1 June 2022

Book review ~ Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires, by Sara Cockerill

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Sara Cockerill draws an interesting contrast between this new book and her earlier book on Eleanor of Castile, in that most of us think we know the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine. I admit that I fell into that trap, so was intrigued by her assertion that whatever I think I know probably isn't true.

As usual, many surviving accounts were disapproving of a wealthy and powerful woman who was prepared to fend off an apparently endless queue of suitors. I was unsurprised at how later biographers have accepted stories which cannot be verified by any primary sources, which is why this re-evaluation is timely.

An example of how Eleanor of Aquitaine was ahead of her time is the way she surrounded herself with trusted clerics, who probably made it their business to help her stay one step ahead in the complicated politics of her time. They also kept detailed records and wrote her letters and charters,  making a surpassingly modern and effective use of information at a time when illiteracy was the norm. 

Frederick Sandys, Queen Eleanor, (1858)

Eleanor defied conventions and left her mark on history, as queen of France and Queen of England, and the influential mother of three English kings. The place of her death is uncertain, yet when she:died in 1204, Eleanor must have been some eighty years old - twice the life expectancy of her peers, and had at least eight children, at a time when death in childbirth was commonplace.

Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine in the church of Fontevraud Abbey (Wikimedia Commons)

I'm happy to recommend this new book to anyone wishing to look beyond the mythes and stories to better understand the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Sara Cockerill studied Law at the University of Oxford. She is a practising QC specialising in commercial law, and the author of a leading specialist legal text. She has had a lifelong interest in English history and has devoted her spare time over the past ten years to researching the life of Eleanor of Castile. She is married with one cat, and divides her time between London and the seaside. Find out more at Sara's website https://www.saracockerill.com/ 

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers, Amberley

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