Henry II

Henry II and Thomas Becket

Monday, January 9th, 2012 | English Historical Fiction Authors, Henry II | No Comments

King Henry II

As everyone knows by now, I am a huge fan of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her second husband, Henry II of England. I was fortunate enough to write a blog post about one of my heros, Henry, and his famous conflict with Thomas Becket this week on English Historical Fiction Authors.

Did Henry have Thomas Becket murdered? Click the link below, and take a look…


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Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of the English

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 | Eleanor of Aquitaine, Give Away, Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted | 2 Comments

My obsession with Eleanor of Aquitaine knows no bounds, and this week is no exception to that. I want to thank Debra Brown of English Historical Fiction Authors and English Epochs 101 for hosting me this week on her blog. Once more, I delve into Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life, this time celebrating her triumphant crowning as England’s queen in 1154. I do love those moments when Eleanor wins…


We are offering a give away of TO BE QUEEN at the end of this post…one more way in which I am celebrating Eleanor…

Why I Love Eleanor

Friday, August 26th, 2011 | Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Louis VII | 6 Comments

Archive Week on my blog is ending, and of course, once again, I write about Eleanor of Aquitaine. This post originally ran on April 29, 2011. Vive la Reine!

I love to write about Eleanor of Aquitaine because she always surprises me. Even though she is an historical figure and the events of her life are set in stone, the character of Eleanor as she comes to life in my novels always shows me something new. On the pages of history books her life was dynamic enough: Duchess of Aquitaine at the age of fifteen, Eleanor finished brokering her own marriage to Louis VII of France.

King Louis VII of France

Eleanor’s First Husband

Years later, Eleanor rode at her husband’s side on Crusade, and on her way home, sick of being married to Louis, she began working to annul her marriage. Only months after she earned her freedom, Eleanor married her second husband, Henry of Normandy who became King of England only two years later…and that is just the first half of her life. So you see what I mean when I say Eleanor of Aquitaine was a dynamic woman.

Henry II, King of England

Eleanor’s Second Husband

Nothing stopped Eleanor from achieving her goals. For decades, she wanted the County of Toulouse back under the control of her family. After sending both husbands’ out to reclaim it through warfare (and after both men failed), she simply arranged her daughter’s marriage to the Count of Toulouse, effectively putting her family in line to inherit that county, and thus to take control of it once more. Eleanor would wait for years for what she wanted. Tenacious and single minded, she was an amazing politician.

Much to both her husbands’ annoyance: Louis would have been perfectly happy if Eleanor had settled down to raise her princesses quietly, if she had left the political machinations of the day to him. And her second husband, King Henry II of England, married her for her brains and beauty as well as her land, but even he came to regret her brilliance as the years wore on. For after ten years of partnership, Eleanor began to want more power of her own. And in 1173, she reached out for that power, setting her sons against their father so that she might gain indirect control of the duchies of Brittany and Normandy, in addition to the duchy of Aquitaine.

Henry locked Eleanor away in 1174 to keep his crown and to keep his sons at bay. Henry always knew that if he set Eleanor free, she would stop at nothing to take his Continental holdings from him. And she was the one person on Earth who had a fighting chance of doing it; so he kept her locked away for fifteen years, until his death.

The Great Hall of Winchester Castle

This hall is all that is left of the castle which served as Eleanor’s prison

Once Henry was dead, Eleanor ruled through her favorite son, Richard. Richard the Lionhearted rode off to Crusade to seek the Holy Grail of Jerusalem, leaving the Continental holdings inherited from his father in Eleanor’s hands. She was technically regent of England, too, while Richard was on Crusade, but she had spent more than enough time locked away in England during the last 15 years of Henry II’s reign. She left that cold, rainy land to the tender mercies of her youngest son, John, for she finally had what she wanted: control over most of what is now modern France.

King Richard the Lionhearted

Eleanor’s Favorite Son

Eleanor was unstoppable. She was brave and beautiful and so full of fire that both her critics and her admirers agreed: she was stronger than any woman they had ever seen. She is the strongest woman I have ever had the pleasure to write about, and the most dynamic. She is a woman who would be renowned in any age. Which is why, over 800 years later, we still remember her.

Passion and Possession

Friday, June 24th, 2011 | Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Louis VII | No Comments

In her lifetime, Eleanor of Aquitaine found herself married to not one, but two kings. Her first husband came into her life when she was only fifteen years old. Her father dead, Eleanor had become Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right. Though the marriage contract between herself and Louis VII was still being negotiated when her father died, the papers had not yet been signed. The King of France was reluctant, because the contract was incredibly favorable to Eleanor, and listed a clause that was completely unheard of in 12th century Europe. Namely, that the Duchy of Aquitaine and the County of Poitou did not go to Louis VII upon their marriage, but to Eleanor and Louis’ son, once he came of age.

A Modern Rendering of Louis VII of France

Eleanor and her ally, the Bishop of Limoges, finished negotiating the marriage contract and the King of France signed it. So Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine were married on July 25, 1137. Louis was a young man, only one year older than Eleanor herself. He had soft blond hair and blue eyes, and there is no doubt that he loved his queen with an unswerving devotion throughout their married life, and beyond. Louis had been raised to be a monk in the Church, and had taken on the role of young king only after his older brother’s death. From all accounts, Louis was a very devout man who put the needs of the Church ahead of Eleanor. And, even more to the point, Eleanor did not love Louis back.

A lack of love is no hindrance to a political marriage, and Eleanor had wanted to be the Queen of France. Her father had raised her in the midst of the political realities of the world, and she knew that her personal feelings should and must be set aside to maintain the alliance with Paris, and to make her son King of France as well as Duke of Aquitaine, a second Charlemagne.

In spite of their youth and Louis’ love for her, there was never a son born to them. Only two girls, whose births were separated by six years. Two princesses were not what Eleanor had married Louis VII for, and after fifteen years of marriage to a man who lived like a monk, she wanted her freedom.

In August 1151, Henry, the eighteen-year-old Duke of Normandy, came to Paris to be confirmed in his duchy. He was a strong man as well as an intelligent one, a politician who even at such a young age intended to reclaim the throne of England, which had been taken from his mother by the usurper, Stephen of Blois almost two decades before. When Henry and Eleanor met at her husband’s court, they made an instant alliance built on passion as well as power. Eleanor knew that her annulment would soon be announced and Henry of Normandy was just the man to step into the role of her second husband.

A Rendering from 1620 of King Henry II of England

Louis VII, who through Eleanor retained rights to Aquitaine and Poitou, lost all of her possessions when their marriage was annulled on March 21, 1152. And in May of that same year, when word reached Louis that Eleanor, his ex-wife, and Henry, his vassal, had married, Louis VII immediately attacked the border of Normandy, beginning a war.

Henry, a consummate politician, managed to make peace with Louis VII of France, who heart broken and humiliated, was furious at the marriage Eleanor had made. But with her first husband out of the picture, Eleanor and Henry went on to have their first son by the time Henry gained the crown of England in December 1154. Their alliance of passion combined with politics ruled an empire stretching from England and Wales, to encompass part of Ireland, as well as Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Gascony, Poitou and the Aquitaine.

During the first fourteen years of their marriage, Eleanor gave birth to eight children. Three of her sons by Henry went on to be crowned king. Henry the Younger, Richard the Lionhearted, and Prince John all wore the crown of England. Eleanor and Henry’s daughters made alliances as far away as Sicily and Saxony, binding kings and princes far and wide to support Henry and Eleanor’s power.

Though Henry took a lover, Rosemund de Clifford in 1166 and effectively ended the passionate connection that he and Eleanor had shared throughout their married life, Eleanor and Henry stayed allies until 1173, when she openly rebelled against Henry, along with their sons. Though this rebellion failed, and though Eleanor was held as a prisoner until Henry’s death in 1189, the first half of their marriage was still a passionate alliance between a man and a woman who faced each other as equals. In the end, they were torn apart by the one simple truth that Eleanor found hard to accept: there can be only one king.

Eleanor and Her Husband Kings

Monday, February 21st, 2011 | Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Louis VII | 2 Comments

At two very different times in her life, Eleanor of Aquitaine married two very different men. Her first husband, Louis VII of France, had become heir to the French throne only after his older brother fell from a horse and was killed. Louis was brought out of the cathedral school at Notre Dame de St. Denis where his mentor, Suger, had been instructing him in the ways of the Church. Louis VII was plunged, unprepared,  into the deep waters of court politics. Eleanor and Louis married when she was fifteen and he, sixteen, and their marriage lasted for fifteen years, with no son to show for it. Though Louis strove hard all his life to be a good man, and a good king, the in-fighting and politics that surrounded him were a constant burden.

This is a modern rendering of Louis VII. From what chroniclers of the time reported of him, he was a good looking man with blond hair and blue eyes.

Eleanor’s second husband, Henry, Duke of Normandy, was eighteen when she met him. Conqueror of Normandy, Henry already had his sights set on regaining the throne of England which had been taken from his family a generation before.  Henry gave lip service to the Church, and certainly used it to pursue his own ends and to shore up his power, but he was never bound by the Church’s strictures. By the time Henry first met Eleanor, he had at least one illegitimate son.  Within two years of their marriage, Henry was King in England, and he had crowned Eleanor Queen beside him. For the first fifteen years of their married life, Eleanor and Henry worked out a partnership that smoothly ruled their large empire. Their combined territory stretched from Northern England, to Wales and Ireland, to Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Gascony and Aquitaine. It was not until 1173, when Eleanor and her sons rebelled against Henry’s authority on the Continent that there was an open political break between them.

For her rebellion, Henry locked up Eleanor for the rest of his reign. Had she stayed married to Louis of France, Eleanor would never have been locked away, but she might have considered her life in Paris its own prison, surrounded by clergy and nobles who loathed her, with no son to call her heir in France or in Aquitaine. Better by far to take her chances with Henry, and to live with the consequences of life with her second king.

This modern rendering of Henry II no doubt does not look like him, either. A charismatic man with a towering intellect and huge temper, Henry II red hair and gray eyes.

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