Okay, I will admit here and now that one of my favorite movies is The Lion in Winter. My all-time favorite actress, Katherine Hepburn, in the role of one of my most favorite women in history, Eleanor of Aquitaine…what’s not to love? Yes, I know the movie is Hollywood fiction, but I love it anyway,
Much of history would have us believe Eleanor was a larger-than-life medieval feminist who wielded unparalleled political and social power and went toe to toe with some of the most powerful and influential men of church and state. And, I must admit, I was drawn to the myths and legends of Eleanor, patroness of the arts who presided over famous tournaments and, who along with her daughter Marie de Champaign, established the rules of courtly love. Eleanor the Amazon leading fellow Amazonians on horseback during the second Crusade. Tales of torrid love affairs, and inciting a rebellion against her husband, who just happened to be king
But what I love more is the true story.
Yes, Eleanor was born into privilege and wealth. She had a father who supported her education and encouraged her independent nature. She inherited the largest land holdings in France and became the wealthiest teenage girl Europe. She became the queen of France and England and. mother and grandmother to some of the most famous people in European history. Unfortunately, she was a SHE, and this meant for much of her life men would try to take her land, tell her what to do, how to behave and what to say. The more they tried, and boy did they try, the more resilient she became; she had no choice. By the time of her death at the age of eighty-two, which for the 13th century was remarkable, she had secured her legacy as one of the most politically and socially powerful women of her time.
For me she is one of the most intriguing women in Medieval history. The more I learned about her, the more fascinated I became with her story. And, somewhere along this journey, Eleanor and I became very good friends. I came to know her as a powerful symbol of self-determination and resilience. She was not a perfect woman, none of us are. Where’s the fun in that? She was a smart, savvy, strong woman bound by rules not of her own making, so, she broke the rules or re-wrote them when she needed to.
Eleanor is the Bright Lighter I turn to when I need to be a little grittier, a little tougher or a little more resilient in overcoming whatever life throws my way.