It Is Hard To Be Queen! Letters From Eleanor Of Aquitaine – A Moment In Royal History
Eleanor Of Aquitaine is a very intriguing women who not only was married to a king but two of them! She first married Louis VII of France in 1137 AD and then later King Henry II of England.
Eleanor was the eldest daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine. She was a duchess in her own right and considered to be a very powerful player in medieval Europe. The young woman was only fifteen years old when her father and elder brother died thus leaving her with a very powerful inheritance. It would not be long before she married and used her influence for the people she ruled. Below are letters and documents that display what the life of a queen was like.
LETTER ONE –
The Letter is addressed to Viscount Ralph of London.
Eleanor acts on the complaint of monks about dispossession of their land. According to Claire Breay of the British library, the only other item that mentions Eleanor in the cartulary follows this one and is directly related to it: “Mandate and precept by Queen Eleanor [acting as regent for King Henry II] to John fitz Ralph, sheriff of London, to compel John Bucont to warrant to the monks of Reading 40s. worth of land which he gave them in London, or an exchange to the same value.”
“Eleanor, queen of England, etc., to John, son of viscount Ralph of London, greetings. Monks of Reading have complained to me that they have been unjustly dispossessed of certain lands in London which Richard, son of B, gave them when he became a monk, namely from the holdings of the abbot of Westminster and of St. Augustine of Canterbury. I therefore order you to investigate without delay if it is so and if you find it to be true, to have the monks repossessed without delay, so that I hear no more complaint about the want of right and justice. And we wish also that they in no way lose anything unjustly that belongs to them. Fare well.”
LETTER TWO –
The Letter is addressed to Alexander III, Pope.
In this and the letter to cardinal Jacinto, Eleanor’s tone suggests that she is strengthening her bonds with them as well as seeking restoration to his clerical position for her relative; she alludes to her defense of the pope against other factions, perhaps those supporting the anti-pope, Victor.
“To her revered father and lord, Alexander, by grace of God highest pontiff of the holy Roman church, Eleanor, humble queen of England, due service with all devotion.
Over this great dignity/office the devotion of [your] humble daughter does not cease to exult and praise God, and abounding in the fervor of filial love, often breaks out in paternal praise. The burning mass of such joys cannot be extinguished, and the grace of that most just favor knows not how to be buried in timely silence. Wherefore, whenever there is talk about factions in my presence, I am not afraid to do battle against the attempts of the enemy power but assail/subdue them with my arguments, confidently defending your side.(1) I had in any case most justly rejoiced in and embraced your successes before, but the glorious condescension of your writing and the greeting of great commendation and finally of truest promise were enough to obtain all the favor of my smallness. I can not describe the spiritual sweetness of deepest delight I drew out, receiving the individual words as separate rewards of divine blessing most happily and devotedly.
Your sons and my lord cardinals, Henry of Pisa and master William showed me, by the grace of God and you, much honor and benevolence. I rejoice in such delegates from your side, who in the judgment of your choice were held most worthy of every kind of reverence of [your] subjects. But since it is not my intervention for them but theirs for me that is necessary and salutary, I beg your highness continuously, most humbly prostrate at your footstool, for my relative P, abbot of St. Maxentius,(2) that your mercy restore to my dearest one the use of his [holy] orders and the free power of ministering. I would desire your coming to our parts in God¡¯s and our purpose, but I am very ready to show all devotion of a humble and faithful minister to [you] absent or present. May divine mercy preserve the father and all the sons of the church.”
LETTER THREE –
Letter Addressed to Eleanor from King Richard I of England.
Richard writes from captivity expressing his gratitude to his mother for her loyal and effective regency and requesting her action in the naming of his candidate as archbishop of Canterbury. He also alerts her to the oral message he is sending by a messenger. Richard also wrote to his justiciars in England about the same matter, but emphasizing Hubert’s activities for God and Christianity in the East.
Richard, by the grace of God king of Angliae, etc. to his revered lady and dearest mother Eleanor, by that same grace queen of England, greeting and all the happiness that a devoted son can desire for his mother.
First to God and then to your serenity, sweetest mother, we give thanks as we can, though we can not suffice to actions so worthy of thanks, for your loyalty to us and the faithful care and diligence you give to our lands for peace and defense so devotedly and effectively. Indeed we have learned a lot and partly we also know that through the mercy of God and your counsel and help the defense of our lands is and will be in great part provided. For your prudence and discretion is the greatest cause of our land remaining in a peaceful state until our arrival.
Now, however, dearest mother, we transmit to your benevolence our dearest one, the venerable man Hubert bishop of Salisbury. He, as the whole world knows, gives such service to us and to all Christianity that it can in no way be recounted. He has also borne many labors and expenses in the Roman curia for our liberation and taken a very strenuous and dangerous journey to us in Germany. We had fully recognized his loyalty and the love of a constant spirit with which he embraced us before but now [we recognize it] most fully from the faithful work and fervent diligence which he gave so affectionately and effectively for our liberation with the emperor and princes of the empire. And since we are certain that his promotion will hasten our liberation and strengthen the defense of our lands, we wish to promote him to the church of Canterbury. Our will is for him and against any other.
Dearest mother, with all possible entreaty of devotion, we beg you that as you love us you take care to hasten his promotion in the Canterbury church with all speed. This is the only business, after the business of our liberation, that we commit to you to press for. With me as witness at Speier, 30 March. In the words which William of St. Mary [S.Mere l’Eglise] will speak to you on these matters, you may have faith. Same witness.