Eleanor inherited Aquitaine at the age of 15. Aquitaine was a large, rich fief - one of the best in Europe. This inheritance began Eleanor's career as one of the wealthiest and most powerful people of the Middle Ages, but it was only the beginning.
While still a teenager, Eleanor married Louis, who would very soon become Louis VII, King of France. Eleanor became Queen of France.
Eleanor wasn't one to just sit around and look queenly; she was very involved in the running of the country. When she heard that Louis was planning a crusade, she offered the services of thousands of vassals from Aquitaine, but there was a catch. Eleanor planned to join the crusade herself, along with three hundred other women. This was during a time when men ruled and only men rode out to do battle, but they made an exception for Eleanor. Maybe they didn't want to lose the extra troops that she offered, but for whatever reason, Eleanor and her ladies were permitted to join the crusade. Eleanor suited up in battle gear and rode out on her white horse. She and her ladies must have been an unusual sight in the year 1144 as they marched to the Holy Land.
Eleanor and Louis's marriage ran into problems during the crusade, and when they returned to France, their marriage was annulled. Soon afterwards, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet. Henry was eleven years younger than Eleanor, but he was about to become Henry II, King of England.
The marriage of Henry and Eleanor united the lands of England and Aquitaine. Henry II and his Queen Eleanor ruled a vast kingdom.
Henry II's reign was a time of conflicts, especially between King Henry and the Church. A struggle for power between King Henry and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury ended with the murder of the archbishop, and this seems to be what Henry is remembered for more than anything else, but Eleanor was a different story. She had many more adventures in store.
For a time, she returned to her own fief of Aquitaine, and ruled a court there that was known as a center of culture. She fostered poetry and sponsored troubadours. Her court was sophisticated, wealthy, and popular. After a while, Henry called her back to England.
Eleanor and Henry had a large family, including five sons, and some of those sons, especially Richard and John, were very ambitious. By the time she returned to England, each one was beginning to think about taking control of the country for himself. They plotted against their father. Eleanor chose to join her sons in their plots against her husband. However, their revolt was not successful, and Eleanor, Richard, and John tried to flee the country. Eleanor was captured and returned to King Henry, who imprisoned her. She remained locked up in various castles or dungeons for nearly 16 years, until Henry's death in 1189.
Upon Henry's death, Richard inherited the throne. He became the legendary King Richard the Lionheart. Eleanor, his mother, began again to participate in ruling the country. When Richard went away on a crusade, he left the message that his mother's word was to be obeyed.
Upon Richard's death, John assumed the throne. Eleanor was still actively involved, although she was very elderly by Middle Ages standards.
Eleanor died in 1204. She had been Queen of France, Queen of England, and the mother of two kings. She had been a powerful, wealthy leader, and an adventurous crusader. Eleanor had been a most unusual woman.