Thursday, July 14, 2022
HomeHistorical BooksThe Historical past Ladies: ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE'S BIRTH YEAR



FOR MANY YEARS it was assumed and accepted that Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in 1122.  A number of of her trendy biographers have acknowledged it as her beginning yr, however they usually have a tendency to repeat and cite one another and it may be a minefield resulting in unsuitable info.

Eleanor’s birthdate is a type of minefield traps, the place round arguments have been used to indicate taht she was born in 1122. Alison Weir in her biography of Eleanor offers Eleanor’s beginning yr as 1122. She does say that ‘the precise beginning date shouldn’t be identified, however the yr could be decided from the proof of her age at dying and from the truth that the Lords of Aquitaine swore fealty to her on her 14th birthday in 1136. Some chroniclers give 1120 as a date, however her dad and mom can not have been married till 1121.  Sadly Weir doesn’t cite the chroniclers who give the 1120 beginning date, nor the paperwork for the fealty swearing, making it troublesome for the curious to comply with up. 

Medieval scholar Elizabeth Brown states that Eleanor was born in 1124, the primary daughter and the second youngster of William X of Aquitaine. Ragena C. Dearagon says that when Duke William X died in April 1137, his 13-year-old daughter Eleanor had been his presumptive inheritor for 7 years.  Elizabeth Brown, on the time of the assertion was a specialist in medieval and early trendy French historical past and professor emeritus of historical past on the Metropolis College of New York.  Ragena C. Dearagon was affiliate profeessor of historical past at Gozanga College, Spokane, Washington.

The scholar who unravelled the tangle of Eleanor’s (possible) beginning yr is Andrew. W. Lewis who was  Professor of Historical past at Southwest Missouri State College.  He says “For Eleanor of Aquitaine’s age, most up-to-date students have relied on Alfred Richard, the good trendy specialist within the Counts of Anjou.  However particulars of this kind weren’t amongst Richard’s strengths as a scholar. Furthermore he vacillated in his statements on the topic and his argument is round. Thus, when talking of Eleanor’s beginning, he wrote that it was solely from understanding that she was 82 years outdated when she died in 1204, that one may place her birthday in 1122.  But, when talking of her dying, he gave her age as ‘about 82 years outdated’ whereas citing no supply to that impact.  In different phrases, with out sources, the proof is uncertain and inadmissible.  The truth is there is just one supply quoted in footnotes as giving her age, and when professor Lewis checked again to the first supply for himself, he discovered that it did not really point out her age at her dying in any respect! 

Lewis goes on to say that higher confidence could be positioned within the genealogical textual content composed in Limoges within the late thirteenth century.  This report has an early custom that she was 13 years outdated on the time of her father’s dying in April 1137. Lewis says that not solely would extra individuals at the moment, earlier than the passing of generations, have been more likely to know her age, however by canon regulation, a lady needed to be at the very least 12 years outdated with a purpose to marry, and the data would have a sensible relevance.  In contrast, Eleanor’s actual age at her dying had no such want for relevance. 

The doc Lewis cites is an early 14th century manuscript from St. Martin of Limoges, containing copies of early manuscripts from St. Martial of Limoges.  It says that in “1136 on the fifth ides of April, which in that yr was Good Friday, William Depend Palatine of Poitou and the final Duke of Aquitaine died at St.James in Galicia, leaving his solely daughter, named Eleanor, aged 13 years, whom he had begotten of the sister of Viscount de Chatelleraut within the principality of Aquitaine to Louis King of the French…;   Now that will appear partially unsuitable as a result of William X died on that date in 1137, however Lewis means that it’s both a copying error by the cleric, or extra probably triggered as a result of the reckoning of the years at the moment was from Easter to Easter, and so would really be appropriate.

It’s attention-grabbing that Weir says that the nobles swore fealty to Eleanor on her 14th birthday in 1136 – there isn’t a quotation given. Nevertheless, the age of consent for a lady was 12 at the moment and Eleanor would have turned 12 in 1136.  If the birthdate of 1124 is appropriate, it appears extra more likely to me that Eleanor’s father would have the nobles swear to her the second she got here of age moderately than leaving it till she was 14.  She would even have come of age across the time that her father was campaigning with Geoffrey le Bel, Depend of Anjou.  One has to wonder if approaches have been made by Geoffrey to William X regarding Geoffrey’s toddler son Henry and a proposal to unite Anjou and Aquitaine by a wedding with Eleanor. Definitely Geoffrey was intent all through his life on pursuing such a course of union. He approached Eleanor Louis VII on the matter of a betrothal between Henry and their small daughter Marie, which was refused by Louis.  As quickly as Louis’s and Eleanor’s marriage was annuled, Henry and Eleanor have been married.  How a lot of that was arrange by Geoffrey earlier than his dying?  Had been approaches made in 1136 regarding the 12 yr outdated Eleanor and the then 3-year-old Henry?   Was William X dismayed on the thought?  Did he want to place his eggs in an even bigger basket when he organized for the French to look after his daughters when he went to Compostella?  It is a level to ponder – and pure hypothesis on my behalf, I truthfully admit. 

I do imagine that the present scholarly pondering concerning Eleanor’s age is appropriate.  The concrete proof factors to her being in her thirteenth yr on the time of her marriage to the long run Louis VII and is sensible.  It is also attention-grabbing for me the author.  13 is such a distinct prospect to fifteen.  Eleanor is usually imbued with energy and charisma she merely didn’t possess on the time in her life.  She was a yr out of childhood and a pawn within the energy struggles of the boys who wished to rule. Aristocratic medieval women might need grown up swiftly, however 13 continues to be 13 and a perilously younger and susceptible age. Political clout, for a feminine particularly, was none existent past that of being a figurehead for the ambitions of males. It makes for a moderately totally different angle in relation to telling the story of Eleanor’s first marriage, and that is one of many the explanation why that 2-year distinction is vital to me as a author of Eleanor’s story, when others is likely to be asking “Does it actually matter?”  Sure, it actually does. 

Elizabeth Chadwick is the creator of an internationally best-selling trilogy about Eleanor of Aquitaine – THE SUMMER QUEEN, THE WINTER MANTLE and THE AUTUMN THRONE. 


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