Fact of the day: 18th May

On this day in 1152 Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Henry’s relationship with his wife Eleanor was complex: Henry trusted Eleanor to manage England for several years after 1154, and was later content for her to govern Aquitaine; indeed, Eleanor was believed to have influence over Henry during much of their marriage.

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Ultimately, however, their relationship disintegrated and chroniclers and historians have speculated on what ultimately caused Eleanor to abandon Henry to support her older sons in the Great Revolt of 1173–74.

Probable explanations include Henry’s persistent interference in Aquitaine, his recognition of Raymond of Toulouse in 1173, or his harsh temper. Henry had several long-term mistresses, including Annabel de Balliol and Rosamund Clifford.

Henry had eight legitimate children by Eleanor, five sons—William, the Young Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John, and three daughters, Matilda, Eleanor and Joan.

Henry also had several illegitimate children; amongst the most prominent of these were Geoffrey (later Archbishop of York) and William (later Earl of Salisbury).

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Henry was expected to provide for the future of his legitimate children, either through granting lands to his sons or marrying his daughters well.

Henry’s family was divided by rivalries and violent hostilities, more so than many other royal families of the day, in particular the relatively cohesive French Capetians.

Various suggestions have been put forward to explain Henry’s family’s bitter disputes, from their inherited family genetics to the failure of Henry and Eleanor’s parenting. Other theories focus on the personalities of Henry and his children.

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5 thoughts on “Fact of the day: 18th May

  1. Eleanor was fascinating. I’ve given several. talks about her life. Not that I’m a historian, but I use it to tie into the modern jury system through her son John, who started that ball rolling by signing the Magna Carta with it right to trial by jury of peers for the nobility.

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