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ORIGIN OF THE LEGEND

The black legend of Eleanor of Aquitaine began by the rumors of an incestuous relation between her and her uncle Raimundo de Antioquia, thus forming the affirmations that forged the fame to him of libertine. When her husband, Louis VII, learned of this rumor, he traveled to Antioch to pick up his wife, but she no longer wanted to follow his orders and asked for a divorce, which led to a deep hatred in Louis and, in general, in the French.[1] However, by marrying Henry II immediately after the separation, he provoked even more hatred towards the Duchess of Aquitaine.

Philip II of France was one of those who helped enact the alleged wickedness and shamelessness of women. During his tenure, a good number of chronicles were written, written by Aubry des Trois Fontaines, where is she portrayed Eleanor as a lewd lady, who, behaving like a prostitute, provoked a war between Louis and Henry. Finally, she defended her father, claiming that it was really he who abandoned her by behaving like a prostitute and not like a queen.[2]

Medieval painting of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

It was because of her lewdness that Louis abandoned his wife, who did not behave like a queen but rather like a whore.

FELIP II

[1]Image taken from the article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_of_Aquitaine

But not only did the legend originate through French authors, but the Welsh clergyman and writer Giraldus Cambrensis mentioned it. The author wrote important works on Ireland and Wales,[3] i he called Eleanor in his work Retractations,[4] specifically in chapter 6, where he judged her for creating a plan to marry Henry II of England. Giraldus, explained how the woman devised an unjust annulment of her marriage to the French patriarch. All this, to marry Enric immediately.[5] Also, he insinuated her as a prostitute, exposing the idea that, although she had a reputation for having been with more than one man in bed, Henry accepted her as a wife.[6]

The author, however, buried all the misfortunes of the English kingdom in the lustful “sins” of the queen and King Henry. He explained how the king buried the misfortune of his possessions by daring to be with the adulterated queen of France. In addition, she judged him for having taken the duchess away from her husband to finally marry her. He wondered, then, how could a lucky race come out of such wickedness? Burying, once again, the queen as a pervert, assuring her that God would not help a family as rotten as his.[7]

Finally, he explains how one of Henry’s infidelities separated the marriage, causing Eleanor to confront her children against her father. All this, he was judged by the priest, saying that a family as divided and divided as the one they both had, and considering their corrupt roots where they had all come from the devil,[8] it was normal for the whole family to be headed to hell, because of the original sinners: the divorced and libertarian Eleanor and Henry.

And not only was she judged by her relationships as the priest did, there are also various rumors about the death of Rosamond, Henry’s lover, at the hands of Eleanor. Many authors of the time accuse her of having killed her in a jealous attack. Who, for example, treated her as a murderer was the poet, troubadour and historian Chrétien de Troyes. He was the writer of important poems and romances for French literature.[9] But it was in the work of London Chronicles, published in the 14th century, where he mentioned Eleanor. Specifically, it was in volume 12 of the book where he judged her. The author explained that the death of the lover was tremendously painful for King Henry and, even more so, when he learned of how it ended. According to the author, his cruel wife, without any empathy for the young woman, premeditatedly murdered her with poison, preventing King Henry from speaking to her in a long time: he could not forgive her for killing his favorite lover. .[10]

Illustration of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Revealing the whole truth, King Henry fainted from pain and remained on the ground for a long time in transit before anyone could utter a word to him.

Chrétien de TROYES

[2]Image taken from the website https://www.keralapool.com/photos/who-was-eleanor-of-aquitaine.html

Otherwise, the contemporary authors also mentioned Leonor’s participation in the courtly love movement, participating as a judge in the Courts of Love. The first record we have of this legend comes from the French author Andreas Capellanus known for writing theTreatise on love.[11]In the latter,specifically in the third book, he spoke about cases of the supposedly real Courts of Love, presided over by Eleanor and his consorts.According to the author, the duchess followed the troubadour tradition where she gathered young people to marry them. But Capellanus highlighted how he often made mistakes: he illustrated the case in which he joined two young men, who without knowing it, were related in blood, maintaining an incestuous relationship. Also, once the young man found out he tried to separate, but the woman did not want to. This last fact was condemned by Eleanor, who according to the author, proclaimed the fact of continuing to love her fiancé as an immoral crime, showing once again the legend of an insensitive and cruel woman.[12]


[1]Louis VII of France was married and divorced to Eleanor. It was the samewho ended his marriage to Eleanor. The official reason for the divorce was inbreeding: they were connected by blood in less than the “seven degrees” allowed, they were related within four degrees of her side and five of her. That is, she could count four generations down to her common ancestor, while she counted five. However, the blood relationship between them was more of an excuse for divorce, as the relationship had been well known for years and had even been excused by the Pope. For more information, see the work of Elizabeth STRICKLAND, Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 251. Also, for more information on this, you can read chapter 10 of the book by John PARSONS, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, palgrave, New York, 2003, pp. 225-23.

[2]“ The abandoned wife of Louis, king of the French, was carried by Henry, Earl of Anjou and Duke of the Normans, from then on King of England. This provoked a war between them. It was because of her lewdness that Louis abandoned his wife, who did not behave like a queen but rather like a whore. “.  Georges GDUBY, Dames du XII siècle, Paris, Gallimard, 1995, pp. 18.

[3]Attached, for those who are interested, are two editions of two works by the author: GIRALDUS Wales, Giraldi Cambrensis Opera: Topographia hibernica, Banbury, London, 1867; and you can read the bookItinerarium Cambriae in the following link: ttps: //www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Itinerarium_Cambriae_ (Gerald_of_Wales) (07/09/2020)

[4]GIRALDUS Wales, Retractations, Chronicles, London, 1861.

[5]“Henry II of England married Eleanor after she separated from Louis VII. The marriage thus united its dominions in France with which it already owned the heir to the English throne. In this way, the so-called Angevin Empire was formed, in which the kings of England controlled a territory eight times larger than that dominated by Louis VII. “. Please read for more information read the work of Matthew LEWIS,Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine: Founding an Empire, Amberley Publishing, London, 2020, pp. 68.

[6]“For him, Henry, Matilda’s son, was successful, and on him Eleanor, queen of the French, cast a reckless glance, devised an unjust annulment, and married him, though she had a secret reputation. of having shared Louis’ couch with his father. Geoffrey Therefore, it is presumed, his descendants, contaminated in the source, came to an end. “. Fiona WHELAN, The Making of Manners and Morals in Twelfth-Century England: The Book of the Civilized Man, Routledge, New York, 2017, pp. 195.

[7]“ As if to crown all these enormities, which were already too enormous, King Henry, as a common report stated, dared with an adulterous relationship to defile the so-called queen of France, and thus took her away from her own husband, and ended up actually marrying her. How, then, I ask, could such a union be born a lucky race?Passage extracted from Medieval Sourcebook Gerald of Wales: The Death of Henry II and Comment on the Angevin Family, from De Instructione Principis (On the Instruction of a Prince), http://web.csulb.edu/~ssayeghc/medieval/henryandangevins.htm (24/05/2020), Chapter XXVII. — OF THE ORIGIN OF KING HENRY AS WELL AS OF QUEEN ELEANOR.

[8] “The existence of a lover of Henry II provoked the confrontation between Leonor and Henry. This means thatLeonor would promote the rebellion of three sons of the king against her father. After suppressing the rebellion, the king imprisoned Leonor, first at Chinon and then at Salisbury, where she remained under arrest until the death of her husband. In addition, King Richard was often accustomed to refer to this event; saying that it was not surprising, if coming from such a race, the children should not cease to harass their parents and brothers to quarrel among themselves; for he knew that they had all come from the devil, and they would go to the devil. When, therefore, the root was so corrupt in every way, how was it possible that the branches of such a population could be prosperous or virtuous? “ For more information, you can read the book Michael Staunton, The Historians of Angevin England, Oxford University Press, London, 2017, pp. 227.

[9]I share, by way of example, two editions of his poems, Chrétien de TROYES, Lancelot, the Knight of the Wagon, THe University of Georgia Press, Georgia, 1990; Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, Yale University Press, Garamond, 1987 and the Romance of History of perceval or the story of the Grail, Oveja Negra, Madrid, 1983.

[10] “The king’s order was obeyed immediately, and he was shown the body of Rosamond, who had been convicted of murder. Revealing the whole truth, King Henry fainted from pain and remained on the ground for a long time in transit before anyone could utter a word to him. “. Excerpt from the work of Chrétien de TROYES, Chronicles of London, Aung Ict, London, 1841, pp. 3-5.

[11]I enclose, by way of example, the edition of his best-known book: Andreas CAPELLANUS, On Love,ed. and trans. PG Walsh. London: Duckworth, 1982.

[12]“This other love story was submitted to the decision of the queen herself. A certain man who in ignorance joined in love with a woman who was related to him, tried to abandon her when he discovered his guilt. But the woman was chased by the chain of love and tried to keep him in the observance of love, saying that the crime was completely excused by the fact that when they began to enjoy love, it was without sin. In this matter, the Queen replied as follows: ‘A woman who, under the pretext of an error of any kind, seeks to preserve incestuous love, clearly goes against what is right and wrong. We are always obliged to oppose any of these incestuous and reprehensible actions that we know even human laws punish with very severe punishments. “. Andreas CAPELLANUS, The Art of Courtly Love,Columbia University Press, New York, 1990, pp. 168.

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