Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England

by Alison Weir

Paperback, 2000



Call number




Pimlico (2000), Paperback


In this beautifully written biography, Alison Weir paints a vibrant portrait of a truly exceptional woman and provides new insights into her intimate world. Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and 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. 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�??and the queen�??in all her glory. With astonishing historic detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, she recreates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent pas… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful women in 12th-century Europe. Heiress to a vast region of what is now France, she was first married to Louis VII of France and, later, to Henry II of England. As Queen of England, she founded a long line of monarchs who ruled England and many other
Show More
European countries for centuries to come. As Alison Weir writes in this biography:
There were then, as now, women of strong character who ruled feudal states and kingdoms, as Eleanor did; who made decisions, ran farms and businesses, fought lawsuits, and even, by sheer force of personality, dominated their husbands. ... The fact remained that the social constraints upon women were so rigidly enforced by both Church and state that few women ever thought to question them. Eleanor herself caused ripples in twelfth-century society because she was a spirited woman who was determined to do as she pleased. (p. 4)

The unfortunate reality is that most written history is focused on men and their achievements. Weir pieced together evidence from contemporary sources in an attempt to illuminate the life of this "spirited woman," but this book was much more about Eleanor's actions as they related to her husbands and sons, and their quest for dominance of feudal society. Weir portrays Eleanor as strong and intelligent, and the men as violent, power-hungry philanderers. She fails to explain why Eleanor would work so hard to preserve their power. Reading this book increased my knowledge of Henry II, his sons Richard and John, and the constant power-brokering of that age. Eleanor was present throughout, always on the scene and sometimes playing a role in negotiations. But who was she, really? What motivated her? How did she feel about being separated from her children, sometimes for years at a time? I was hoping for more insight to Eleanor as a person, but I suspect there just isn't enough evidence to produce a comprehensive portrait.
Show Less
LibraryThing member santhony
This book purports to be a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and in that respect it is deceptive. As the author states several times throughout the work, there is virtually no source material on the subject. How then to fill almost 400 pages on a subject for which there is no reliable history
Show More
beyond the obvious?

First, the author fills the book with general 12th century history and facts. There is every bit as much, if not more written about Henry II, the second husband of Eleanor than there is about Eleanor herself. In truth, the book should have been entitled "12th Century European History." The author writes extensively about the Second Crusade, undertaken by Eleanor's then husband, Louis of France, but has virtually nothing to say about Eleanor's role. Understandable, since there are no sources that speak of it. The book deals primarily with the political and martial dealings between the various Kings, Dukes, Earls and Counts of Europe and England.

Second, the author writes generally about the role of women in 12th century Europe and tries to compare and contrast Eleanor's activities in an attempt to paint her as a much more politically savvy and active member of society than most women of the age.

Finally, the author takes very flimsy historical information and tries to expand it to fill the historical gaps and flesh out the subject of the "biography". To her credit, she uses this technique very sparingly and avoids wholesale fiction.

With respect to the author's writing style, I found it to be very dry and at times, merely a recitation of historical facts running for pages at a time. The plethora of names and titles were at times confusing, a situation that was compounded by the style utilized by the author.

We know about Eleanor's family, her titles and estates and and the rough timeline of her marriages, divorce, children and death. Beyond that, with respect to Eleanor herself, we know very little. We do not even have a reliable likeness of her appearance. To sell this work as a "biography" is to give the word a definition with which I am unfamiliar.
Show Less
LibraryThing member nikkipierce
I really enjoyed this biography of the fascinating Eleanor of Acquitaine. Although there is little source material or contemporary documentation on Eleanor's life, Alison Weir has written an account that really illuminates Eleanor's life, and that of her husbands and children. Where part of the
Show More
story is conjecture rather than being based on actual evidence it is made clear, and although there were a couple of places where I felt that the conjecture seemed to be stretching it a bit, they were clearly identified and explained so that we can form our own opinion. Eleanor was a fascinating woman, whose life and actions has had such an impact on our history.
Show Less
LibraryThing member glenline
Alison Weir weaves history into this biography . Sometimes history can be a little dry or the biographer can analyze too much but Alison keeps it interesting. I reccommend this book particularly for anyone who has her as an ancestor.
LibraryThing member mrs.starbucks
After a very thorough rampage through 80 years Medieval European history, I am as exhausted as Eleanor herself must have surely been at the end of her life. Alison Weir is an excellent scholar and competent writer, though Eleanor of Aquitaine was by no means a lyrical joyride. I would say that I
Show More
have been summarily disillusioned; most of the book isn't even about Eleanor herself...though this is obviously due to a lack of concrete information and Weir's unwillingness to deal very much in the legends surrounding the time period.Personally, I'm a terrible gossip when it comes to history, and I guarantee that 2 chapters later I won't remember even a quarter of the individuals and dates named. I would have appreciated far more delving into the odd bits and stories, but alas, I can't fault Weir for being a good and honest scholar. I consider myself mainly to be educated, if not exactly entertained.
Show Less
LibraryThing member littlebookworm
I really enjoyed this book. I felt that Eleanor's somewhat sparse authentic history was well represented and surrounded with the other events happening in her life that would have concerned her. The author takes care to explain many of her conclusions and why she discredits certain myths that have
Show More
risen around Eleanor. I also really liked the in depth view of medieval society that Weir portrayed, particularly at the beginning - even though I knew the large majority of it, I think it makes the book much more accessible to the wider populace, a trait most histories sadly lack. It is, however, by necessity more a tale of the years of Eleanor's life than just a tale of Eleanor, but I think this plays to its advantage, because we get a much fuller picture of her world.
Show Less
LibraryThing member uncultured
Terribly interesting bio of Eleanor of Aquitaine. We learn about courtly life in France, with its troubadours and amours, go on a horrible Crusade with a lousy French king, and learn that there is really very little that can be definitely said about this woman. Maybe she had an affair with Henry II
Show More
while married to the king of France, maybe she didn't. Maybe she had an affair with Henry's FATHER, maybe she didn't. Maybe she rode to Jerusalem dressed as an Amazon, maybe she didn't. The problem is that the chroniclers of that era were biased against women to start with, and a strong woman like Eleanor tended to elicit strong feelings on either side of the debate. As queen, she didn't get much mention at all unless she 1) Gave Birth 2) Rebelled Against the King 3) Had an affair. Consequently, Weir tends to focus on those closest to Eleanor, i.e., the men in her life, and fortunately she was not one for hanging around with dullards. Henry II was one of the greatest English kings of all time, and there is no really great bio of him out there, so it was great to read about his constant on-the-go lifestyle (he conquered or married into all of England and most of France, so he had a lot to do). And Eleanor's kids! Richard the Lionhearted, who spent almost his entire rule mucking about in the Holy Land (and perhaps mucking about with his fellow Crusaders). Then there's King John, Worst...King...Ever. His father wanted to make him heir to a kingdom that stretched from the Scottish border to the French Alps, but John felt that betraying his father was much more worthwhile (this tradition of good ideas would continue when he was king and decided he could boss the nobles around. On the plus side it did give us the Magna Carta). Anyway, great read for anyone interested in the era of castles and kings, or who has seen the great 60's movie The Lion in Winter and wondered if Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Peter O'Toole and Timothy Dalton were doing an accurate job.
Show Less
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
Eleanor of Aquitaine lived in the 12th century. She was initially wed to King Louis VII of France, but when they only produced daughters, they went their separate ways and Eleanor then married King Henry II of England. The two of them went on to produce many children, both boys and girls. Their
Show More
marriage eventually went sour and Eleanor was imprisoned for a while. She was later released and she fought for her sons (who were fighting amongst themselves, as well) to retain the lands she wanted to pass on to them.

It was ok. It is nonfiction, so was somewhat dry in parts. Alison Weir was trying to write the book using primarily contemporary sources, but there were a lot of gaps when there was nothing written about Eleanor, so I found that a good portion of the book focused more on Henry and their sons, which was unfortunate. I would have liked more on Eleanor (though I understand that there's just not that much out there, so from a nonfiction standpoint, probably impossible).
Show Less
LibraryThing member Clockwork82736
Once again, Alison Weir produces an enjoyable biography on an already-fascinating personality!
LibraryThing member meggyweg
This was another solid Alison Weir history. I would have liked it more except that I hate, hate, hate Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was a spoiled brat. I don't think I'll read any more books about her; they just make me hate her more. But if you don't dislike her and you like other Weir biographies,
Show More
you'll like this book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TheBooknerd
This is an excellent book, and for several reasons. First off, I covers a particularly interesting family during a particularly interesting time. Whether or not you like Eleanor of Aquitaine, you can't deny she's a key player in European history. Of course, this isn't just Eleanor's story. You'll
Show More
read all about Henry II and their tumultuous brood of children. Eleanor and Henry are definitely the "it" couple of the 1100s, and their lives are so eventful and intriguing that it puts daytime drama to shame.

Another high point is the quality of Weir's writing. Weir present a smooth and well-paced narrative that's packed with information. And that's a point that readers should fully appreciate, since there's relatively little historical evidence depicting Eleanor's life. This book is obviously well-researched, giving a clear portrayal of a complex family. And Weir is as objective as one could hope for, showing the bad and good aspects of Eleanor and her contemporaries.

I will definitely read more of Weir's work.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sscarllet
I love books like this. The writing was so good and so well researched that I mourned when Eleanor died. She lived so long ago and someone Alison Weir brings her so close to you that you become part of her story.
LibraryThing member Chris_El
An impressive woman.

In an age frequently remembered for Kings, popes, and knights there were influential women who wielded power and moved the world. Eleanor was the mother of Richard the Lionhearted and King John (softsword). She assisted Henry I become one of the most powerful kings of the earth
Show More
and went crusading to the holy land.

The author seems to do a good job of identifying and discussing the myths that rose about her over the years and discussing the truth.
Show Less
LibraryThing member heggiep
Using limited contemporary sources which directly reference Eleanor's life, this book nonetheless weaves that life into what is essentially a history of the era in England and France. Highly recommend.
LibraryThing member briandrewz
This was an excellent read. Allison Weir has done a wonderful job in trying to fill the many holes in the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Of course, as much information has not survived the passage of time, much of Eleanor's life will never be known. That being said, this book gives us a more clearer
Show More
picture of a remarkable woman.
Show Less
LibraryThing member memccauley6
It seems like it took me forever to finish this book, and when I reached the end I knew far more about the men in Eleanor’s life than I did about the queen herself. If you want to track where Eleanor or Henry II was in any given month of their reign, this is the book for you. If you want to know
Show More
more about her inner life or motivations… well, Weir herself cites the dearth of material about Eleanor… so you might be better off with a novel, because it would be pure speculation anyway.
Show Less
LibraryThing member PhilSyphe
Despite the title, this isn’t really a biography about Eleanor of Aquitaine, because for much of the time she’s a background figure. The focus is on the men in her life. “Eleanor of Aquitaine & Her Family” would’ve been a more accurate title.

This is inevitable, however, owing to scant
Show More
records on this former Queen of England and Queen of France. Eleanor's a fascinating figure, and makes a great character in historical fiction, but it’s damned hard to write a biography about her.

This is still a good read, though, as Henry II, Richard I, and King John are hardly boring topics.
Show Less
LibraryThing member threadnsong
A very detailed, historically deep biography of this remarkable woman's life. Told with a great deal of background on Eleanor's lineage, such as the House of Anjou and the Houses of Blois and Champagne (and with family trees to help make sense of it all) as well as great detail on both Louis VII
Show More
and Henry II. Those details pull in the importance of Eleanor's land holdings and power in a way that make her remarkable life even more captivating.

Ms. Weir also goes into great detail about the battles her sons waged, especially Richard I, "the Lionheart," on her/their territories in Blois, Aquitaine, and other kingdoms of modern-day France. And she also points out that Richard I was the King of England with only 10 months spent in his kingdom. Just 10 months!

But on to Eleanor. She managed to survive 10 years as a prisoner of her husband (having spent last year in lockdown I can appreciate her sanity a whole lot more), and was taken prisoner because she had the brains and guile to counsel her sons to fight for their own kingdoms. And the Second Crusade? She had the audacity to come along and bring other Cruisaders' wives and their courts along with her. Sadly, at the end of the Crusade, many were left to starve or die of Plague because they did not have the wealth to buy transit on the ships back to Aquitaine/Blois/Anjou.

My main gripe with this book is the off-hand dismissal of two facets of Eleanor's life and influence: the Courts of Love and the historical background of Robin Hood. The first is described at length as nothing more than a fabrication by a chaplain at the court of Marie de Champagne, leaving all the other centuries' worth of historical and biographical references of Eleanor presiding over this rich artistic lineage as nothing more than made up stories. For the Robin Hood legend, dismissing the evidence of the historical Robin Hood as "sparse and confusing" and belonging to the 16th Century is troubling in the context of her otherwise strong insistence of historical research and accuracy.
Show Less
LibraryThing member m.belljackson
From reading [THE CAPTIVE QUEEN], I remembered how happy Eleanor originally was
with her Henry of Anjou and how she only wanted to live back home in Aquitaine.

With this book, I was again shocked that she would allow the barbarity of her son Richard to be approved
and continued by her in her own
Show More

This non fiction version of Eleanor's life included Maps! Photos!
while the author delivered detailed and incisive information about,
despite her intelligence, strength, perseverance, and resolution,
this not very admirable woman.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jerry-book
Great portrayal of one of the foremost woman of the Middle Ages.
LibraryThing member herschelian
I read this book after seeing the tombs of Eleanor, Henry II, Isabella of Angouleme, and Richard I at Fontevrault Abbey in Anjou a few years ago. I had wondered how it was that English monarchs ended up buried there, and not back in Westminster Abbey, this book told me all I wanted to know and
Show More
more! Quite a dense read but very worthwhile, you really get a full picture of Eleanor the woman and the times in which she lived.
Show Less
LibraryThing member expatscot
Well written book that's easy to read despite the complexity of people and politics. It's not my period and this provided a great primer full of fascinating bits and bobs.


Original publication date


Physical description

464 p.; 7.64 inches


0712673172 / 9780712673174
Page: 0.4747 seconds