Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir: A Book Review
Author: Weir, Alison
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, History
Release Date: 1999
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and the mother of three, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the great heroines of the Middle Ages. At a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel, Eleanor managed to defy convention as she exercised power in the political sphere and crucial influence over her husbands and sons. In this beautifully written biography, Alison Weir paints a vibrant portrait of this truly exceptional woman, and provides new insights into her intimate world. Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long life of many contrasts, of splendor and desolation, power and peril, and in this stunning narrative, Weir captures the woman--the queen--in all her glory. With astonishing historical detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, she re-creates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent past era.
My Review: Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the most influential woman in the Middle Ages. Because of her influence, she has been the symbol of romanticism for centuries. Eleanor defied the standard conventions of her time by her living her life as she pleased. She becomes duchess to wealthiest kingdom in France, queen to both France and England, and queen mother to Richard the Lionheart, known in literature as the hero, and King John, who has been depicted in literature as a villain. Eleanor was also known as a warrior queen accompanying her husband, King Louis VII of France, in the Second Crusade.
Weir's biography of Eleanor is very sympathetic. It is clear that is passionate about Eleanor. She is portrayed as strong-willed, intelligent, captivating, ambitious, and sometimes ruthless. Because of her influence over her weak-willed and saintly husband, King Louis VII of France, she criticized by men to be a Devil's pawn and a femme fatale.
Weir captivates the reader about life in the medieval times. She captures the medieval people's beliefs on curses and superstitions so vividly that it seemed as if the medieval era was alive once again. She paints the romanticism of the era and of the courtly love of the troubadours with colorful flair.
In her biography, we get meet the famous idealistic Abelard, who is known in history for his ill-fated romance with his pupil, Heloise. We get to meet the charismatic Saint Bernard, whose monkish image captured the fascination of people in medieval times. We also get to meet the saintly Thomas Becket, who because he chose God over the king was brutally murdered by King Henry II of England. Weir also takes the reader from France to Jerusalem and to England. She portrays the start of the Second Crusade with pageantry and flair that filled the crusaders with hope, valor, and courage only to turn out that the crusade proved to be a suicide mission and a drastic failure.
Overall, Weir's biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine shows her as a strong-willed woman in a turbulent era. In a world where women were supposed to be subordinate to men, Eleanor would not be ruled by any man. She was a woman that made her own decisions and gained the influence with both her husbands and her sons. This novel is filled with romance, betrayal, court intrigue, and danger. Eleanor of Aquitaine deserves attention and study for it she that changed England dramatically.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars