Eleanor of Aquitaine was the ultimate spitfire. She was the Queen of both France and England in the 12th century. In 1137, she married Louis the Fat's son, who would become the future Louis VII of France. Louis would add Aquitaine to the royal lands, but the marriage did not turn out as well as he hoped.

Eleanor was simply too much for poor Louis. She took 300 women on the 2nd Crusade, traveled all over France, and incited a civil war by convincing a nobleman to divorce his wife and marry Eleanor's sister. She was rumored to have had affairs with her uncle and a troubadour. In 1152, Louis finally gave her a divorce.

Two months later, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet of England, the future Henry II. He, in turn, received the duchy of Aquitaine. Unfortunately, this marriage did not turn out well for her, either. Henry was notorious for his affairs. He even had an affair with his son's fiancee', a French princess who was the daughter of Eleanor's former husband. She was so fed up with another of his paramours that she confronted the girl with a dagger and a poison cup and told her to choose the means of her own death (Eleanor did not go through with her threat).

In 1173, three of her sons rebelled against Henry with her support. Henry captured her and kept her imprisoned for eleven years. When Henry died, her son, Richard the Lionhearted, became King. He spent only six months of his reign in England, and Eleanor was his regent when he was away. Eleanor died in 1204.
As one of the strongest women in history, how appropriate that the most famous portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine was by Katharine Hepburn, in the 1968 film she won Best Actress Oscar for, The Lion in Winter. Go and read Grzcyrgba's writeup on that, for its tales of betrayal and adultery and power struggles; the exact story of The Lion in Winter is fictional, but it follows on a long tradition.

You can see a picture of Queen Eleanor, in her effigy at Fontervault in Anjou where she died, showing her reading peacefully:

Here is an ancient folk song, collected by William Motherwell in 1827 (Minstrelsy ancient and modern), which refers to the historical events and rumours surrounding her, though it's not true in its details - as far as we know. It is a moving and sharp depiction of a love triangle, but also funny in the quaking of the Earl Marshal and the increasing fury of the King.

There's a lovely version sung by Maddy Prior, which however omits the poison verses.

Queen Eleanor's Confession

Queen Eleanor was a sick woman and sick just like to die;
And she has sent for two friars of France to come to her speedily.

The King called down his nobles all, by one, by two, by three.
Earl Marshal, I'll go shrive the Queen and thou shalt wend with me.

A boon, a boon, quoth Earl Marshal, and fell on his bended knee:
That whatsoever the Queen may say, no harm thereof may be.

Oh, you put on a grey friar's gown and I'll put on another;
And we will away to fair London town like friars both together.

Oh no, oh no, my Liege, my King, Such things can never be:
For if the Queen hears word of this hanged she'll cause me to be.

I swear by the sun, I swear by the moon, and by the stars so high;
And by my sceptre and my crown, the Earl Marshal shall not die.

The King's put on a grey friar's gown; the Earl Marshal's put on another;
And they were away to fair London town like friar's both together.

When that they came to fair London town and came into Whitehall;
The bells did ring, the choirs sing, and the torches did light them all.

And when they came before the Queen, they knelt down on their knee.
What matter, what matter, our gracious Queen, you've sent so speedily.

Oh, if you are two friars of France, it's you that I wished to see;
But if you are two English lords, you shall hang on the gallows tree.

Oh we are not two English lords, but two friars of France we be;
And we sang the Song of Solomon as we came o'er the sea.

Oh, the first vile sin I did commit, tell it I will to thee:
I fell in love with the Earl Marshal, as he brought me o'er the sea.

Oh, that was a great sin, quoth the King, but pardoned it must be.
Amen, amen, said the Earl Marshal, with a heavy heart spake he.

Oh the next sin that I did commit, I will to you unfold:
Earl Marshal had my virgin dower beneath his cloth of gold.

Oh that was a vile sin, quoth the king, May God forgive it thee.
Amen, amen, groaned the Earl Marshal, and a very frightened man was he.

Oh the next sin that I did commit, tell it I will to thee:
I poisoned a lady of noble blood for the sake of King Henry.

Oh that was a great sin, said the King, but pardoned it shall be.
Amen, amen, said the Earl Marshal, and still a frightened man was he.

Oh the next sin that I ever did, tell it I will to thee:
I have kept strong poison these seven long years to poison King Henry.

Oh that was a great sin, said the King, but pardoned it must be.
Amen, amen, said the Earl Marshal, and still a frightened man was he.

Oh don't you see two little boys playing at the football:
Oh yonder is the Earl Marshal's son and I like him best of all.

Oh don't you see yon other little boy playing at the football:
Oh that one is King Henry's son and I like him worst of all.

His head is like black bull's head, his feet are like a bear.
What matter, what matter, cried the King, He's my son and my only heir.

The King plucked off his friar's gown and stood in his scarlet so red.
The queen, she turned herself in bed and cried that she was betrayed.

The King looked over his left shoulder and a grim look looked he.
Earl Marshal, he said, but for my oath, thou hadst swung on a gallows tree.

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