-45.
 Ibid., pp. 299-301.
 Andrea Hopkins, “Eleanor of Aquitaine,” in Andrea Hopkins, Six Medieval Women, London, 1997, pp. 56-57.
 Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England, London, 1999, pp. 229-230.
 Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, Lord and Lady, New York, 2003, pp. 83-85.
 Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/148.html.
 Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/149.html.
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