Eleanor of Aquitaine


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Queen of France, Queen of England

Ralph V. Turner

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Untangling the myths and legends of many centuries, this biography gives us the real Eleanor—tenacious, defiant, and powerful

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s extraordinary life seems more likely to be found in the pages of fiction. Proud daughter of a distinguished French dynasty, she married the king of France, Louis VII, then the king of England, Henry II, and gave birth to two sons who rose to take the English throne—Richard the Lionheart and John. Renowned for her beauty, hungry for power, headstrong, and unconventional, Eleanor traveled on crusades, acted as regent for Henry II and later for Richard, incited rebellion, endured a fifteen-year imprisonment, and as an elderly widow still wielded political power with energy and enthusiasm.

This gripping biography is the definitive account of the most important queen of the Middle Ages. Ralph Turner, a leading historian of the twelfth century, strips away the myths that have accumulated around Eleanor—the “black legend” of her sexual appetite, for example—and challenges the accounts that relegate her to the shadows of the kings she married and bore. Turner focuses on a wealth of primary sources, including a collection of Eleanor’s own documents not previously accessible to scholars, and portrays a woman who sought control of her own destiny in the face of forceful resistance. A queen of unparalleled appeal, Eleanor of Aquitaine retains her power to fascinate even 800 years after her death.

Ralph V. Turner is emeritus professor of history, Florida State University. He is the author of King John and The Reign of Richard Lionheart, among many other publications on European medieval history. He lives in Tallahassee.

"A gripping look at the woman behind the myths."—History Magazine

"In this engaging biography, eminent medieval historian Turner takes on a larger-than-life subject and breathes new life into her. . . . Overall, a beautifully written, well-researched book that will attract a wide spectrum of readers interested in medieval history. . . . Highly recommended." —B. Lowe, Choice

"Eleanor's remarkable career is done full justice in this life, which is readable, lively, and convincing. It provides insights into many aspects of the twelfth century as well as a radically new assessment of the queen herself. Many myths are exploded, and a thoroughly realistic picture of a politically ambitious and independent-minded woman emerges."—Michael Prestwich, University of Durham

"Ralph Turner rejects the stereotypes and sets Eleanor in a new light, by evaluating her motives and behaviour within vividly realised social, cultural and political contexts. Eleanor emerges as a steely operator who overrode gender prejudice to become one of the most influential political figures in the Europe of her time."—Anthony Goodman, University of Edinburgh

"Ralph Turner crafts a very credible portrait of Eleanor. This is a formidable biography which should be widely read."—Jean Dunbabin, University of Oxford

"This accessible and very detailed biography eschews the speculation and romanticization common in accounts of Eleanor's life. Ralph Turner depicts Eleanor as politically intelligent and highly ambitious, her scandalous reputation resulting from her determination to exert political influence. It is for her political responsibility in the reigns of her sons that this exceptional woman really deserves to be remembered."—Joanna Laynesmith, author of The Last Medieval Queens

"Eleanor of Aquitaine comes into her own in Turner's measured, meticulously researched biography of a queen more often associated with scandal and frivolity than with intelligence and power. . . . Firmly grounding his subject into historical context, Turner provides a portrait of a passionately ambitious and extremely intelligent twelfth-century queen who transcended societal limitations and expectations."—ALA Booklist

"Turner's real interest lies in the sources of knowledge, in stripping away. . . legends in quest of a more accurate Eleanor. . . . His results command respect."—Thomas N. Bisson, Book Reviews

"Eleanor’s is a great story, and Ralph V. Turner tells it well"—Brendan Smith, The Tablet

“….. [A] highly readable biography….The Plantagenet women were a breed apart – their story should be told.”—Lesley McDowell, The Herald (Glasgow)

“Ralph Turner’s biography is one of very few capable of distinguishing fiction from the 12th-century fact. It also offers a rattling good read.”—Nicholas Vincent, BBC History Magazine

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300178203
Publication Date: December 13, 2011
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.