Plantagenet Princesses

ebook The Daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II

By Douglas Boyd

cover image of Plantagenet Princesses

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A look at the royal women of twelfth-century England—from the empowered to the imprisoned—and their roles in the ruling dynasty.
Eleanor of Aquitaine and her second husband, Henry II, are commonly considered medieval figures, but their era was really the violent transition from the Dark Ages, when countries' borders were defined with fire and sword. Henry grabbed the English throne thanks largely to Eleanor's dowry, because she owned one third of France. But their less famous daughters also lived extraordinary lives.
If princes fought for their succession to crowns, the princesses were traded—usually by their mothers—to strangers to gain political power without the usual accompanying bloodshed. Years before what would today be marriageable age, royal girls were dispatched to countries whose speech was unknown to them, and there became the property of unknown men—their duty the bearing of sons to continue a dynasty and daughters who would be traded in their turn. Some became literal prisoners of their spouses; others outwitted would-be rapists and the Church to seize the reins of power when their husbands died.
Eleanor's daughters Marie and Alix were abandoned in Paris when she divorced Louis VII of France. By Henry II, she bore Matilda, Aliénor, and Joanna. Between them, these extraordinary women and their daughters knew the extremes of power and pain. Joanna was imprisoned by William II of Sicily and treated worse by her brutal second husband in Toulouse. Eleanor may have been libeled as a whore, but Aliénor's descendants include two saints, Louis of France and Fernando of Spain. And then there were the illegitimate daughters, whose lives read like novels. This fascinating volume tells their stories.
Plantagenet Princesses