18th May 1152 —Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, he was 11 years younger than she was. The marriage took place in Poitiers, but within two years the pair were crowned King and Queen of England at Westminster Abbey. The union of Henry’s Angevin territories in Britain and northern France with Eleanor’s dynastic lands in Aquitaine created an Anglo-French empire that stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees.
Henry set about consolidating his domains with vigour, and so did Eleanor. She travelled inexhaustibly, shoring up loyalties and cementing the new political bloc, spending long periods on the road ensuring the monarchy was present and relevant across its many cultural divides. When Henry was away, she became intimately involved in directing the empire’s governmental and ecclesiastical administration. Famously, she also sponsored unparalleled artistic activities at her home court in Poitiers, making it a unique centre of troubadour poetry and music.
Over the next twelve years Eleanor bore Henry five sons and three daughters. Two of their sons, Richard and John, would be kings of England. Not surprisingly, her life with Henry was stormy. She may well have encouraged her sons to rebel against their father in 1173 and after that he kept her penned up as a prisoner in England until he died in 1189. Under both Richard and John she was active in matters of state and she died eventually in a nunnery at Fontrevault in Anjou in her early eighties in 1204, having been for much of a lifetime probably the most powerful woman in Europe.