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Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours [Paperback]

Jean Markale
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

15 Dec 2007
"Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) has been long noted for her political and cultural achievements that profoundly shaped twelfth-century Europe. Culturally, beyond her role as wife of kings Louis VII of France and Henry II of England and mother of kings Richard and John, she inspired the huge diffusion of the Arthurian cycle and the Celtic myths underpinning it. Without Eleanor, figures such as Merlin, Arthur and Guinevere (for whom Eleanor served as model) would never have assumed the enormous symbolic value they now possess. Politically, she embodied divine power that ended the dark age of patriarchy, playing a crucial role not only in the development of the Plantagenet Empire, but, also, in the granting of charters to merchants and craftsmen that led to the birth of the modern middle class. But her greatest influence, still shaping modern sensibilities, was her role as the symbol of courtly love, which was not a mere diversion of the aristocracy but a process of male initiation andtranscendence that bears a close resemblance to Indian Tantra. While the Virgin Mary was restoring a feminine face to mediaeval religious life, Eleanor embodied the adulterous queen who incarnates sovereignty - the woman who shares authority with the men who act in her name, but only after that power has been transmitted to them through an initiatory process leading to sexual union."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions International; 1st U.S. Ed edition (15 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594771952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594771958
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,015,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In a work of masterly scholarship, Jean Markale presents a fascinating portrait of a woman: history and myth intermingle as Eleanor, queen of France and England, is revealed as the embodiment of Guinevere and queen of the troubadours at her court of love."

About the Author

Poet, philosopher, historian, and storyteller, Jean Markale has spent a lifetime researching pre-Christian and medieval culture and spirituality. He is the author of more than 40 books, including "Montsegur and the Mystery of the Cathars," "The Church of Mary Magdalene," "The Druids," "The Celts," "Merlin," and "Women of the Celts." A former specialist in Celtic studies at the Sorbonne, he lives in the Brittany region of France.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eleanor of Aquitaine and the 'Divine Feminine' 18 Sep 2008
Format:Paperback
Jean Markale, a controversial French author retired to Celtic Brittany, has a background in writing about ancient, iconic feminine qualities. Markale's earlier titles suggest how he might approach Eleanor of Aquitaine. He had already written: 'Women of the Celts' (1987), 'The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present' (1999), and 'Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres' (2004).

Regarding those mysteries of Chartres with its womb-like labyrinth and Black Madonna, Queen Blanche of Castile encouraged the funding-drive for Chartres' new cathedral: she also donated windows. Blanche was a grand-daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine whom the old queen personally selected and escorted across the Pyrenees to marry the heir to France. Young Blanche (12) and Eleanor (78) travelled north together from Burgos to Poitou in the spring of 1200. Months in private company with Eleanor must have helped to form and harden young Blanche's character. Markale knows the royal family lines through many centuries, and one suspects that he had been closing in on Eleanor as a subject for years before he wrote this book.

In her time Eleanor of Aquitaine embodied, and knew that she embodied, iconic feminine qualities (the 'feminine ideal'?) that Markale treats in 'Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours'. Modern society celebrated these qualities in, say, Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. And Eleanor?
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource, well written 13 July 2008
By Margaret A. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jean Markale presents us with a very in depth look at Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of King Richard the Lionhearted and King John and wife to both the King of France, Louis VII and the King of England, Henry II.

The book is in three parts. The first part of the book is an in depth biography of the Queen, from her early youth thru her death. For those who would not be familiar with Eleanor, this section of the book is a must read. Mr. Markale does a wonderful job of making this a most interesting read, including all the references and all the stories that make this woman one of the most interesting historical figures of the time.

The second part of the book takes a look at the instance of her divorce from Louis VII of France. While there is much speculated about this, it is the single most important piece of history at the time. It set the stage for the events that followed.

There is much discussion here about what the duties of a Queen were at the time. The discussion follows the concept of "courtly love" or "fine amor" and also discusses the "indiscretions" that were alleged of Eleanor. There is evidence presented that there may have been many things going on at the courts at that time, and there is evidence to suggest that Eleanor was not only aware of it, but that she played it to her advantage. She was a maker of history, not just an observer.

The final part of the book looks at the phenomenon of the Troubadours of the time, and how they played an important role in not only creating the literature and developing the culture of that time, but also how they played a part in communication and how they were responsible for the myths that were developed. There is some very interesting discussion of how one story of Tristan and Iseult becomes the story of Arthur and Guinevere. And how all these stories are most likely about Eleanor herself, or at least inspired by her.

For the history alone this book is worth the read. Jean Markale is a wonderful weaver of story and history, and his style never bores. It is a credit to John Graham, the translator, that the material is kept as Mr. Markale intended; to weave the story, to look at the plots, subplots and court intrigues and yet still be interesting and involving the reader in the thoughts, the plot twists and assisting the reader to understand the conclusions that Mr. Markale draws. The last part, on the Troubadours, is an added bonus to the book looking at yet another aspect of the history at that time. It plays an important role as to how we see Eleanor today.

If you are into medieval history at all, you will not want to pass up this book and it's valuable content. Eleanor is a singular figure causes history to change at this point in time and her impact cannot be ignored. And the presentation by Mr. Markale is just the vehicle you need to make it interesting and enjoyable to read. medievalcrusadesbabe
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eleanor of Aquitaine and the 'Divine Feminine' 2 Dec 2007
By Robert Fripp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jean Markale, a controversial French author retired to Celtic Brittany, has a background in writing about ancient, iconic feminine qualities. Markale's earlier titles suggest how he might approach Eleanor of Aquitaine. He had already written: 'Women of the Celts' (1987), 'The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present' (1999), and 'Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres' (2004).

Regarding those mysteries of Chartres with its womb-like labyrinth and Black Madonna, Queen Blanche of Castile encouraged the funding-drive for Chartres' new cathedral: she also donated windows. Blanche was a grand-daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine whom the old queen personally selected and escorted across the Pyrenees to marry the heir to France. Young Blanche (12) and Eleanor (78) travelled north together from Burgos to Poitou in the spring of 1200. Months in private company with Eleanor must have helped to form and harden young Blanche's character. Markale knows the royal family lines through many centuries, and one suspects that he had been closing in on Eleanor as a subject for years before he wrote this book.

In her time Eleanor of Aquitaine embodied, and knew that she embodied, iconic feminine qualities (the 'feminine ideal'?) that Markale treats in 'Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours'. Modern society celebrated these qualities in, say, Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. And Eleanor? In his third section, Markale shows how a troubadour press corps amplified Eleanor's persona. Here, with her coterie of troubadours, comes the twelfth century's "great goddess" and "reverence of the divine feminine." Markale may be controversial, but not necessarily wrong. He is entertaining and he captures the labyrinthine spiritual complexities of Eleanor's times.

Robert Fripp,
Author, Power of a Woman. Memoirs of...Eleanor of Aquitaine

P.S.: Why did Markale's English-language publisher use an image of a woman clad in fashions of the early 1500s to adorn the cover of this book? The illustration (she may be Eleanor of Spain) does nothing for a fine book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eleanor of Aquitaine has been noted for her political achievements 3 Feb 2008
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Eleanor of Aquitaine has been noted for her political achievements - yet here the focus is on her spiritual influence, nature and side, which considers her as a figure restoring a feminine face to medieval religious life, representing female power and leadership. Collections strong in medieval studies, both at the high school and college level, will find this a different kind of biographical coverage which examines the spiritual representation of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another incorrect book cover...... 9 April 2010
By B. Love - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Unfortunately this is another case of the wrong person. This is not Eleanor of Aquitaine, but Eleanor of Castile and the future queen to king Francis I of France. This Eleanor is the daughter to Juana of Castile and Philip of Habsburg. It is very obvious because in this painting the heavy Habsburg jaw is prominent, which is a well known fact of the House of Habsburg. Just wanted to let everybody know so as not to be confused. Thanks!
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