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